Patricia Eileene Merchberger nee Nyhagen
Patsy, my only sibling, and I had what can only be described as a "storied' childhood together. I can't speak for how Patsy felt about those years at home together, but I know our respective versions would agree more than disagree.
I watch family sitcoms of that era and laugh as hard as anyone at how fanciful those images of the "perfect family" seem now. I can't deny making my own comparisons between the overall
feel of shows like "Father Knows Best", "Leave It to Beaver", "The Donna Reed Show", and "Ozzie and Harriet", and my own years with my real-life family. We were so much like those families that it's often hard to keep a perspective on how natural it seemed to live that way.
That was the era when families would still dress for dinner. And we always
did, just like on the sitcoms. But that, too, seemed completely
natural. I can't for the life of me remember why all of those quaint,
civilized customs ever changed, but a part of me misses them a great deal.
Our parents made the simple living it part effortless for both of us. The simple wholesomeness that made up our lives set an example and pattern for both of us to follow with virtually no conscious thought required. It came so naturally to us that by the time we were both old enough to interact with each other socially, being civil to each other, respecting each other, looking out for each other, and simply enjoying being with each other was the only way either of us knew how to live.
I was very protective of Patti, looking out for her, including her in my activities, and welcoming her company no matter what I was doing. She was always such a delight to be with, and I have always been extremely proud of her. She was as pretty a little girl as I've ever seen, then or since, with her striking blonde hair and the face of an angel.
I look at the hundreds of photos my parents took of us in those early years and in every one of them Patti and I are together, clinging to each other or clearly delighted to be with each other. Those weren't staged photos by any means. It was a genuine and deep affection we felt toward each other.
At home we were inseparable well beyond the years when siblings tend to drift apart from each other and find each other's presence more of a nuisance than a blessing. I can never remember feeling that way toward Patti. The older we got, the more we seemed to need each other. Even when my life became its most active--in High School--Patti was always a prominent participant. We attended the same schools, had many of the same friends or families of friends, and either of us were welcomed equally in either camp. The kinship we felt during those years has always stayed with me. Even now, when we go as many as 5 years without seeing each other, we seem to pick it all right back up again.
We finally began going our respective ways after I graduated from High School. I got wrapped up in work and making my own start in life, and Patti immersed herself in her High School years. We drifted apart for a couple of years, but when I got married we began to become closer again. Not long after I entered the Air Force Patti married Rick Merchberger, her High School sweetheart, and a wonderful, hard-working, very personable, and very handsome young man. They were a marvelously attractive young couple and they soon began a life of their own, almost mirroring my own marriage at the time.
Five years after my daughter Nancy was born Patti welcomed Rick, Jr. into the world and made me an uncle for the first time. Rick was a beautiful child with a wonderful combination of both his parents' incredibly handsome features. A few years later lovely little Starr entered their world and she was every bit as gorgeous a young girl as her mother ever was.
Rick, Sr. suffered a terrible industrial accident a few years later, and the stress of the injury and being out of work for so long took its toll on the two of them. They finally agreed to separate a couple of years later, but to this day they maintain a warm and amicable relationship with each other, as it should be. Both Rick Jr. and Starr have known nothing but love from their two doting parents and I'm extremely proud of both Patti and Rick for having made Rick Jr. and Starr the priority that they have for all these years.
Rick Jr. soon took his place as the Man of the House, and stepped up to this responsibility in a very mature and conscientious way. Looking after both his Mom and sister forged character into Rick and he's always made me a very proud uncle for it. He's due to be a father himself any day now, and I have no doubt that he'll make a wonderful father indeed.
Starr is, and always has been, one of the most loving and unassuming young ladies I've ever known. Her family is precious to her, and she loves everyone in her family uncompromisingly. She's intensely loyal and protective of everyone she loves, and I count myself very fortunate to be loved as much as I am by her.
Patti met Larry, a wonderful man, 10 years ago, and together they filled a void in each others' lives. Larry treated her like the Little Princess she'd always been to
me, and I respected him deeply for that. Larry tragically passed away 4 years ago. He was as good a man as she'd ever known, and I felt her loss deeply when I heard about his passing.
To this day, my sister remains my best friend and that's about as satisfying a relationship as any two siblings can hope for.