Bay Reflections
Vol. 9, No. 37
September 13-19, 2001
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Little Sister
by M.L. Faunce

Billed as an historic match-up, tennis phenoms Venus and Serena Williams squared off on prime time, the first sisters ever in a U.S. Open Final. This dueling was the ultimate in sibling rivalry for two who had traded points across the court before their ages reached double digits. No two sisters in memory have faced off so publicly, so personally, so professionally as the Williams sisters at center court in the cavernous new Arthur Ashe arena.

Tennis great Chris Evert, who once played her sister in a lesser forum, remembered the occasion as so “filled with emotion and a sick feeling in my stomach that I just wanted to get off the court.” If the Williams sisters, formidable as separate forces, experienced such feelings at their recent meeting, it was hard to detect.

In the end, Venus was said to have outpowered her little sister.
Most sisters don’t play grand slams. But what is true for many sisters is that the relationship transcends the occasion. In sports, in school, in life.

Maybe I’m just a little sensitive these days. I lost my own sister recently, suddenly without warning, doing the most ordinary of tasks, on her way to pharmacy. Her husband’s prescription in hand, she suffered a massive heart attack. With a new first granddaughter just nine months old and so much in life still ahead, she left this world for one we know little of and can only dream about.

My sister and I had little in common with the Williams sisters save for the distance between our ages, about 21 months. At eight and nine, the Williams sisters sparred on the court. At eight and nine, my sister and I shared less vigorous sports, skating and jump rope. “I always want Serena to win,” Venus said of her sister following her victory. “I’m the big sister. I make sure she has everything even if I don’t have anything.” Growing up, my big sister did that for me.

Two years ahead in school, she passed down more than her used books. I was mistakenly called Joanne by my sister’s former teachers, but there was no mistaking our identities. Then, and until her death, she was a quiet force. My sister was not Serena, but she was serene, a reserve of calm when the world wasn’t quite right — when I had forgotten my lunch, was kept after school, and decades later when we lost our mother.

Throughout her life, my sister Joanne made a difference to everyone she knew — without fanfare, without raising her voice. In a world that boasts confrontation and challenge, my sister gave a boost to family and friends, her children and her children’s friends, her colleagues and her church friends by the sheer virtue of her smile, her words and her generous, gentle, unassuming self.

As her little sister, I did win.

Long-time contributor M.L. Faunce, of Churchton, returns this week after an absence of many months.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly