There are four Sirianni offspring born to Joe and Agnes: Rich, Bobbie, me and Johnny. John and I are the only one's left; our dad died in 1991, our mom in 1999, our sister in 2001, our brother just last year.
I remember feeling as if one of the training wheels came off my bike when my dad died. Life felt wobbley. By the time my mom went, I knew I was riding on my own. I didn't feel scared. In a way, it was empowering; I felt grown up.
Losing siblings is another story. The saving grace was that Rich was 12 years older than me, and Bobbie 10. They were almost like a second set of parents. Almost, but they weren't around much.
When I was two years old, Rich was sent to live with my aunt and uncle on their chicken ranch in Santa Rosa. According to family lore, he was 14 and heading down the road to juvenile delinquency. I guess my father, who had quit going to school entirely around the 8th grade, didn't want the acorn to fall far from the tree. My parents were convinced that living with relatives who were upstanding, church-going farmers, with three sons around Rich's age, would turn him around. It seemed to have worked.
Rich returned home to graduate with his class at Jefferson High School. I must have been in kindergarten or first grade. A young family had moved next door to us, a successful mortgage broker, his wife, and young children. The mortgage broker took a liking to Rich and decided to mentor him. He suggested that Rich go into the Army and get the two years of mandatory service behind him. Rich did that and was stationed at Fort Bliss in Texas. He luckily had missed the Korean War entirely.
When Rich got out of the service, he returned home. By then, he was a young "stud muffin," dating lots of pretty women, and he wasn't around home much. He had begun his career in the mortgage loan business and was doing well. He was my hero, my father of choice. (We'll broach that topic another time.)
When Bobbie was 19 years old, she had her first manic-depressive episode, a condition that lasted until she died at age 64. I was 9 years old when Bobbie got sick that first time. I didn't understand why my big sis was acting so strangely, why she didn't sleep, why her personality changed so drastically, why my parents were so upset. I thought all she needed was a good spanking because she was misbehaving so badly! Bobbie was hospitalized for two years then, and treatment involved electro-shock treatment. I visited her there with the family and I simply didn't understand.
Not long after Bobbie was released from the hospital, Rich married his first wife. It was 1959 and I was 12 years old. They had a lovely, large wedding at Mission Carmel; I remember I cried and cried. Soon after that, and against doctor's advice, Bobbie married the brother of one of her co-patients. They moved to Eureka where his family lived; she was gone again, too.
In February, 1962, Bobbie's daughter was born. Bobbie's doctors had also strongly advised that she not get pregnant or do anything life-changing to upset her precarious recovery. Soon after Jill was born, Bobbie had another manic episode and was hospitalized again. The disastrous marriage soon ended and Bobbie and Jill eventually moved into the family home.
I guess, in retrospect, my older siblings weren't even "almost" a second set of parents. And, although I wish they'd been around more, it wouldn't have been fair to them. Johnny and I weren't their children, after all.