Forever Family… by JoAnn

Cropped close up photo two people she her ladies arms hold dirty, plates clean wash table wet rag holiday dishes kitchen apply forks knifes prepare dining room for closing loft cafe restaurant indoors

Last evening, I was making homemade spaghetti sauce. As I was taking a break from standing over a simmering pot, I received a message from my sister-in-law, Debby. Although her brother and I were divorced after 20 years of marriage, we never stopped being family in our hearts. I remained close to my ex and continued to feel like a part of his family.

I dropped the ball in communication with my sister-in-law for many years. When my ex-husband passed away in 2018, and we saw one another for the first time in ages, the love for each other was still there. In our devastation of losing our mutual loved one, we comforted each other and talked as though no time had passed. That meant the world to me.

Last night, I was immediately reminded of a fond memory when I saw the message from Debby. Not only was I literally in the process of making spaghetti sauce, but I remembered that Debby had been the first person to teach me how to make it! We were still teenagers, me 18 and her 19. I was dating her big brother and my future husband at the time. All these years later, I’m still making her recipe for spaghetti sauce, and she is messaging me on my cell phone.

In 1981, when Debby showed me how to make a spaghetti dinner, it was only a dream that I would marry her brother Rusty, and the thought of a cell phone was something none of us had even heard of. Fast forward 43 years, and here I am making Debby’s recipe, and she messages me on my cell. I don’t believe in coincidences, so it struck a chord right in my heart.

I immediately messaged her back, and we began to once again reminisce of days gone by. We talked about the upcoming holidays and how much we would miss all the loved ones that have passed away in the last 25 years. We remembered fondly all the time we spent together at the home she and Rusty shared with their parents before we were married. I laughed when she brought up an old boyfriend, and then I cried when she told me how much her brother had loved me. Debby and my father-in-law are the only two people left on earth who know about that love. The early love of 2 very young hearts. She is the only one to know of many conversations she had with her brother back then. That makes her so very dear to me now!

After talking about the latest family news and a little about our newest aches and pains, we ended our nightly conversation. I was left with a huge smile and a tear in my eye. Why had I wasted so much time not staying in touch? Why had life been so cruel to us both? Why had both of us been blessed in ways we didn’t deserve?

There is nothing like talking to someone that you have known your entire adult life and comparing notes. Catching up and filling up on all the wonderful emotions their love brings to you. Debby is special to me and always will be. She holds a set of memories that no one else holds. Ones that I thought had passed when her brother did. But now I know that she is the keeper of those memories. Thank you, Sissy, for reminding me of times so precious and important. I’m so glad you are still in my life.


  1. Debby Kiehner on November 21, 2023 at 1:20 am

    I love you too Jo Ann!