It’s been four years. FOUR years.
On January 31, 2011, my oldest sister, Donna, passed away after the fight of her life with breast cancer. She was/is a hero. A fighter. The bravest woman I know. There is not a day that goes by I don’t think about her and miss her like crazy. She is on my mind and forever in my heart and soul.
But today, I am actually not going to write about Donna, how much I adored and loved her, as well as how much she meant to me as a sister, a mentor and so much more. This isn’t really in memory of her, it’s instead, in celebration of the rest of my siblings, the ones who are still here. The four brothers and one sister whom I adore, admire, cherish, look up to and LOVE so much.
This is the story of my family.
The brothers (left to right): Mike, Steve, Charles and Alan. The sisters (left to right): Donna, Karen and Celeste. The parents: Celestine “Red” and Leona “Lee” Schneider.
This picture is one I will ALWAYS treasure. It was taken at Christmas in 2008. It was the first time EVER that all of us had been together for Christmas (Yes, in my entire life) and the first time EVER we had a portrait taken of us. Unbelievable, huh?
First off, let me tell you we are a family. We are brothers and sisters and parents. Period.
BUT…at the same time, we’re not.
Let me explain.
My mom, who by the way, will be 81 in April, was married to a guy named Ray for 17 years (she got married at the age of 17!). They had six children – Donna (1952), Alan (1953), Susan (1954), Steven (1958), Karen (1959) and Mike (1960). Susan passed away from SIDS at three months old.
My mom and Ray got divorced.
Then, my mom got remarried to a guy named, Celestine, who is better known as either C.J. or Red (once upon a time, he had REALLY red hair!). My dad will be 75 in eight days! Yes, he is six years younger than my mom! In this day and age, I guess my mom would be called a cougar! HA HA! In July, my mom and dad will be celebrating their 47th wedding anniversary! How cool is that?
Anyway, after my mom and dad were married (in 1968), they had two children, Charles (1969) and Celeste (1972). Yep, that’s me! And yes, I am the baby of the family in probably every sense of the word. And I am sure my siblings would agree.
So you see, technically, my first five siblings are really half-siblings, but I have NEVER thought of them that way. They are my brothers and sisters. We are all family. There aren’t no halfs, just wholes! And that is how we like it.
So, like I said earlier, this isn’t a post in memory of Donna. I don’t want to mourn her loss. I want to celebrate my other siblings because they are still here. I know that is what Donna would want anyway. She wouldn’t want any of us to be sad. She would want us to go on and celebrate the times we still get to have with each other. And, she didn’t want people fussing over her. Although, she deserved to have people fussing over her.
Without further adieu, my siblings.
(I should note that I went on each of their Facebook pages and stole photos from them. Funny thing is, I actually took some of the photos!)
*ALAN LEROY SOBTZAK*
Al is retired from the Air Force. He spent time in Korea, Germany and Saudi Arabia. He now lives in Boise, Idaho. When I was 12 years old (I think that’s how old I was), I was fortunate enough to spend a summer with Al and his family. We traveled to New Mexico, as that is where his wife, Shirley, is from. Then, we went back up to Idaho. It was a summer I will never forget. EVER! I treasure that time so much. Al won’t ever forget it either. But I don’t think he has the same memories of that summer as I do!
Whenever he can, Al always shares the story of when his step-daughter, Melissa (my niece) and I snuck some bourbon and added it to our pop. We thought Al and Shirley were at the movies. Melissa and I were at home babysitting my other niece, Stephanie, who was probably younger than 2 at the time. Al and Shirley apparently didn’t go to the movies. They instead spied on us and knew that we snuck the liquor! Oops. Busted. It may not have been so funny back then, but it sure makes for a great story now!
*STEVEN LYNN SOBTZAK*
Steve, who was also in the Air Force, lives in Mahtomedi, which is by White Bear Lake, down in the Twin Cities. Steve is a pretty laid-back kind of guy and probably the most mellowest out of all of us. I hope he doesn’t mind me sharing this, but Steve is kind of known for his nose. Yep, it’s a little bigger than the rest of his siblings and unfortunately, he may have been teased a little for it. But I hope he “NOSE” it’s all in fun! I will never forget one of his birthdays when my mom or somebody else hired a singing telegram and they sang about his nose. I am not sure, though, if I was actually there because it was at an American Legion and I was much younger at the time. I just remember the stories.
I remember when Steve graduated from Mankato State University. I actually got to go to the ceremony. I remember seeing him in his cap and gown and thinking he looked pretty cool and how proud of him I was. I probably never shared that with him, but I really was. I’ll always remember that day and treasure that memory.
*KAREN MARIE DESCHEPPER*
I really hope Karen doesn’t mind that I used this photo, which I actually shot, BUT, I absolutely love this photo of my sister. Karen lives on a farm in Jasper, MN, a small little town about a half-hour away from Sioux Falls, SD. She is a farm girl through and through. In this picture, she was trying to round up her horses. To say that Karen loves horses is an understatement! This photos just screams farm life to me. It captures my sister so beautifully. I just love it.
I have so much to say about my sister, Karen, but I will try and make it short. First off, something I have probably never told her is how envious of her I am and how proud of her I am. I am envious because Karen was blessed with the most beautiful voice. She sings like an angel. I will never forget and will always treasure the times she sang me to sleep as a child or just sang to me whenever. My absolute favorite song she sang to me as a kid was/is, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” I’ve made her sing this to me in my adulthood and in fact, I made her sing it a couple of years ago so I could record it. I listen to it now and then when I want/need to hear her singing. As an adult, my favorite song she sings is probably, “In The Arms of Angel.” It makes me cry almost every time I hear her sing it.
So, besides singing, she also plays guitar and piano, which by the way, she learned to play as an adult. I thought that was so cool, that she took piano lessons as an adult. And if I remember right, Karen is a pretty good artist. She can draw really well. So jealous of her artistic side. So. Not. Fair!
I am also proud of my sister and who she has become. She really is someone I look up to, even though I don’t think I have ever told her that. I have to say, when I was younger, Karen and I were probably the closest. We are still close, but after Donna’s death, it seems like something changed and we aren’t as close as we once were. Anyway, Karen went through some real rough patches in her life, but she persevered and is now an amazing woman. She works hard. She is dedicated to her family. She is kind, loving and truly, someone I adore, admire and respect. Karen has a very special place in my heart and I want her to know how much I love her. Yes, I love my brothers, but there is just something different and special about a sisters’ bond. I treasure all the time I get to spend with her with and all the memories we share. She is a true hero in my eyes.
*MICHAEL KEITH SOBTZAK*
Mike, or who I like to call Mikey, is the best damn mechanic there is. Okay, so I might be a little biased. He was also a member of the United States Air Force! Thankfully, Mike lives in the Twin Cities metro area, more specifically, Minnetonka, and so he is relatively close whenever I have car troubles. Seriously, you have no idea how many times I have called him, sometimes near tears, whenever I’ve had car problems. There was a period of time once where I probably called him dang near every week with something. The conversation would go something like this…Me: “Hello Mikey!” Him, in a kind of Mexican accent: “Hello little seeester! (Yes, that is what he always calls me and I love it!) What’s wrong? Me: “Well, my car is doing (fill in the blank) or not doing (fill in the blank) or it sounds like this (fill in the blank).” And then he would proceed to tell me what I needed to do or how he could fix it for me. He has saved me hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in car repairs. And I hope he knows how much it is appreciated. And, never taken for granted. EVER!
I do remember on occasion just calling him without having any car troubles. I think that always confused him! Mikey is always there for me, whether I needed my car fixed or not. And by the way, Karen is not the only musically talented sibling in the bunch. Mike can also sing and play guitar and is VERY good at it. He has a great voice, a little Garth Brooks-ish. Kind of. He sometimes likes to sing silly songs, like “My Ding-a-Ling.” He sings it so well. But one of my most favorite songs he sings is, “Seven Spanish Angels.” It is so beautiful.
You know what, come to think of it, I forgot to mention that my brother, Al, also sings and plays guitar. My favorite song I have ever heard him sing is, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
*CHARLES JOSEPH SCHNEIDER*
Chuck. Chuckie. Chaz. Charlie. C.J. Yes, he has been known by all of those names. Growing up, he was always Chuckie to me. Always. As an adult, however, he is Charles. And there was a time, he wouldn’t answer you unless you called him Charles. The only sibling to ever get away with calling him Chuck or Chuckie as an adult, was Donna. She’s the only one. Like our other three brothers, Charles was also in the service and served in the Air Force. He was actually stationed in Turkey for awhile.
Unlike my other siblings, Charles and I actually grew up together. Because the other ones are just a wee-bit older than I am, they were grown up and out of the house by the time I was in first grade. Charles is only three years older than me. I have so many stories I could share about growing up with Charles. Oh my! We used to fight like cats and dogs. Knives were even used a few times. No one got hurt, but lots of threats were made. I am guessing we were your typical brother-sister, you know the kind, we hated each other but loved each other and would stick up for one another. One of my mom’s favorite stories to share is how Charles used to put his arm straight out and hold my head and I would try to punch him. I was too little and would never come close to punching him and he would just laugh and laugh and laugh, which of course, made me even more mad at him.
Seriously, I have SO many stories I could share. It’s ridiculous. One of my more favorite ones is the time I may have had one too many drinks and I started crying, bawling really, and repeatedly apologized to Charles for how much I didn’t like him when we were growing up. You see, to me, he was the “perfect one,” the one who NEVER got in trouble. I, on the other hand, wasn’t. Yep, I spent more time being grounded growing up than not grounded. Charles could do no wrong. He got good grades. He had good friends. He stayed out of trouble. He didn’t smoke. He didn’t drink. He obeyed the rules. He listened to my parents. Oh, the list could go on. Me? Well, let’s just say I maybe wasn’t the best kid in the whole world. (NOTE: Yes, I have apologized over and over and over again to my parents for the gray hairs I put on their heads!)
Anyway, as adults, Charles and I get along great and our relationship is SO MUCH better than it was growing up. Which, I am guessing is typical of many brothers and sisters.
So, there you have it. A little insight into who my siblings are and what they mean to me. I love them all with all my heart and soul. We each have a special bond that I treasure so much. I am not sure what I would do without my big, crazy family. Yes, sometimes they irritate the crap out of me, but I know I can always count of them. I know they are there for me whenever I need them. And, I am there for them. Always and forever.
I am dedicating this blog post to each and every one of my siblings – Donna, Alan, Steven, Karen, Michael and Charles. I love you all. Thank you for everything you have done for me and thank you for being you. The best damn siblings a girl could ever ask for!
(This photo was taken last April at my mom’s 80th birthday party!)