University of Minnesota Alumni Association

The Last Word

Heart of the Matter

Two Lucky Women

My older sister Margaret turned 60 last year. She and her husband live in Illinois, but rent a place in Hawaii. Every year they invite various family members to visit. My husband and I went last winter, and Margaret and her husband Ron spent 12 days playing host in Kapalua on the northwestern tip of Maui. We stayed atop a hill with a rapturous view of the Pacific Ocean. Every night we watched the sun set over the ocean. Every morning we watched whales spouting in the water.

Before the trip, I’d asked Margaret what she wanted to do while we were in Maui. She was noncommittal. When we were growing up, this was one of the few things about her that frustrated me. We were closest in age among our eight siblings. We dressed alike and made up games to entertain ourselves. If we fought, we were scolded to leave each other alone. But we’d whine to Mom in unison, “No! We’re just playing.” We didn’t want to be separated.

Somehow Margaret knew she wanted to be married when she grew up, just as I knew that I wanted to go to college. We have always been different, yet close. So when I said I wanted to go snorkeling, Margaret, who had never snorkeled in her life, agreed. Seeing how nervous she was about getting into the water, I told her the best thing to do was just swim. She hesitated and remained seated on a half-submerged rock along the shore while I stood facing her. I could feel the undertow pushing us to and fro, and then she cried out because her bottom was being scraped by the jagged rock. We laughed, and I dove in. Margaret plunged from her seated position, chest first into the water.

“What do you do with your nose?” she asked.

“Don’t use it.” I said, laughing. “Just breathe in and out through your mouth using the snorkel. You’ll get used to it.”

Impatient to get to the beauty below the water’s surface, I held out my hand to Margaret. She took it and we swam off. Immediately, I saw blue and yellow fan-finned fish and pointed them out to her. A school of sunfishsized, caramel-colored fish swam by and beyond the next corral outcropping we spotted pancake-shaped blue and orange striped fish.

Margaret kept hold of my hand. Part of me wanted to shake her off and swim free. And the other part of me was thrilled to keep her hand in mine. I’ve missed Margaret. She moved to Illinois when she and Ron got married. I stayed in Minnesota to be near our parents. We’ve stayed connected by phone and annual visits. Recently, we’ve been connected in a new way.

Margaret and Ron survived a horrific motorcycle accident a few years back. My sister’s back was broken just centimeters from a place in her spine that would have left her completely paralyzed. She wore a back brace for many months as her spine healed. Her good luck prompted a nurse to tell her she should buy a lottery ticket. And here we are, going strong, holding hands. After all these years, we are two lucky women.

Karen Carr (B.A. '87) is a certified professional life coach and owns her own business, Revitalize Life Coaching.