Home of the Bellingwood Series – Nammynools

Handling Conflict. Or, My Sister is a B-A

Carol - Kindergarten
Carol – Kindergarten (1967)

Last night as I was chatting with my sister, I accused her of trying to rescue everyone. Of course, that made me smile because it is who I’ve written in Polly.

I’ve had conversations this week with both my sister and brother and one thing that stands out is our frustration with inequality. It should be such a simple concept, but humanity isn’t wired to take care of others – only to protect and promote ourselves. Kindness, encouragement, support – it’s what we sometimes do for friends and family, but rarely for anyone else.

At least it feels that way. Gone are the days when polite behavior and considering other’s needs above your own is the norm. Am I right? Well … I hope not. I’ve exaggerated this for effect.

This morning was rough. The kittens and I do not have a good sleep cycle plan happening yet. But that’s a different topic. As I tried to fall back to sleep, I let my mind wander. This morning I thought about what had been going on in Carol and Jim’s lives and thought to myself: My sister is a bad-ass.

The three of us approach conflict, abusive personalities, wrong-thinking (on and on and on) in similar, but very different ways.

Jim has a lifetime of upper management skills. He’s learned to measure his thoughts and seek to reason with parties involved. Oh, he still loses sleep and his blood pressure rises, but he’s very good at finding the right words to bring everyone to the table. When someone upsets continuity, he backs away until he can speak reasonably.

I’ve always just put it out there. But I’ve lost friends because of that and over the years, I’ve come to realize that most people don’t care what my opinions are – and there is no way I will change theirs, so I don’t bother. Which is too bad, but the argument isn’t worth it any longer. I’ve fought hard for things I believed in throughout my lifetime and I’ve been treated hideously because of it. You know what? I lived. I still speak my mind, but only if I believe it’s worthwhile. Otherwise, I try to work on the other side – to find the positive and be encouraging.

Now Carol. She’s a riot. If you meet her, you will meet this incredibly sweet and wonderful person. She’s happy, positive, upbeat, enthusiastic, loving … all of those great things. That’s just her personality. She lights up a room when she enters. She’s gregarious and can hold a conversation with anyone. When we worked together at the print shop, strangers would come in and before they left, they’d told her their life story and she’d helped them.

Carol is our conciliator – our mediator. She is always trying to smooth the waters between people, working to understand both sides of a discussion so she can explain it and bring others back to the center.

But dang, if you cross that girl, you won’t even believe what you’ll get. It takes a lot to for her to get to the point that she’ll show outsiders her fury and it will surprise the heck out of you to see her go. But as I look back, some of her escapades are pure entertainment – and good for a story or two.

Carol and Jamie with Kadi and Charcoal (1968)
Carol and Jamie with Kadi and Charcoal (1968)

When she was just a kid in elementary school, she and Jamie walked to school (I went by myself, because ugh, they were so little and stupid) together. An older boy had been picking on Jamie regularly and one day, Carol was done. She went after that boy (who was actually older and bigger than her as well), thunked him on the head with her binder, and made him back off.

Years later, Carol and I were going home late one evening after work. We were driving down a one way (two lane) residential street and of course, street lights were out along the way. All of a sudden, we both saw it – a pickup truck parked in a driveway with half of his bed in the street. She swerved, cursed and then cursed some more. I was still trying to catch my breath when she made a quick turn, went around the block and pulled up behind the pickup. Carol parked and stormed out of the car up to the front door. When a young man answered, she let all hell rain down on him. He was in shock (of course) and called for his friend to fix it. He apologized over and over. I still hadn’t processed on all that had happened until long after she was back in the car and we were heading home again. Whoa!

A few years later, she and I were living in a gorgeous apartment on Park Avenue in Omaha. What a beautiful place. Big rooms, hard wood floors, beautifully restored wood trim. We loved it. But the neighborhood was a little dodgy. Two blocks down, a crack house had regular visits from the police – and today? Yeah. Don’t go there. Even angels fear to tread on that street.

Christmas 1988 - Ghenghis Khan in our apartment.
Christmas 1988 – Ghenghis Khan in our apartment.

When we lived there in the eighties, it was still … not horrible. But if we took long walks with our dog in the evenings, both of us went – just to be safe. One evening we were walking Genghis (a shih-tzu – Genghis Khan, King of the Mongrel Hordes) and there was a commotion across the street at a small local bar. Carol looked over and saw a man lift a tire iron to beat a kid. She hollered and started after him. I stopped her. Because a drunken idiot with a tire iron is never a good thing. She screamed again at the man to stop. He turned and said, “But he was stealing from me!” Okay, he was engaged now. (I was shaking and ready to run for help.) She told him that beating someone was wrong. If the kid really stole from him, he should call the police. And oh, by the way, we were calling them if he didn’t stop. The guy stopped, the kid ran, and we scurried home.

Seriously – bad-ass sister. Who knew? She scares me sometimes and I’m not afraid of much when it comes to that stuff.

Nowadays, Carol deals with little freakin’ bullies in her classroom. They break her heart because she wants them to understand how much better life is without that kind of ugliness. She isn’t afraid to wade into messes that she should probably avoid, but the kids know what side she’s on – every day.

Everyone has stories of when they’ve stood strong between right and wrong, but they shouldn’t just be individual stories. These should be a lifetime of knowing what the right thing is to do and doing it. Maybe there should be more of a moral to this post, but honestly … today I’m just chuckling when I think about my sweet, kind, wonderful sister being some kind of hell-on-wheels bad-ass! I love that!


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