Share this story


What my sisters mean to me

As the eldest of the four children of Joseph and Elizabeth Povish (may they rest in the peace of the Lord), and as their only son, my three sisters mean two things to me, the first being the grateful memories of years long past. It must have been difficult for them to tolerate me at times, because as the eldest I got privileges first and seemed to hold on to them the longest. My father, particularly, was more strict with his daughters than he was with his son. Yet Janet, Ione and Barbara supported me in all my endeavors, both before and during my nine years away at seminaries.

All the things you may have heard about “king seminarian” in a Catholic family 60 years ago were true with the Povishes. Everything yielded to my needs, my schedule, even my preferences. It’s part of the family lore that for three years everything went on hold when my box of laundry arrived by mail from Grand Rapids on Tuesday afternoons at 2 p.m., because the seminary there had no laundry service. My mother washed, ironed, and packed in some goodies in time to beat the post office closing at 5 o’clock. To accomplish this the girls all had extra chores and dinner was late every Tuesday. What a nuisance that must have been.

After ordination, I witnessed the girls’ marriages, baptized their children and visited their homes regularly. They followed their husbands to where their work took them, to Iowa, to Indiana, and to Florida. I lived in Michigan and Minnesota, so the visits were not all that frequent; but when they happened they were joyous gatherings.

The second thing about my sisters that is most meaningful to me is that they made me an uncle twelve times. When a priest takes the Church for his bride and has no natural children of his own, his nieces and nephews fill a significant void in his life. My sisters gave me eight nieces and four nephews. These in turn have, so far, begotten twelve grand-nephews and grand-nieces. One of the latter made me a great-great-uncle two years ago with the birth of a daughter in Kokomo. When charming Kaylie gets a little older, her great-great-uncle will be able to start spoiling her with trips to 7-Eleven and with gifts of cash, just as he did with her young mother and grandmother before her.

The day-long celebration of my 75th birthday, organized by my sisters in April of 1999, illustrates the joyful relationships I have with this family of mine. They took over the facilities of the Briarwood Club in south Sarasota to accommodate the 49 people in attendance, counting boy friends, girl friends, and in-laws. More a family reunion than a birthday, it was a noisy, happy-go-lucky gathering of four generations.

All four nephews were there; and my rapport with them was evident when, with formality and with smiles on their faces, they presented me with their joint gift. It was a coffee mug that sports this inscription: “First I was a Good Boy. Then I became a Nice Kid. After that I was a Great Guy. Later I grew to be a Fine Man. Now I’m just an Old Fart.”