Dedicated to my sister Janice M. Fahey
May 6, 1956 - Sep 26, 2002
My sister Janice started her life on planet earth, May 6, 1956, in
the late morning. She was born to the best parents in the world, Dennis
and June Fahey. I was 11 years old at the time. I had guessed that my
Mom was pregnant. She had set aside a time to tell me something important.
Before she could get started I told her she was going to have a baby.
Mom was amused and delighted by my prescience.
I was home the morning of my sister Jan's birth. We were living then
at 753 Lily St in New Monterey, California. My Mother was ironing and
at some point her water broke. Mom wasn't one to panic. She didn't tell
me, or my Dad, who was working about 5 minutes away at our gas station
on the corner of Lighthouse and David Ave. Mom finished her ironing and
then told me, and called my Dad saying calmly and a bit playfully, "...
it's time ...".
Dad rushed home and we were off to the hospital in downtown Monterey.
Dad had all kinds of different low cost vehicles that he wheeled and dealed
with. He showed up at the house in something he called a Ford model B
panel truck. The ride was rough. Mom was getting pretty loud groaning
and laughing. I was scared stiff and I remember telling her, "Don't worry
Mom, I'm here". I had no idea what to do. Dad just looked straight ahead
Five minutes after our arrival at the hospital my Mom was wheeled out
of the delivery room and declared to Dad, who had just signed her in,
"it's Jan". This was code for, 'the baby is a girl'. If it were a boy,
it would have been "Mark" (I think).
Love spoken here, humor too
Jan was a real gift to our family. My parents' marriage (the second for
both of them) was developing cracks. When 'Janny' came along their focus
completely changed. They adored her and raised her in the most loving
and respectful way. Jan was really my half sister but our last names were
the same because Dennis Fahey (our Dad) had adopted me when I was nine
years old, shortly after their marriage.
We had always had pets around the house, mostly cats, which my Mom preferred,
but also an occasional dog, birds, fish, etc. A human baby was going to
be pretty interesting from my point of view. I wasn't disappointed.
Jan was a brain right from the beginning. She also had a good sense of
humor and was just plain nice (and fun) to be around. She could also be
pretty theatrical. She walked and talked early and was potty trained within
a week of Mom's first attempt to pass this milestone. My Mom could sense
when a kid was ready for this; she would start by explaining what the
goal and procedures were, and then voila, a civilized kid.
Peeing into silverware drawer
Before the potty training though, my Mom thought it was important for
me to know how to do things for my sister to help out. This included feeding,
dressing, and changing her diaper. My Mom would put a little blanket down
on the counter next to the kitchen sink. She would then pull the silverware
drawer out part way as a safety measure to make the counter a little larger.
Jan's feet would usually be wiggling in the air over the silverware. I
watched closely how the fresh diapers and safety pins were applied. One
day Mom left Jan with me to watch for an hour or two. She told me to change
her diaper if need be. I kind of panicked but said, "OK". Before Mom left
I asked a question that had been rolling around in my head for a while,
"what if she pees in the silverware"? Mom laughed and said, "don't worry
honey, she never has yet". A short while before Mom returned home I noticed
that Jan's diaper was in distress, so I commenced a solo diaper change.
Down went the blanket, plop went the baby, out went the silverware drawer,
off went the diaper, and then splash; with a mischievous giggle and feet
kicking in the air, she peed right into the silverware, a geyser. For
me this was a disaster. For Jan it was great fun. I went into a kind of
holding pattern with a loose diaper and within a few minutes Mom walked
in and rescued me. I was quite shaken up, but true to form Mom thought
this was hilarious (as did my sister).
Cats in lion cages
In a narrative my sister wrote, she said I never teased her and that I
taught her neat things like how to tie her shoes and whistle. We actually
played a lot together. One of the things we did in the living room was
get some cushions off of the chairs and sofa and a few tennis rackets
and cats. We would arrange the cushions like walls and then cover them
with the tennis rackets. This made a kind of cage into which we would
insert the cats. This made a "zoo" with "lions" and "tigers" in cages/pits.
The cats would soon break out and then there would be an "emergency" that
we, the zookeepers, would have to remedy. It was all very fun and dramatic.
Imaginary Friend: Mungee
Somewhere between the ages of two and four Jan had an imaginary friend
that she called Mungee. When Dad came home in the evening after work he
and Jan would visit. Among other things, Janny would tell him about her
day and the things that she and Mungee had done. I really don't remember
any specific Mungee wisdom but my Dad was often amazed at what Jan/Mungee
would come up with. It was really fun for both of them. One day Dad asked
Jan why he hadn't heard about, or from, Mungee for a few days. Jan replied
casually, "oh, Mungee's dead". My Dad was surprised and tried to get more
information but Jan didn't want to talk further about it. A week or so
later Dad again asked about Mungee. This time Jan scolded him with, "I
told you Mungee died". And so she had, absolutely, no more Mungee.
To Mom in store: very dramatic actress
I'm pretty sure my sister was never spanked. My parents treated and spoke
to her more like an adult than a kid. Hitting was completely out of the
question. Anyway, I didn't witness this but Mom came home from Safeway
with an amusing commentary for Dad and me. Jan was about three. She and
Mom were shopping together. They got into a friendly shopping conflict.
Out of the blue Jan shrank away from Mom and with her hands clutched up
against her face said, "Please don't slug me". Mom thought this was very
funny and well executed, but was concerned what spectators might think.
We actually had a family discussion about it. Janny was gently cautioned
that her acting might, in the wrong setting, be a little too convincing.
Picked up on dirt bike in 1st grade (Del Monte Park)
One day When Janny was in the first grade (or possibly kindergarten)
I picked her up for Mom on my Triumph 500cc twin cylinder dirt bike. I
was about 17 at the time. The school was a half mile from our house in
Del Monte Park. Janny was surprised to see me instead of Mom. When I told
her I was going to drive her home on the bike she didn't hesitate a bit.
She had the naive confidence little sisters have in their teenage brothers.
I scooped her up. She sat in front of me on the gas tank (no helmets).
My bike had a Webco racing bar with and extra brace that she could hang
on to (for dear life). For her it was like a roller coaster ride I guess.
The final thrill was a little hill about 6 feet high that I had to climb
to get the bike into the basement under the house. It was nearly vertical.
The trick was going fast enough. I'd had some serious flops getting this
little challenge right. Zoom, Jan squealed with delight, no problem. Mom
thought it was pretty fun and funny too. Mom always approved of our taking
little chances like this. She didn't mind if we were reasonably daring.
My sister was very intelligent and articulate. She had one unusual habit
of speech though, that I'd now call her own ebonic. I don't know where
it came from. For as long as I can remember she pronounced 'open' as 'ohmpen'.
When she was a preteen and teen I'd kid her about it. It brought us a
lot of amusement but she never changed this habit and never tried to justify
it. Recently, in a telephone conversation, she said it. I had an impulse
to comment, it harkened back to better days and sounded cute. I went on
to another topic instead. I wish I hadn't. It was fun to kid her and she
seemed to enjoy it too.
Very close to Mom learning to cook, sew, music, type, etc.; a perfectionist
Quality time is quantity time. Jan had the luxury of spending a lot of
time with Mom. Mom was a perfectionist in all she did. She was a terrific
cook, seamstress, craftsperson, musician, etc. Mom conveyed these traits
and skills to my sister. The results were fabulous pies and other wonderful
culinary creations. My Dad especially enjoyed Jan's pecan pies. She was
a good artist too and made many complicated latch hook rugs and other
fancy needlework creations. Jan also enjoyed refinishing furniture and
once showed me the best varnished finish I have ever seen. I still don't
know how she achieved such a glass like finish. When she was younger,
under 30, she played the piano and violin. She was a pretty good musician,
but got away from it in later years.
Mom was a terrific typist. When I was in the range of 5 to 8 years old
(1949 - 1952) Mom worked for the Monterey Public School Superintendent's
Office. She typed all day. Where typing was concerned, Jan far exceeded
Mom's capability. The banking business, especially escrow, title, and
legal work demanded speed and perfection. At one time Jan could type more
than a hundred words per minute without errors. I personally witnessed
this skill in action several times; it was truly amazing to me. She could
type at this speed and smile and talk to me at the same time.
Jan relocated in 1967, at the age of 11, from the Monterey area to El
Granada when Dad gave up the gas station business for Electronic Maintenance
work for United Airlines at the SF Airport. For the rest of her life,
except for the three years (1975 - 1977) that she attended UCLA, she lived
in the bay area. She had a trailer in Moss Beach from 1977 to 1989 and
her condo in Daly City from 1990 to the present.
Other Interests, Education, and Work
Jan had her SCUBA certification. This interest she and Marlene (her once-in-a-lifetime
friend) pursued for fun together. They trained in Monterey and dove for
fun during a vacation in Hawaii after high school.
One of the most profound influences of Jan's life came via Ron Crandall,
a high school science/chemistry teacher. His classes were challenging,
involving theory and practice, which included desert trips. Jan always
held sacred the places and people that were associated with Mr. Crandall's
classes and activities. She had many mementos carefully preserved of the
trips and class activities. This interest and aptitude for science was
probably inherited from Dad.
Jan was a voracious reader with a wide range of interests including science
and history, fiction and non-fiction. She could read and understand stuff
like Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit (which I could never understand).
Recently she amazed me by reciting fairly long passages from one of these.
She was well-versed in the Bible and enjoyed authors like C.S. Lewis,
Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and many others.
Jan got straight As (or their equivalent) for grades 1 through 12. She
took pride in her achievements and also liked pleasing and impressing
Mom and Dad. After high school she started a premed path with 1 year at
CSM and three more at UCLA. She stopped short of her degree, with plans
to finish up in the bay area. She never finished her degree but instead,
at the age of 21, started a career with the Bank Of America.
By 1979 (age 23) she was a signing officer and by 1987 (age 31) manager
of a specialized escrow office handling multi-million dollar transactions.
She left the bank in 1990 out of "boredom" and immediately took a job
with a private escrow company. This company was a high flyer for a while
but folded unexpectedly in 1992. The next job was with a small bank that
wanted to get into the escrow business. Jan and her friend Renee, as a
team, created the escrow department from scratch. Jan wrote all of the
procedures and put all of the necessary controls in place. The sheer dollar
volumes were high and business was booming. Unknown to Jan and Renee though,
the bank had insufficient resources to support the volume of work their
efforts generated. Consequently the bank was shut down by the FDIC. From
1992 to 1994 she worked for Esra Jung, an attorney and friend. Subsequent
work consisted mostly of specialized temp work of various specialties,
Evangelism (Discipleship Dynamics) and counseling at Highlands Church
My sister was a Christian from about 8 years of age. When it was possible
she would usually attend the churches I went to. In the late 70s and early
80s we attended the Church Of The Highlands. It was here that we participated
in evangelism and counseling programs together. Jan was a very personal
visitor. She had a genuine interest in people and was unhurried, sweet,
sincere, and gentle in her manner. Her faith in God was a consistent and
continuing component of her life.
My sister's unhurried style was definitely our Mom. Mom was a very determined
person and could really focus her many talents but she was never too busy
to engage with someone when they really needed her time. I was the someone
occasionally. I never left dissatisfied but always had a more constructive
view of things after receiving Mom's attention and counsel.
Jan's unhurried manner was deliberate. In a journal entry in January
2002, prior to attending the memorial service for Ron Crandall she quoted
Treebeard with, "Do not be hasty, that is my motto", and then went on
to write, "I am slowly (as is my choice) getting ready to attend the memorial
service for Ron Crandall. I will never forget him, but if anyone should
ever read this, he was the very best teacher (beside my mom & dad) that
I ever had, and I've been blessed with quite a few over the years".
Jan was taking time to revere and honor this special person. This quality,
taking time, is a lesson to me that her passing will forever reinforce.
A Fish Called Wanda
A sweet and simple memory I have, that I feel I should include, was when
Janny and my family all went to the movies to see A Fish Called Wanda.
Jan was in her mid-twenties. We all enjoyed comedy and this for some reason
seemed to be a particularly fun and enjoyable experience that we all shared
together. My daughter and Jan both had distinctively gorgeous laughs.
This for me this was a special joy that made an indelible impression on
my heart. It hurts that I won't hear that laugh again.
The End, too soon
These memories should testify to the wide range of interests, capabilities,
and qualities that were captured in my sister. She embodied wonderful
aspects of both Mom and Dad. Her passing at such a young age has surely
left some important work undone. Because Jan incorporated so many attributes
of our parents, losing her for me, painful in itself, is a little like
losing my parents all over again.
One comfort now though, is that she is with the people she loved so much
and at peace.