Making Connections: Penny in My Thoughts

Penny, Sharon, and Myself San Francisco Circa 1996

We were The Bania’s, a family of three. It consisted of my dad, Lou, my mom, Remy, and myself.

My dad found a niche as an electrician and refrigeration technician in San Francisco and the surrounding areas.

His accounts included Taco Bell chains, Pizza Hut, and Wolf Gang Puck on the Pier, and what he called “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants in China Town.

He had a little apartment over on Geary Street working three weeks on and one week off where he would come home. Long enough for my parents to get on each other’s nerves and then he would be gone again.

My mother worked full-time as an ESL teacher at Delta Middle School.

Something peculiar was occurring at the end of the street where my parents parked our 1991 Plymouth Voyager mini-van, white with a wood panel stripe that graced the sides.

It would become my future ride during my Senior Year at Delta High School, but that was still in the works. It was 1995, I was 15 and a Junior without a driver’s license riding the bus home.

Like any day after school, I took my time shuffling from the corner of North 500 West Street and West Center Street towards 350 West.

I lived at the dead-end gravel street on 350 West. There are three houses on this road, cookie-cutter ranch-style homes, three bedrooms, and one bath. A blue one (which for the life of me I can’t remember who lived there, I just remember the porcelain toilet that was used as a plant holder), the yellow one that belonged to the Fountaines’ and then my house, a milky chocolate house on the end.

This was the year I decided to cut my hair short like Monica the R&B singer. It looked good on her, why not me?

Billy and Cody Shumway’s mom was the hairdresser and said that I needed to style it every morning if I wanted it to look like Monica’s. Let me tell you, it was more work to have it short than long, but I’m getting off track. All I have to say is thank goodness my hair grows back quickly.

Back to the odd occurrence happening in my driveway. My parents were talking in the minivan. Odd.

Anytime they had a “discussion” it involved slammed doors with my mother going silent behind the closed door, usually with my dad heavy fist pounding the door yelling at her to come out.

This time they were calmly talking. They were both smiling, especially my dad.

When they saw me they exited the vehicle and walked towards the house saying they had something important to tell me.

The News

“You have a sister.” My mom said.

“I thought your mother was going to kill me,” my dad said all smiles.

“Why would I kill you?” she scoffed shaking her head at the thought. “It was in the past.”

Learning Lesson

From that moment and on through my own life I learned that someone’s past did not dictate their worth.

Back to the Story

I was in shock. I had a sister?

Growing up as an only child was B-O-R-I-N-G. Need I say more? My parents were older than most in the area, not to mention they weren’t Mormon. I was the odd girl at school and I was a Filipina Chinese girl living in rural America. I really could have used a sister.

Now I magically had a sister.

An awkward conversation revealed he had a one-night stand with Penny’s mother. Penny had called earlier that afternoon from Washington State and said that she was his daughter.

His reply, “Oh shit, she [Penny’s mother] was telling the truth.”

A New Sister

She was the spitting image of my dad, there was no mistake. She came for a short visit prior to Christmas and we met again in San Francisco and then I took a solo trip up to Washington the following summer.

Throughout the years we kept in touch. She met my fiancé, who would become my husband of 14 years (technically 15, but I filed for divorce our 14th year and it wasn’t finalized until November of 2014). Can you tell I get particular about the particulars?

I took a solo trip in the summer of 2008 to visit Penny and occasionally see her ever-busy husband, Mitch. 2009, following the Disney Marathon, me and the family came out for a visit. We visited the Brevard Zoo, fed the giraffes, and on a separate day, we spent it at Disney World.

The Call

Back at home in Orting, WA. Penny called. She told me my children had been ungrateful. Not thanking her for the dolls she had purchased for them at Disney. She said we had left the house a mess and said she had to call a cleaning service because her house was a mess.

“I was taught that you leave the house, better than you found it!” She yelled in the receiver. Yes, we still had a cordless phone back then.

I yelled back and told her I would send her a check for the maid service. I didn’t recall leaving the house a disaster. It was unlike me to do that. It was strange that she was incredibly upset. She had never yelled at me before.

I hung up the phone while she ranted. She called back leaving two irritated voicemails outraged that I had hung up the phone on her.

In her last voicemail, she said that she was sorry for yelling and plead for me to call her back.

I sent her a check for the maid service and didn’t call her back.

December 3, 2021

Remember that nasty car accident I was in? The dog’s name was Penny. I thought about my sister as the drunk driver called out her name over and over again.

December 5, 2021

I came across my journals and a picture came to the surface. The one my dad took in San Francisco. The same picture shown above.

December 7, 2021

I messaged Mitch, Penny’s husband, asking how I could get a hold of her.

December 11, 2021

He didn’t reply, but he added me as a friend on FB. I scrolled through his feed looking for any sign of Penny.

And then I found this…

Another Lesson

Sometimes we go through the pain of not learning the first time and God nudges us again, patiently waiting for us to relearn something He already taught us.

It is not enough to proclaim we are Christians when we aren’t willing to forgive. I do not claim perfection. I’m still learning how to forgive others in my life.

I Am a WIP (Work in Progress)

I thought I still had time, but now it was too late. I allowed pettiness to break up a relationship that was never based on the trivial.

Please let this be a lesson to you. Do not allow the pettiness of life to get in the way of relationships. As many have said before me, “Life is too damn short.”

I say to you, “Love yours, show kindness, and when it doubt be slow to anger and forgive others on a regular basis.” Yes, even to the drivers that drive like they own the road. We are all God’s children.

If they are toxic, love them from a distance and pray that they will feel your love and forgiveness.

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As always, thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my blog.

I appreciate the outpouring of support from my friends near and far.

May God be with you as He has shown up in my life even when I didn’t want to acknowledge His existence. He is as real as the air we breathe. Ever present yesterday, today, and forever.

3 thoughts on “Making Connections: Penny in My Thoughts

    1. Yes, life does have its twists and turns, but filled with so much goodness. We become what we focus on, right? I’m trying my best to be more self- less.

      I notice that when I pay less attention to me, the more fulfilling and joyful life becomes.

    2. Thank you for your thoughts. Life can be hard and confusing, but it’s important to remember that we can still find joy and meaning when we sometimes feel like we are thrown under a bus. After I have done I can, I have to continually give my burdens to God. ❤️

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