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Ashley Sibley

My wife and Ashley Sibley were roommates when we met. The first thing I noticed about her is that she’s only a tiny bit taller than Kara, which isn’t saying much at all. Being only slightly taller than the average height of a woman, I took note of this because, at last, I would be asked to reach things from the second shelf in the cabinets when I was there.

By and large, Ashley kept to herself. She had a cat named Jetta that looked like it had been ran over by one: boney and contorted.* It may have looked that way to me because every time I saw it, it was either recoiling in fear, or in preparation to strike, which looked the same to me. I like animals, but it felt wise to stick to petting more agreeable household pets, such as the ninety pound, jittery pit bull with a severe drooling problem. Her name was Moo, and she, too, stayed away from the cat.

Jetta was Ashley’s baby. She adored her. Jetta lived for eighteen, presumably angry years. But she was no doubt loved unconditionally. That’s the thing about Ashley: she can love the unloveable, and she takes care of those in her life who need taken care of.

Ashley got her height from her dad, Bruce Sibley. He was short with dark hair, and a thick fu manchu. He looked like he owned a Harley. You may have seen him walking around downtown Oreland because he lived and worked right there in the heart of it, at Anderson Ironworks.

And perhaps that’s the reason he didn’t drive - he pretty much just didn’t need to. Almost everything necessary to life was within walking distance from their home, plus The Oreland Inn. But there was an exception …

Since he didn’t drive, Ashley took her dad to the grocery store every Sunday. I thought that seemed weird because it wasn’t that he was unable to drive - he just didn’t. Later, I learned that, way, way back, his license was suspended for too many unpaid parking tickets. In protest, he never got one again. And when Ashley got her license and first car, their ritual began. Ashley loved the time with him, and I suspect he loved the time with her. DMV be damned.

When Kara and I got engaged, I moved out of my home in West Chester, and into her house, and Ashley moved into her grandmother’s house. When I asked her why she chose to move there, of all places, she told a story of her grandfather’s passing.

“I didn’t have as close of relationship with him as I wanted. He was a known curmudgeon. But he loved the Eagles. He consistently yelled at the TV and if they were doing bad, he’d yell “‘this sucks!’”

She continued:

“When he was diagnosed with cancer, and for about a year before he went into hospice, we spent a lot of time together. We did puzzles and watched every episode of Law and Order, The Silver Linings Playbook, and anything John Wayne.”

When he was in hospice, during one of their visits, he began speaking incoherently, asking for a map, and telling them he would drive. After a moment of this, her grandmother said goodbye and left the room. Ashley stayed a minute longer and he suddenly spoke lucidly, looking directly into her eyes.

“Ashley, take care of your grandmother. She’ll need you.”

They were the last words he ever spoke to her, and she took them to heart. When she moved out of Kara’s home, she moved in with her grandmother.

She speaks of Barb Sibley, known to Ashley as Mommom, in very fond terms. “We lean on each other for support.”

It has all the makings of a very close relationship. It’s just that having someone wait up for you at night goes with the territory. As a single woman, it’s not easy to live with a very conservative woman with strong maternal instincts. It may not be the easiest, but, she admits, “I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

The fact is that Ashley has never had it easy. She lived in Oreland as a child, but they moved around a lot. Manayunk, Roxboro, as well as out of state.Times were tough. Anderson Welding experienced layoffs, and they once had to move to Delaware for work, but that didn’t last long. Bruce was accustomed to home, and home was Oreland, and home was Anderson.

So they came back, and eventually landed right above the bar that was once call PT’s Tavern.

“We moved there when I was in the ninth grade. You get used to the noise, and don’t even hear it. Kids made fun of me for living there, and I used to hate it. We didn’t have a phone, and that made it hard to have a social life. I had to make plans before I went home from school, and just show up, hoping that plans didn’t change. It wasn’t easy, but I got used to it..”

In later years, living above a bar became very convenient.

Another convenience is the proximity to the Oreland Independence Day parade. Aside from living out of Oreland, she’s always been able to walk to it. She never misses it. She will never miss it. It’s a part of her DNA, at this point.

It’s well known that Ashley loves the parade. She’s there every year, dressed in red, white, and blue like everyone else. Always at the Fire House afterward, like everyone else. Maybe imbibed. Probably imbibed. But what I didn’t know was the reason she loved it, and the story is everything you’d hope it to be.

“It was because I got to spend time alone with my dad. He spent a lot of alone time with my brother, Tim, because of sports, but it wasn’t often that I got to. So on the Fourth of July, we would go to his friend’s house during the parade, and afterward, my dad would be invited to all these different barbecues. No one ever wanted to go with him, and so when I was eight years old, I volunteered. I was like ‘I’ll do it! I don’t care where we go!’ and it became our thing. The one day that I had my dad all to myself!”

Ashley told the story with a pride that I’d not seen in her before. It was a chance seized by a little girl. It was a child’s victory. A longing fulfilled on the most conspicuous day in Oreland. Everyone saw her with her dad, and everyone saw that she was loved. This mattered.

Bruce Sibley has been gone for two years. He passed away from cancer, during the pandemic. I mentioned to Ashley that it seemed like it wasn’t that long ago. She mentioned that it seemed like a very long time ago.

Her Grandfather died in 2014 of lung cancer. She raised money for for three years for the GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer by doing 5k races and dine and donates. She did this completely alone. One woman who did more than just talk for someone she loved.

And now, Ashley has recently been diagnosed with stage four metastatic breast cancer. It came as a shock to us all. Tragically, there is no cure. The goal of treatment focuses on extending life, reducing the symptoms of the disease, and improving quality of life. But she doesn’t have the luxury of support from her father. And while she no longer has a parent in her life, she is in the fortunate position to be a daughter of Oreland.

Here, we take care of our people, and it shows. When she posted on social media about her diagnosis, there was an incredible outpouring of love and support. I believe she learned that she’s always been loved by more than just those closest to her. We come together in good times, like the parade, when everyone sees us, and we come together in tough times like this, when one of us feels alone and needs to be invited to the barbecue.

*I’m told that my memory of Jetta is incorrect. Supposedly she was a very fat cat, whose belly swayed as she walked. I maintain that any negative description of her is, if not accurate, appropriate and fitting. Chalk it up to fear.

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1 comentário

Dottie Ortt
Dottie Ortt
30 de out. de 2022

Altho' I have never met Ashley, you have described her as a wonderful young person whom I would be proud to know! I will hope & pray she will be the recipient of a true miracle!

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