Peg's eyes got just a little teary on Christmas Day as she told us that one of the greatest achievements in her 91 years was that her two daughters were so close and cared about each other so much. It would be only a few hours later that those same daughters proceeded to do everything they could to disabuse Peg of that notion.
For Linda and Sandy are not just Peg's kids. They are also Steve's kids. And from their father, these two women have inherited what may just be the world's most aggressive competitive attitude. When they play, they play to win.
The Battle of the Dyer Girls started out innocently enough. We had all decided to play a little Wii Bowling, and most of us had a go at it. While Sandy finished cooking the dinner, Dave, Linda, Jordan and I played. So far, so good. But then it was decided that after dinner it would be fun for Sandy to play Linda.
It was a match made in heaven (if you like fierce competition) or hell (if anyone thought the spirit of Christmas was going to linger by the fireplace while these two swung their Wii controllers). The scene was probably set when Jason called from Oz to wish us all a happy holiday.
While Sandy was on the phone with him he told her that if she really wanted to have a merry Christmas, she would let Linda win on the Wii. Which may have been good advice from his perspective as LK's son, but perhaps not such good advice when you've been LK's little sister for more than 50 years. Christmas cheer be damned, Sandy was not about to let her big sister win.
As sporting events go, it was a classic match. LK - very experienced at Wii bowling but coming off a long layoff - versus Sandy - the relative newcomer with the home field advantage.
The first game was all LK's. When she is in the groove, she can string strikes together like there's no tomorrow. By the last frame Sandy couldn't win and it was the visiting team with the W in their column, looking like an overwhelming favorite to win the series.
But the second game showed why you should never bet the house on a sporting event. Epecially when the one you're betting on has a Wii controller in one hand and a Johnny Walker Black Label in the other.
Suddenly LK's strike ball was coming in a little high while Sandy found the mark and started stringing strikes together herself. The hometown crowd started shouting "Yeah, baby!" as she built up a big lead. When LK missed a spare in the 7th frame, Sandy punched the air in triumph and let out a "Yeah, baby!" of her own. The match was tied.
And Peg was starting to get a look on her face that said "It doesn't seem fair that I am about to lose one of my proudest accomplishments on Christmas Day!"
As entertaining as Wii Bowling is to watch (well, as entertaining as it is to watch while drinking vodka), there does come a point to set a finishing time. Which is to say, some of us could see the sisters swapping wins as the contest moved from Best of 3, to Best of 7 to Best of 25. It was agreed the third game would be the decider.
The tension showed in both bowlers. Strike balls were just a little too high on the head pin. Spares were made by the narrowest of margins. Scores were down. Even the crowd was reduced to only a few "Yeah babies" as the sisters duked it out.
Slowly Sandy built up a slight lead and by the 9th frame, she had a chance to to take an insurmountable lead if she could strike out. She only made a spare. LK made a strike, but victory was still within Sandy's grasp with a strike or a spare + 9 in the last frame. She missed her spare.
The room gasped. An LK fan considered yelling "No, baby!" but decided I might be hit in the head with a Wii controller, so I reverted to sports commentator instead. "Linda needs a strike or a spare + 8 pins to win."
LK made her spare. The room grew quiet. Peg seemed to close her eyes. Sandy turned away.
LK needed 8 for a win, 7 for a draw. Anything less was a loss. She started the ball rolling down the alley. It was clear right away that it was not a strike ball. Would she get enough pins for victory?
In 1953 Eddie Erdelatz, the coach of the Navy football team uttered a line that has gone down in history. His team was playing Duke that day, and neither side scored during the entire game. "A tie is like kissing your sister," he said.
And so it was that on this Christmas Day, the Dyer Girls gave each other a symbolic kiss. Unlike Erdelatz, both sisters declared the tie was the perfect ending for the Christmas Day match. Peg smiled, secure in her family's harmony for one more year at least.