It is hard to believe my little sister has been gone for twenty years. The youngest of twelve children, she was born three days before my wedding. An eighteen year gap is a big one especially when you don’t live in the same house.
When people ask me what her disability was like, I find that hard to answer. I never looked at her as disabled. She was just my little sister.
My mom watched my daughter during the day, so Tina was like her big sister for two years. Tina’s speech was slightly different, but so was my daughter’s because of ear problems.
When we moved two hours away, our time together was limited to family gatherings. I was inspired by her loving spirit whenever we visited.
Down syndrome sometimes is viewed negatively by people who don’t know much about it. My characters were young when faced with the possibility which caused conflict from misunderstanding it.
My parents didn’t know until she was born and they were older. But from the moment she came home from the hospital, she was loved by all of us. Just one of the family and most of the time there wasn’t a problem.
Down syndrome sometimes is viewed negatively by people who don’t know much about it.
I say most of the time because, like other families, there was conflict sometimes. Especially when brothers are involved. They loved to tease and Tina DID NOT always like that. She let them know, too.
I remember she loved to color and seemed to always hum which gave me the inspiration for the story.
Like my character, she was also able to take care of most of her needs. Occasionally that meant she wore things backwards which was cute.
Often, she was a ham on purpose. I have some pictures where she did some crazy poses just to make me laugh.
Tina always wanted to be included. That meant coming to stay with us during the summer. My sister came with her. We didn’t have any issues except someone went in the fridge and ate the Cool Whip! I wonder who?
One thing she did was laugh. At times she was so silly she couldn’t stop. I miss that!
Like the rest of the family, Tina went to school and religious instruction. I was her confirmation sponsor. I remember the day she was confirmed (affirmation of faith), she was so serious. She understood what she was doing.
My most treasured memory I have is a handwritten letter she sent me. As a single mom, money was tight in the summer (I was a teacher) and I couldn’t afford the gas to travel to Rochester. Her letter begged me to come. She wanted to go to the movies, the amusement park, out to eat and wanted me to stay over. It ended with how much she missed me.
Family was important to her and she was a gift to us all.
Until next time,