Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Forever-Young Sister (A Guest Post)

I am the oldest of four girls.  Some of my very favorite memories were made with my sisters.  MB is two years younger than me--she has a compassionate heart and is one of the fastest readers I know.  Bubsy is three years younger than me and she's the sporty version of myself. :)  And J is a whole six years younger than me.  She is one of the most creative and imaginitive people I have ever met.  She brings a light to our family that has shaped who we each are.

My mom recently wrote a short story about being a mom to our forever-young sister--J. And I wanted to share her story. 

(She changed the names--presumably to protect the innocent (or guilty). ;)

(A Christmas Photo: MB, Mom, J, Bubsy, Me and M)

Tuesday Evening
by My Mom

It is about seven on a sunny, cool, breezy evening in the middle of the week. The radio is playing soft music in the background, the refrigerator is humming, the clock on the mantle is tick-tocking to its own rhythm and Lynn is coloring.

I am sitting on the chair I recently refinished on a worn-out cushion in the same shade of green as the floor tiles. Looking out the patio windows at the artistic display of multicolored blues, pink, yellows, purples, light and dark oranges in the thick flower bed around the patio, I hear the wind gently making the wind chimes tinkle.

Whew, it’s another day of doing pretty much the same and I decided Lynn and I would not turn on the TV this evening; it is too peaceful. I watch Lynn choose carefully what color to use on her picture. Each detail must be exact. She pays close attention to the fine details such as eye color, hairstyle, hats, glasses, shoe design, shirt, and activity for each masterpiece.

Lynn is my youngest and fourth daughter with a sweet disposition and she loves to use her imagination. We get swept up spinning make-believe tales about her three older sisters, friends and even inanimate objects. She has renamed all of her friends and family with animal titles that appear to resemble the so-named.  Initially, she dubbed me "Hippo" but I made her change it! I now go by "Green Eyes."

Lynn’s sisters are very loving and attentive to her and we make up many pretend stories about them throughout the day. Kangaroo, Bear, and Platypus are their names and of course their family members have special animal names as well. Let me just say that Lynn’s Gram was called "Squirrel" and that moniker was a perfect fit. 

I wish you could meet Lynn. She may clap, smile shyly, put her head down and be silent or chatter. Lynn is referred to by the world as "special needs."  When I was growing up, people like Lynn were called "mentally retarded," but "special needs" fits so much better. I don’t recall contact with kids like Lynn when I was in school. I don’t remember where they went. 

Lynn is now 27-years-old and her three older sisters are all married and live in different towns. Lynn, her dad Joe, and I now have a tightly knit family. Joe works long hours in construction but Lynn and I wait and watch for his truck to pull in the driveway so we can eat supper together. We listen for the sound of the stones in the driveway to announce his coming. We only use half of the dining room table now and the three other chairs sit empty.
Joe and I have been married over thirty-seven years. It doesn’t seem that all this time has passed so quickly from the first day we moved into this home with a few pieces of furniture and plastic printed curtains at the windows that I purchased from the five-and-dime store. I chuckle at how we painted pictures and slogans on the bare walls and the difficulty of trying to paint over it later. It is a calm light wheat color in the dining room now but I can still see the crazy pictures in my mind.
On evenings like this I gaze around at all the family pictures on the walls showing us through the years. The smiles, clothes, funny haircuts, and places make me laugh. The group picture, almost life-size, of the girls and their dad stares at us at every meal.
Lynn is very active and goes to a sheltered workshop through the week. I work very part-time around my husband’s schedule so I don’t have to find a sitter for Lynn. Lynn has gone to the workshop aptly called ‘Hope’ for about five years. The first year was difficult with times of adjustment, fears, and crying. Now she never wants to miss. After work she loves to go bowling and to dance class with some of her peers. They encourage each other with high-fives and hand clapping for each other. Many evenings, Lynn draws and colors pictures of the day’s events. 

She is also an avid Penn State fan and gazes at football magazines at all the pictures of Joe Pa and the football players. She could be president of their fan club. She calls the mascot her brother. One of her aunts shares tickets to one home games every year, so some of her sisters take her to a game. She gets all dressed up in blue and white, wears pompoms and face paint, and revels in tailgating and the excitement of the game.
As I approach sixty years, I occasionally ponder my time now. I have many friends who also have children with special needs. Each of their children, like all of us, has their strengths and weaknesses. Our schedules are dictated by our role as caregivers to our adult children.
Lynn functions at the three- to five-year-old level and I assist her with all the daily activities we take for granted. I make sure she eats good food, dresses appropriately, is clean, brushes her teeth, etc. I really usually function on auto-pilot, but, sometimes, I get frustrated if I am in a hurry and running late. I have learned to organize my time to get both of us ready. Since I used to get four girls ready, I should surely be able to manage just one now.
After spending time with Lynn and her friends at one of her activities, I count my blessings because I don’t need to watch for seizures anymore, check blood sugars, change her diaper, push her in a wheelchair, or feed her. I have also been able to provide my home and my time to others that need daily help. My schedule has made me available to help others in a way that has been an unforeseen treasure. Sometimes when I am doing something for Lynn, I feel so content and fortunate to be able to provide for her.
I doubt many of my friends around my age have as much fun in life as I do thanks to Lynn. I don’t know how they spend their time and I am sure they have mundane days just like me. However, because Lynn is fixed back in the early years of her life, I am there with her. For the most part it is a delight and gift. I am proud to be Lynn’s caregiver and mom.


  1. This was so precious! Thanks so much to your sweet mom for sharing! Your family is so beautiful...inside and out!

  2. I didn't realize you were 1 of 4 girls, Gini! So am I! I'm #3 of 4 with the oldest being 8 years older, the youngest being 7 years younger, and the 2 of us in the middle being 2 years apart. I'm sure our dads would have been kindred spirits. ;)