Friday, July 29, 2005

It's a sister thing

Recently a friend of mine had a second son, and after several months he has been diagnosed as having cerebral palsy. And although I know how tough this is going to be on my friend and his wife over the years, I can't help but be concerned about son #1. See, I grew up in a family where there was a "sick" sibling. My sister had a bad heart, severe scoliosis that required several operations, body casts, back braces; and mild retardation. My mother had been told she wouldn't live to adulthood, and so she completely spoiled her, in every way you can think of. When I came along 4 years later, I was so totally ignored, growing up, that I'm amazed I lived to be an adult. My sister was bussed to her school, but I walked, even though that meant walking past bars and strip joints in a really bad neighborhood, alone. I wouldn't dream of letting ANY kid walk that route, then or now. I remember being sent home in the second grade with a note from the teacher that my hair(long) was a tangled mess (because no one bothered to brush it for days, and I couldn't manage it at 6 years old) and so my mother sat me down and cut it off. I wore hand-me-downs, of course, but mine were stained, torn, and ill-fitting; I got one new outfit a year, to be worn on the first day of school. It wasn't that my parents abused me physically; it was that they neglected me in such a way that I felt invisible. They never attended my school plays, concerts, or anything. They rarely attended teacher conferences, and my teachers learned that the only way to get a response was to send notes home. I graduated from high school at 17 and the only colleges I applied to were at least 900 miles from home, I was so anxious to get away. I worked throughout college, and still had massive school loans that took me years to pay off, but to hear my parents talk about it, they paid every dime of it. So strange. After my parents died, I sat and looked through all the old photographs. My dad always had a camera in hand, and yet, outside of school photos, I doubt there are 20 of me alone in all those stacks of photos. Many times my folks even called me by my sister's name. My sister lived to her 50s and became a terrible problem for my folks, which they expected me to help with, and I did, but not without terrible resentment. I've been in therapy for several years now, for this and other problems, and I still can't seem to let go of this resentment, even though my sister is dead now too. I find it particularly ironic that my parents expected so much from me and my family when they were old, even moving from FL to WV to be near us (and bringing my sister), and yet they gave so little when I was young and needed them. Anyway, spare a little extra kindness for the siblings of handicapped children, their life is no bed of roses either.


Carolyn said...

Excellent advice! And I know that invisible feeling too, as middle child. I admire you for dealing with it :)

TLO said...

thank the lord you made it through the tough time. He trully doesn't give us more then we can handle