Although I could be scared of some of the things that happened in our house, I didn’t know I could come to you for comfort. Sometimes I was sad and sometimes I was angry. And sometimes I really didn’t know how I was feeling. You were so busy helping my sister and you were tired; and I saw how sad you were sometimes. I didn’t know that it would still be okay for me to come to you and tell you all that I was feeling.
Because I was the little sister, I didn’t know it was expected that I would someday surpass my big sister’s abilities in walking, in talking, and in school. It felt wrong when I could read the book to my big sister, and sometimes I thought I could see your sadness at those bittersweet milestones. I thought I reminded you of what might have been, and sometimes I felt guilty. I didn’t know it was okay and good for me to grow bigger and stronger and smarter.
Because my sister needed so much of your time and attention, it sometimes seemed that she was all anyone could see. I didn’t know that my efforts to stay quiet and still, to be good and not make trouble, would eventually lead to me feeling invisible sometimes. I didn’t want to take attention away from her.
Because your two hands were so often full of what needed to be done, I offered my own two small hands to help. It was a way I could be close to you. It was how I could be part of our family whose clock and calendar revolved around my sister.
Although standing up for my sister against bullies and discrimination was second nature to me, I didn’t know how to stand up for myself. I could hold her hand and help her hold her head up high, I could fight against injustices and lobby for change, and still feel too inconsequential to stand up for myself.
I was born three years after my sister’s brain damage. Her diagnosis and its effects were all I ever knew, but I didn’t know.