My sister is amazing in every way. She is my true Hero in life. It is her strength of spirit and will that never ceases to amaze me. Her strength had enabled me to carry on despite what was going on in our childhood.
Let me tell you a little story. When she was about eight and I was five we were in the same school together. I was in kindergarten and she was in third grade. Well, she was out at recess walking around and became disoriented. She wandered off and no one knew that she was even missing until recess was over and the kids were all called to line up. They found her in the woods by the school. She hadn’t gotten that far away so thank goodness they found her in time. They approached her and tried to get her to go with them and she would not move. It was like she was terrified to move. They did not know what was wrong with her at that time so they were very confused as to why she was there. The only thing that they thought to do was to come and get me out of my class and see if she would go with me. I didn’t even understand what was going on. Hey, I was only five. They led me to her and I approached her and said, “Kim what’s wrong?. She would not answer. She did not talk. I simply said, “well come on let’s go back to the school”, and I took her hand and she began to walk with me. I don’t even think she knew at that time what was happening to her. They were all happy that she got back to the safety of the school. They called for my parents to come and pick her up. I remember being very worried about her and it was hard to focus in school for the rest of the day.
I finally found out what was wrong. She was slowly losing her eyesight. How terrifying that must have been for her. She eventually went completely blind due to a genetic disease of the retina of the eye which causes a gradual deterioration of the retina. So gradually she began losing her sight. She went through so many emotions before she got to the point of accepting that she was going blind. She was very angry and hard to control in the beginning. It was a huge challenge for my parents. She would not cooperate with anyone. Gradually over a few years, her moods stabilized and then they knew that they could start working with her to help her learn how to manage without her sight.
She ended up going to school in Hartford. It was Oak Hill School for the Blind. I heard it’s much different now and includes children with other disabilities. I think they even work with disabled adults also. She remained in that school for 21 years learning all kinds of life skills including how to read and write in braille. It’s funny, she tried to teach me braille but I just couldn’t get it. To me, it just felt like a bunch of clustered raised dots but to her, it was letters that formed words and sentences that opened a whole new world for her. She loved to read. She had her own braille writer and so she could keep a journal about her feelings. She often wrote her own stories. They were very entertaining.
I am so glad that she was away from home most of her childhood because I knew that at least she would be safe from all that was happening at home. At least one of us siblings got to be safe and to have enough food and clothing and toys. I was glad for that. She would go by the Gray-Hound Bus to Hartford every Sunday and stay all week and then come home for the weekend. I hated that she was away so much because I missed having her there in our room. I felt all alone without her most of the time and that in-of-itself made me an easy target for my Dad to abuse me. But I’ll say it again, at least she was safe.
When she was home my Mom always put me in charge of her when we went outside to play. I loved my sister and I understood what my mom needed from me but I was three years younger than her and to be given such a big responsibility was not right. But I did the best that I could. There were times that I just wanted to play and not worry that she could get hurt. I was just a little girl and I did not have the reasoning of an adult so there were times that I resented it.
Kim became the poster child for the Institute for the Blind. A really cute picture of her sitting on Santa Clauses lap got in newspapers all over the country. People mailed us clippings from various other states. Some were actually distant family and some were just people who were moved by her story and that adorable picture of her. I was so proud to be her sister. It’s like we had a celebrity in our house. There were times however that I was a little jealous because for that period of time it seemed that she got so much attention and I felt invisible. As I became an adult, of course, I could see how important that was in helping her feel a sense of pride despite her disability. I do feel bad now that I was jealous of her.
I know that this is going to sound really strange but as a child, I actually had this crazy idea that I would try to make myself go blind. I stared at a light bulb until my eyes burned but it did not work. I went outside and tried to stare at the sun for as long as I could but it just burned my eyes too much. Then I thought to press on my eyes as hard as I could. Thank goodness nothing worked. Why did I do this? Simply through a child’s mind and sense of survival, I knew that my sister was safe and my father could not molest her. I just wanted to be safe also. I was willing to lose my sight to be safe. I was just a child and had no idea of the seriousness of my attempt to destroy my sight. Well enough of me.
Let’s get back to Kim. Through the years she has had many accomplishments. She has done things that no one would guess that a blind person could do. After her acceptance of her disability, she did not let anything stand in her way of finding joy and adventure in her life. She has traveled. She won many ribbons and trophies in the Special Olympics. Most ribbons were from swimming. She has learned so well over the years to adapt to her handicap and find her way in the world. All of her others senses were so keen and sharp. She used these finely tuned senses to help herself get around safely. This was truly amazing to me. She now lives in a supervised house. It’s her house but twice a day someone comes to check on her to see that all is alright and if she needs anything. Otherwise, she is very independent. How could I not be proud that she is my sister? I have always looked up to her and admired her strength and will to go on and make a life for herself. I admire her perseverance and courage.
What more can I ask for in a sister?