Before my sister was born there was another baby, a girl who died in infancy of some unidentified condition. I never really met her. At birth, her prognosis was not good, so I believe my mom and stepdad just decided not to officially introduce her to myself and my older brothers to keep us from getting attached. I was very young, under three years old, and have a vague memory of a dark-haired baby in a dark room, but that could have been my imagination.
My sister arrived a year later. She was a beautiful baby with a naturally rosy cheeks and a head full of blond curls. As she grew, there were some things that were noticed, like the fact that she didn’t walk until she was almost two and that her coordination was a bit off. Doctors said that she may have been born with a touch of the same unnamed condition that the previous baby had been born with. But my sister appeared normal and was smart and very communicative. She was, and still is, very vocal.
It was after she started school that she began to struggle. Sometimes it was as if the messages from her brain got scrambled before they could be executed by the correct part of her body. She also had difficulty with reading comprehension. Kids started to make fun of her. Then she needed glasses, another reason for the kids to make fun of her. Kids, as we all know, can be quite cruel while the schools and teachers in the 60’s and 70’s were not prepared for students that struggled.
School was a challenging journey for her and not easy for all of us who blindly tried to help her get through it. Her grade nine math teacher actually told my mother that there were two kinds of students in her class. Those who would make it and those who wouldn’t. She said she did not have the time for those who wouldn’t, which was the category that she felt my sister fell into.
The following year, repeating grade nine, mom got my sister a tutor. We would drop her off for a few hours every Sunday afternoon. She had a different math teacher that year. This particular teacher recognized that my sister could do the math but just needed more time. He allowed her to write her tests by coming to his classroom during recesses and lunch hours for as long as it took her to complete them. Her math mark that year was very high. I don’t actually remember the mark, but I believe it was close to 90 percent.
After leaving school, she worked in several different jobs until she discovered home care. This is the career that my sister was born to do. She has a way with her clients that is magical. They love her like family. She can get them to do the things that no one else can. She is always up for the challenge, whether it is to persuade a person with Alzheimer’s to change their clothes or convince an elderly men to let her teach him how to use the bathroom easier.
In late 2014, when my sister was over fifty years old, the government of Nova Scotia decided home care workers like her would need to be certified as continuing care workers in order to keep their jobs. For the next year and a half, she studied, panicked, stressed, found an excellent tutor, discovered that she had dyslexia, got herself accessed in order to be allowed to have someone read her the exam questions, studied, panicked and stressed some more until she finally took the exam. The students didn’t receive actual marks, but the rumour is that she aced it.
I admire my sister more than she knows. She does things for people that I don’t think I could do, and that impresses the hell out of me. She showers elderly men. I don’t think I could do that. Without thinking twice, she dons a Tyvek suit and enters homes infested with bedbugs in order to help elderly people in public housing. I don’t think I could do that. Definitely not without thinking twice.
My sister has a wonderfully large personality. She is my definition of bitchy, which is a strong individual and an independent thinker with passionate opinions. She doesn’t take any shit from anyone. Her journey wasn’t always easy; but whenever she was knocked down, she got back up stronger and kept going. As a result, she has huge heart. She buys presents for her clients; and in one case that I know of, cutlery because she said the person didn’t have enough knives, spoons and forks. She cries when they pass away then often keeps in touch with their families. Under that tough facade that everyone sees as a first impression, she is genuine and sincere and has more compassion than anyone I know.
So today Nora, since I know how loyal you are and that you read all my blogs, I want to wish you the happiest of birthdays and tell you that you are an amazing person and someone that I am proud to call my sister. I wish I could do half the things that you seem to do so easy.