I was born the fourth daughter out of six, count ‘em six girls. I must say, with extreme delight that I was the black sheep of the family – the trouble maker – the one who got blamed for everything. That was what I was labeled, so I lived it to the best of my ability.
Even in all my humility and pride (isn’t that an oxymoron?) at being the greatest black sheep ever, I always protected the fifth daughter born. The one who was special. The one who caused my mother to go into a deep depression. The one who needed all the attention. She was the one who was born with a mental handicap.
She was different. She looked different and as she grew older, her speech was glaringly different.
Back in the days when she was born, the professionals said she should be institutionalized, put away. I remember my mother being on the bubble about institutionalizing Marie, but, hey, she had six girls and we said we’d help her. Even me . . . the trouble maker. How could we turn our sister over to a sterile building with sterile-faced workers? We couldn’t. And we didn’t.
As Marie got older, she wanted to play outside with the neighborhood kids her age. On more than one occasion, she came home bleeding because a child had thrown rocks at her. She came home sobbing because a neighborhood boy pulled her hair, punched her in the face, and called her terrible names.
On more than one occasion, when she came home bawling, my mother restrained me from running outside to beat the neighborhood kids up. I could have done it. I could have taken them. I was the middle child, remember? I could handle it. My mother just said, “No. Some day the chickens will come home to roost.”
I don’t know if I really understood the chicken analogy. All I wanted to do is beat up the neighborhood kids. Did I mention that I was a tough kid who was weirdly happy?
After Marie had been sufficiently humiliated by the neighborhood children, we became very protective of her – especially my mother.
As Marie grew older, she didn’t progress. Not that she didn’t have the ability, but we had “clipped her wings,” so to speak. We wouldn’t let her go anywhere unattended. We had good intentions – we were protecting our special needs sister. But at the same time, we were unknowingly holding her back.
Fast forward 55 years. All us girls married and had children – all save Marie, who was pretty much attached to the hip of my mother. Although we believed it would have been much easier for my mother to not get old and die, that’s exactly what she did . . . about a year ago.
After the funeral, the sisters held a meeting to discuss Marie. “What in the world are we going to do with her?”
“She’s never been alone. She doesn’t know how to live without Mom.”
“Who is going to take care of her?”
Those, and others were the worried questions we asked each other. I mean, after all, we’d clipped her wings years and years ago. “She can’t live on her own,” we said.
“Oh yes I can,” Marie piped up.
I looked around to see if Mom had suddenly been resurrected. Certainly it wasn’t my special sister who said that.
Since I couldn’t see my mother anywhere, I looked at Marie who was red-faced and mad! She never got mad, well she never spoke back except to tell us the same stories over and over again. Who is this girl? I thought to myself.
“No. You can’t,” my older sister responded. “You need . . .” My sister gave a litany of reasons. None of which seemed to faze Marie.
“I tan do it. I tan.”
Marie bit her finger. That’s what she does when she gets mad . . . she bites her finger. She never spoke up like she was doing at the moment.
Being the free-thinking trouble-maker that I am, I said, “I think she can.”
Another older sister said, “Well, of course you’d think that. You’ve always been weird.”
Should I say, “Thank you?” I just ignored her, like I usually did.
It’s been a year now and Marie is growing in leaps and bounds. That’s so clique, isn’t it? I hate cliques. Um, so I’ll say Marie is growing like a zucchini. (If you’ve ever planted zucchinis before, you know what I mean.)
Anyway, what I wanted to share is this: I heard from one of Marie’s neighbors. They go to the same church. She told me a story that makes me cry every time I think of it. She said, “The pastor asked me if I thought Marie could lead the music for the hymns that the congregation sings. I told him to talk to Leah.” (Leah is my older sister)
The neighbor continued, “Leah told the pastor, “No. Marie couldn’t do it. No. No. No.”
“But the pastor asked Marie anyway.”
I said, “Oh, I’m so glad. Hearing that makes my heart flutter. Tell me, how is Marie doing?”
The neighbor said, “At first she was really nervous. Leah had tried to teach her how to lead music since the pastor ignored—”
“Ooh, that makes me so mad.”
“What makes you mad?
“That Leah told the pastor that Marie couldn’t lead the music. Who the heck watches the conductor anyway?” I huffed.
“Well, listen. At first she was nervous, but by the time we got to the second verse of, “How Great Thou Art,” the congregation noticed a brightness above Marie as she stood in front of the singing throng. They saw that she was crying. She seemed to be communicating with the angels. She was crying tears of joy.”
By the time the neighbor finished telling me that story, I couldn’t speak. I was filled with joy. Joy for my sister. Joy that she is finally free to soar to her own height.
The neighbor continued, “But not only that, seeing Marie leading the music with tears streaming down her cheeks, caused everyone in the congregation to cry. We were all bawling. I’ve never witnessed anything so special.”
In my trouble-making mind’s eye, I could see it. Exactly as the neighbor described. My little sister. The one who was born after me. The one who was disabled had finally shed the well-meaning ties that bound her and she flew. She flew. And as she flew, she brought with her everyone who was at the service that day. She elevated a large group of people to a height never before reached – and she did it all with her different wings.
When I read the familiar words, “Trailing clouds of glory, do we come . . .” a poem by William Wordsworth, I can’t help but believe that we all come with unseen wings. Some wings are nearly perfect, some are strong, some have weaknesses, some are sort of torn, tattered, and a little dark around the edges like mine, but we all come with wings.
It’s what we do with our wings that counts. None of us have the same sort of wings. We are all unique (another oxymoron). But isn’t it great to know, that no matter who we are, no matter where we go, no matter what has happened to us, . . . we all have wings. And they are all different.
Let’s use the wings we’ve been given . . . and soar . . . just like my exceptional sister Marie.
LaRae Larsen Parry, a Utah native, author of, Life-Support Dang Near Killed Me, has been chosen as one of “50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading.”
The win is amazing in and of itself, but the fact that she recently had to relearn to read and write makes this event remarkable. In her memoir, Life Support Dang Near Killed Me, the author shares her horrific true story in hopes that readers can learn from her mistake–never surrender your own judgment for that of another’s. Going against a premonition telling her she was too
sick for surgery, instead of trusting her intuition, she trusted the surgeon who performed surgery that landed her on life-support, not expected to live.
Even though the events she reveals are tragic, she tells the story with a sense of humor–something that helped her survive the unsurvivable.
“I wrote this book,” Parry stated, “to help readers learn that they can survive anything using a little bit of humor. Life on life-support was one of my greatest challenges. It was right up there with giving birth, and raising teenagers. No kidding. It’s more fun to laugh about situations, than cry about them. Laughter produces endorphins, it’s like taking a mini-vacation.”
It should be noted that LaRae also was runner-up in an International Book Contest for The Danish Pastry, a rom/com/paranormal.
Where to find her:
LaRae’s books can be found at http://www.amazon.com
Here are some of her magnificent works of art:
Hubba Hubba Santa Claus
Life Support Dang Near Killed Me: Beware the Greedy Surgeon
This is Christmas: Life-Support Dang Near Killed Me Series
(Life Support Dang Near Killed Me Book 2)
Journal of a Crazy Lady
Loving The Danish Pastry
Dang Funny Journal (Journal of a Crazy Lady Book 2)
Tales of Moonlight Romance: A Collection of Paranormal Love Stories
Love Under the Snowfall
Love Under the Mistletoe