A few days ago, I asked my younger sister Meaghan if she would write a guest post on what it’s been like growing up with a sister who has a limb difference. She’s a talented writer and has her own blog, Hope in the Little Moments. So I’m pretty confident you’ll enjoy her piece.
I used to call it her “Baby Arm.” I was probably about six at the time, and she didn’t seem to mind this nickname. In fact, she would indulge my happiness over the fact that my older sister was unique. Drawing a face and hair at the end of her shortened limb with a Sharpie, she’d tuck her littler arm into the other, cradling it like a real baby. I really got a kick out of this. Sometimes she even threw a blanket over the arm to form the “baby’s” body, and I would laugh and be in awe of how my sister was able to pull off such an awesome trick.
Gradually, as I grew older, I realized that maybe it wasn’t right to be pointing out the fact that she was special, that she could do things that I couldn’t or – more often than not – that I could do things that she couldn’t. This tiny seed of awareness began to take root when my mother became increasingly furious every time I talked to my sister about her “baby arm” or even mentioned the loving term. I wondered what the big deal was. I was only showing my sister my appreciation of this difference that made her amazing in my eyes, but my mother shot me down. That was when I took note of how others would look at the girl who would walk beside me to school each day.
People turned away. They looked shocked. Children would point. Adults would point. But mostly, there was pity in their eyes. That…that I just didn’t understand.
One day a few summers ago, as I was walking with my mom to the supermarket, I saw a man in a power scooter trying to maneuver around sidewalk construction. He slowly (and with obvious difficulty) drove around the planks on the ground, getting his back wheel slightly stuck in one of the ditches between the wooden frames. Making his best efforts to find a spot that would grant him safe transportation from the elevated walkway to the street inches below, the man moved his joystick back and forth, searching for the best angle to make his way down. That’s when I heard a click of the tongue beside me that was followed by a deep sigh.
“What, Ma?” I wanted to know.
“It’s just,” she sighed once more. “Look at the poor, poor man!” She practically shouted this, as her ‘discreet voice’ was overridden by her innate Hispanic loudness. “I mean, he isn’t even able to cross the street. Can you imagine that, Meaghan? That’s so sad!”
Her face was full of pity and her eyes were slightly wet. I honestly don’t know if the man in the scooter heard us or if he ever actually made it off that broken sidewalk, but I was filled with so much shame that I just turned around and walked home by myself.
I didn’t think that the man deserved to be pitied. Sure, he may have had some difficulty crossing the street when there was a huge obstacle around him, but he would eventually overcome it. Yeah, maybe he’d gone through a great deal more than the average Joe, but that’s what made him awesome and unique, not pitiable.
Though my sister may have a limb difference, she is no less capable of doing things than anyone else. Sometimes the challenges in front of her may be more difficult than they are for me, but that’s what has made her such a strong person over the years. She doesn’t accept when the world tells her “No,” so she decides to answer back with a whopping, “Screw you! I can play guitar if I want to. AND run my own blog. AND work a full-time job. AND still be fabulous doing it all. What’s stopping me? This arm? What?! No! No to you, universe! I can do anything I set my mind on doing.”
And the great part about that all is that she basically does. She’s taught me to be bold and fight for what I want, something I tend to be hesitant about ever doing. Though she may not know it, she guides me and teaches me to be humble and accepting of others.
One of the awesome things that has happened in my life recently is that I found a boyfriend. The amazing guy I met was strangely a little worried that I wouldn’t accept all of him. He thought I knew already, since we’d been friends before and had clearly seen him limping around campus, but I was surprised to discover that he had a club foot as a baby and had to have a surgery that left one foot much smaller and more twisted than the other. I laughed because I couldn’t believe he thought I’d reject that part of him; I actually think it’s cute, to be honest. It’s like a little “Baby Foot,” if I could exhume the nickname. So perhaps I didn’t care because I grew up around a sister whose limb difference taught me about accepting others with each and every part that makes them who they are.
Then again, maybe I didn’t care because it’s nothing worth really caring too much about anyway. It’s just…them.