Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Part 2: "Why being the 'normal' one doesn't make you the better person"

This is part 2 of my post from yesterday, so without reading that one first, this post will make no sense. 

I saw Abby's older sister again today. I came to pick up Jack and Andrew, and she was in the lobby with her friend.  When she saw me, she leaned over and started whispering to her friend.  And either she's a very bad whisperer or she wanted me to hear, because I could plainly hear her say: "I wasn't even doing anything or saying anything and she told me to be nicer to my sister."

I just smiled at her and sat down in a chair.  Waited for her friend to leave, and then went over to her.  All my upset feelings from yesterday had completely died down. I felt a sense of calm through my entire being. I took a deep breath and said to her in my softest, most non-confrontational voice:

"It appears there's some misunderstanding about our conversation yesterday.  I do know, though, that you remember calling your sister stupid and lazy before our conversation.  Right now, I have no interest in chatting with your mom or anyone else here about what you were saying to your sister - this is only about you.  But if you'd like to make this a public conversation with others here, filled with that much inaccuracy, I'd be happy to sit down with you and your mom and with anyone else you'd like to tell about happened yesterday.  Is that what you'd like to do?"

She didn't have the defensive side I was expecting. She was surprisingly open to listening, and shook her head no.  I took another deep breath and went on: "I want you to know... I have two brothers who are mentally handicapped.  I understand, more than you know.  I really, really do.  But you are better than what I saw yesterday, I know that.  That's not the person you want to be.  You don't want to be someone who calls others names because they're different, I really believe that."

And her eyes, when I mentioned my brothers, widened and locked into mine.  Really tuned into what I was saying.  And went completely soft.  I could see all the tension leaving her, and she nodded.  All she said was "Okay"...but I felt the change in her. 

A forever change?  Who knows.  Memory might just change our conversation back into the version she gave her friend - me picking on her for no reason.  One conversation can't really counteract the entire lifetime that went into how she treated Abby yesterday.

Her look of surprise...of connection, though...maybe she hasn't met someone with handicapped siblings?  Maybe she was hungry to see that in her life?  I understand that part. 

But I didn't talk to her yesterday...or today...just for her.  It wasn't just about changing her forever, although that would be nice.

I did it because I could never forgive myself for seeing that yesterday and not saying something... anything... to show that it wasn't right.  I needed to defend Abby, if only to let Abby know she deserved being defended. 

And I guess I did it for my brothers, because I hope within their lives and situations, there's someone who will step in and defend them when I'm not there.  

I remember every single person who showed kindness and acceptance to my brothers.  And I remember every single person who didn't.  

Maybe my brothers and our siblinghood have shaped me more than I give it credit.

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