I’ll tell you a story. It’s not a long story, and it is mostly not my story. It’s story about my kid sister Elenora who left this plane of existence this week. Above is a sketch I made of her. She was an eighteen-year-old beauty at the time. Her life has been rough and kind as are all our lives.
Elenora loved to come to the big city on day long shopping recursions with her big sister. It was a long day for me, I’d drive for most of an hour to an outlying town, pick her up, drive back into the city, spend the day shopping and lunching and then drive her home again before making my own way home.
On one long driving day we talked sporadically while we listened to the radio.
“Oh cool! Michael Jackson! I love him, don’t you?”
Maybe it was Thriller or Billy Jean, I don’t remember. I made some noises about not liking him all that much.
“Why?” she said.
I stumbled, not really knowing why. “Well, he had all that plastic surgery to change his face,” I said in an off-hand manner. It was a very foolish thing to say and if I didn’t know it then, I did a few minutes later.
Elenora was very quiet for a moment, then she turned to me, her eyebrows drawn together like they sometimes were when she had something important to say and she wasn’t sure how it would be taken.
“Didn’t you ever want to change something about yourself?”
“Ah, erm…I suppose so.” I was still floundering and I already knew how wrong I was, because of course I wished I could change things. Maybe a stronger chin, a less strong nose, maybe some get rid of some quirk that harmed more than it helped.
She picked at the hem of her coat for a moment, and then she said, “If I could change anything about me, I’d change it so I didn’t have Down Syndrome.”
We were both quiet for a long time then. I wanted to say, “you’re fine just the way you are,” but this wasn’t that kind of moment. This was a moment where the big sister had a lot to learn, and just maybe she did.
It is extra hard to write or paint when there is sorrow in your life. To all those struggling, hang in there. Know that you make a difference, and one day soon, you’ll create again. And Michael Jackson? I was wrong. Plain wrong about the music and the man who was trying to live in this world.