The Beach, Natalie and Me

The beach is where Natalie and I really bonded. I remember taking her several years ago to the beach in the Marin Headlands in San Francisco, California. It was a Sunday morning and I could hear her rustle around in the room next door in my mother’s house. She did not dare leave her bed and nor did she know how to open a door. She has the cognitive level of an infant though she was in her mid-twenties.
She would simply sit up in bed and moan until someone got her. I loved knowing that she perhaps needed me to take care of her. I got her up, changed her diaper, made her a breakfast of Raisin Bran sans the raisins and gave her several doses of medication- Depakote, Clonidine and a ground-up chewable vitamin. I gathered her diaper bag with a sippy cup and bib then we hit the road.
Natalie feels young with me, or at least I hope. I put the music up and the windows down; we roll. The wind in our hair mixed with an excitement of the open road, it was sister bonding time. Never mind my mother and her nay-saying. She was fast asleep and Lord knows she needed a break. My father left the picture and he has not really turned around. Sad but true because she loved him; though she does not talk, you could see it in her eyes.
We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, hugging the curves within the Marin Headlands until we saw the open Pacific Ocean. It was cold and windy; but that did not stop us. My mother raised me well and I could not let Natalie take an adventure with me in the cold so I brought her jacket. I opened up the passenger door and welcomed her outside the car. I held her little hand and we walked to the beach. It was a challenging walk for my sister but she managed to kneel in the perfect spot. I sat down next her to her and watched her eyes light up.
The feeling that came inside of me was one of perfection.  A perfect morning, a perfect view and my perfect sister.  Her little hands sank into the warm sand and she just felt the tiny warm grains of sand with every finger and just when the last grain of sand fell through, she put her hands in her eyes, they were pure and expressed a simple joy of being free. She could do what she wanted and this pulled at my heart. This was it- this was her happiness. This was my gift to her.
This moment that I oh so clearly remember was easily over 8 years ago. The guilt in my heart, that this was our last real sister day together, kills me. I want more moments like this with Natalie. I want to give every experience in life; to feel, hope and enjoy.
In August of 2007, I left for graduate school in Southern California. I left Natalie.
I left her for three years and I left my heart, my being, my sisterhood. It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I moved back though. I moved for a man, married him and had a child. I feared that they would detest my sister, my way of life, my heart. But I have learned the opposite. My husband is so sweet with Natalie. Upon my return, he and I took Natalie out to San Francisco, diaper bag in tow. We took her to a great little breakfast spot in Ocean Beach and we enjoyed every moment; even a French toast that I ordered her with warm berries atop.
Fast forward and see a 19-month old offering hugs and kisses to a young lady sitting in a lazy-boy sucking her thumb. My daughter loves Natalie. I love Natalie.
I want to let you, the reader, know that the fear of your future family not accepting your sibling is real, but it can be overcome. Siblings of special adults, in my eyes, develop a special sense of empathy- and so will their children. My daughter enjoys Natalie and one day we will relive our trip to the beach in the Marin Headlands. She will see Natalie kneel in warm sand and see her touch each grain. She will see her happiness and understand that simple pleasures, though few and far between, can be shared. There is a bond between my daughter and Natalie.

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