It is truly amazing how one person can change your life and help shape your personality. Let me tell you about that one person in my life — a very special lady, now forty-seven years old, who has filled my life with love, courage and never-ending lessons.
Patricia’s physical problems were huge. Missing ligaments connecting her legs to her pelvic area were supposed to keep her from sitting up or walking. Two holes in her heart were supposed to reduce her life expectancy to her late teens early twenties at most, even after two open-heart surgeries. Then there is the fact that she was born a Down’s syndrome child.
The persistence of my mother, my father and my sister proved the doctors wrong and had her sitting up and walking – later than most children, but she did it. I do not remember much of those years as I was very young, but later, after her second surgery Patricia and I built many memories together.
I remember deciding one day that Patricia needed to learn to count to ten. I thought it was going to be a simple task not realizing that it would take months for her to finally succeed with any regularity. During that time, when I wanted to give up, Patricia would say, “I can do it” and she would try again. Eventually, she could rattle off her numbers like a pro. Lesson number one: success through persistence. Anything can be achieved if you do not give up and if you have the desire and the will to succeed.
After teaching Patricia to count, I wanted to teach her something huge – I wanted Patricia to learn to read. I went to my mother and discussed it with her and we came up with a plan. The first thing was to teach her to recognize and write her ABC’s. By now, I realized that I was not facing an easy task and neither was Patricia but I had lesson number one firmly in my heart.
During the long period that it took for Patricia to learn her ABC’s and the very basics of reading I learned another lesson. Patricia has an enormous amount of self-motivation and determination. Patricia would spend hours going over the lessons that she learned and practicing her new skills with such determination she made me realize what a gift I had with my ability to learn. This realization pleased my parents as it led to me being a better student. Patricia’s self-motivation has continued to this day as is proven by the fact that she is a much better speller than I am.
All through the years that I have watched and spent time with Patricia, she has demonstrated another skill that many of us “normal” people do not master. Courage! It takes courage to go downtown and face the little kids staring after you, some adults being ‘standoffish’ and truly not understanding what is going on around her. Yet she faces that uncertainty with a smile, a laugh and grace. Whenever I have faced tough issues in my life, I have thought of my sister and her strength and used that image to find a well of strength within myself.
I can never pay Patricia back for the lessons she taught me and the strength she has shared with me. All I can do is share my life with her, share my love with her and daily use the lessons she taught me.