“She’s ugly. I don’t like her," I said, handing the Polaroid back to my Granddad. Granddad wasted no time unbuckling his tooled leather belt with a silver and turquoise buckle. “She-is-your-sister-and-you-will-love her!” he said between swats to my bottom.
Granddad wasn’t awful—he didn’t know how to deal with it either. We’d all been thrust into an unknown world on August 27th, 1976.
I remember standing in the St. Joseph’s Hospital lobby, staring at the photo, the washed-out, blurry image. What was that thing with tubes and wires sticking out of it? That couldn’t possibly be our new baby! All my 3-½ year old mind could process was, “she’s ugly.”
What I couldn’t have possibly known was that babies born with Down syndrome, a month early, at 3 lbs. 7 oz., and with several holes in their hearts don’t look like the baby on the Gerber infant cereal box. That had been the image I’d been carefully studying and dreaming of when I thought about our new baby…not this alien-looking creature in the photo. I didn’t understand how this could be our baby. Neither did Granddad. And we weren’t alone.
But it was our baby and we did learn to love her. Actually, she made it so easy to love her. Once she made it out of the incubator and through her open-heart surgery and was finally home to stay, she stole all our hearts. This baby sister had twinkling eyes, an infectious laugh, and a smile that radiated love. By the time her first birthday rolled around, I thought my baby sister was, in fact, the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen.
|Baby Sister on my 6th birthday (with baby brother, Nana & Grandpa)|
|Baby Sister & me on her 35th birthday...still adorable|