Is my sister ‘normal’?

When Cara was born, I was only 18 months old and my older brother, Ryan was just three years old.  He remembers going to the hospital to visit my mum and meet Cara.  My Gran apparently gave us a packet of Niknaks (crisps).  I don’t have a first memory of Cara; to me she was just always there.

Cara never occurred as different to me.  I loved her fiercely.  Mostly I was jealous of her strawberry blond hair.  She got to wear green and blue dresses, but I always got given pink or red – my mum said that pink or red wouldn’t look good with Cara’s hair.

It was only when I went to school that I became aware that Cara was different, and only then because of the way that other parents reacted to Cara – saying things like ‘Shame, her poor mum.’  Shame about what I thought?  And then you pick up the cues and start to feel awkward, like you should be embarrassed but you’re not sure why.

And then Cara started school, and she wasn’t allowed to go the same school as me.  She had to go to boarding school two hours away at the age of five, because that was the only ‘special school’ available. This was because Cara was born with an intellectual disability.

And so began the endless hurdles to Cara living her life the way she wanted.  And yet Cara is the most tenacious, loving generous and determined person I know!

When Ryan and I went to university, Cara stayed home with my mum.  It was the very early days of computer games and Ryan and I would play this one game relentlessly throughout the holidays – vying for the top spot on the leader board.  And then we’d go back to school and forget about it.  And when we’d come home again, all 10 spots of the leader board would say ‘Cara’ – Cara would plug away beating our best scores until she wiped our names off the board.

That’s just one small example of how in awe I am of my sister.  She can do anything she puts her mind to.  It might take longer, but she’ll get there if given half a chance and the right support.

I’ve chosen a deliberately provocative title from a question that has irked me all my life, ‘Is your sister normal?’.  What irks me is that if she isn’t normal, it implies she is abnormal and all the negative connotations that this implies.

My answer is the same as it always has been, ‘No, my sister is extraordinary!’

By Kim Danks

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