Here’s a recap from my two previous blogs. I’m caught in the middle of four brothers. There are two older. Much older. 16 and 19 years older to be exact. Then there are the two younger, both of which have Down’s syndrome, and my entire focal point so far. We are all children to the country church pastor and his wife, and we probably have the most amazing parents in the world.
In 2001, our family stepped into another new realm of the special needs world. Now I don’t exactly know all the pieces here, but I was ten, how much could I know! I can still lay out the ground work though, no worries.
We were moving; leaving the parsonage home that my younger brothers and I had known all our lives, and that meant my dad was leaving his job. So we packed up and traveled a whopping two roads down to a creaky old farm house with cornfields for neighbors. (It wasn’t too bad though. We all got bigger bedrooms and my brothers and I got to run around and pretend ghosts were chasing us.) The biggest change was my dad’s job though. We were used to him sitting in his in home office, studying God’s word day in and day out. Then Bam! Say hello to the normal family lifestyle where your dad has an actual 9-5 job in the wonderful world of!…social work.
My dad’s social work was through a foster care agency that helped to place many special needs children in loving families. In addition to foster care, there was respite care. (This is so the foster parents can have a break and the foster kids get a mini vacation with other families) Respite care…Hmm…God said. I provided you with a big house and big rooms. Share it! So we did. And just about every week I got a new brother or sister. Some were awesome! Some not so much.
I can particularly remember one little tyrant. In the middle of the night, he poured an entire bottle of earing solution on my face and he threw my guitar out the two story window. Oh and he also dismantled his entire bed and threw that out too. Yep. And he was only seven years old!
Then there was Randi. She was twelve, pretty tall, non verbal, and she talked in screams and shreaks for whatever she wanted; She had what was called Cri Du Chat syndrome. (This is French for cry of the cat) Randi’s respite situation was like any normal one really. She was special needs, she had her little behavioral quirks, yada yada. This is where the cat jumps out of the bag. While her foster parents were on their little retreat, they decided they wanted to extend it, forever.
After some prayer (and paperwork of course), Randi became more than just my weekly sister, and not without struggle. Like I said, every weekly sibling had their special needs, and their behaviors. When your siblings come and go you just have to put up with their past and hope not to get anything less sterile than earring solution on your face. But now I had a new sister with an extended family membership: exclusively including– a lifetime warranty of discipline, love, and trust.
Somehow in the mix I missed the fine print. I got a sister, I got a roommate, and…I got a target on my back. Here’s a clue. When your new sister isn’t used to having her own siblings, the stakes of capturing attention get a little higher. And so begin the cat fights. Almost daily I lost a few hairs from the grip of her hand and about twice a week I gave up a chunk of skin from her feisty fingernails.
Today Randi still lives with us through adult foster care and I am proud to call her my sister. When it comes to sibling rivalries our family is pretty standard. We fight over the tv or who gets to ride in the front seat, but we still love each other. Whatever God has next in store, well, that cat is still in His bag.