Someone really special will be celebrating her 80th birthday this month.
She was born January 27 in 1938, my parents’ first baby. Sharon Kay.
Nothing about this baby girl’s life would be as dreamed by her mommy and daddy. Starting with the day of her birth. So many questions and concerns. So many fears for my mom and dad.
She survived. And she was very very beautiful. And very very loved.
In 1938, living on a small rural Kansas farm, children attended one room schoolhouses. My three sisters attended a one room school not far from their little home.
But Sharon wasn’t able to learn the same way as her two sisters. Or like anyone else in the little one room schoolhouse. I wasn’t there at the time, but knowing her, I would imagine she was a bit on the hyperactive side, too.
Attempts to help her were discouraging and frustrating. Especially for our mother and father. She was allowed to be part of the school until my family moved from the farm to town in 1952. A teenager. Her intellect had ceased to develop around age 9.
Tell her your birthday once and she’ll remember it forever. And every now and then she can wow me with some random bit of knowledge that leaves me speechless. “Where did you learn that, Sharon?” Play cards with her and you’ll likely lose. And she has an uncanny ability to paint pictures, especially roses. She has her own unique little skillset.
In 1938, in very rural Kansas and perhaps anywhere else, there wasn’t a word to define Sharon’s condition. Just the “R” word. Not a happy word, with a lot of stigma attached.
Stigma, and sadness. Especially as the years passed and there wasn’t any way to help her. She would be Mom and Dad’s little girl for the rest of their lives.
After they passed away she would live separated from her family, with her three sisters involved in her life from a distance.
In this current day and age there is so much more help and hope for children like Sharon. No more “R” word. It’s been replaced by kinder words that define and diagnose and explain why. I can think of a word that starts with “A” that may very well apply to my Sharon. There are now so many ways of early intervention, using different approaches and treatments with great success, giving opportunities for fulfilling lives.
I often wonder how different Sharon’s life would be had she been born several decades later.
But she wasn’t.
While her sisters all grew up, left home and went on to have families and careers, Sharon did not. She wanted to, and she would often say “I wonder when I’ll finally get married and have a family.”
She would say it often, OFTEN, and every single time I would feel a stabbing pang of guilt because I possessed something my sister Sharon could never have. My dreams weren’t that different from Sharon’s. Except mine came true. And hers couldn’t. I can’t think about that without getting teary.
Her little girl ways endured, even up to this very day really. And seriously, there’s something beautiful about child-like simplicity.
Sharon personifies simplicity. Give her a cup of coffee “Make that decaf please”, take her shopping or to a garage sale “Look what I bought!!”, play a game of cards with her “Shall we get into a Pitch deck?”….. that’s about all it takes to make her happy.
Especially, especially, if she’s with her family. Her sisters. And her “brothers”. (Never would she ever refer to any of our husbands as in-laws). Her nieces and nephews couldn’t have a more adoring aunt.
She loves us all, and she’s not afraid to say so. Accompanied by a very warm hug.
Later on this month we are going to celebrate our Sharon. We shall pick her up at her group home where she is wonderfully cared for by skilled staff. We shall surprise her with a party filled with family, food, fun. And red roses. Her favorite. Rose of Sharon. That’s what she’ll call them.
She will smile, she will laugh loudly, she will talk happily to everyone at her party.
I think if you lined up every member of her family and assessed who had made the most of the tools they’d been given…… Sharon would win.
Happy birthday, my dear Sharon. I love you.
Sharon and I, 1955. She was such a beautiful young girl.
|Sharon, by Ottawa Co Lake, not far from where she spent her childhood on the farm.|