When I was very young, I never thought that my father's sister, Sarah, was different. Lately I have realized what is so special about her.
Aunt Sarah was born on April 26, 1970 with water on the brain and a cleft lip and palette. Water on the brain made her head too large for a normal delivery, but the doctor chose to go through with one anyway which caused cerebral palsy and mental retardation. At three months, Aunt Sarah had surgery to repair her cleft lip. Although her body grew, her mind remained at the developmental level of a five-year old.
Due to the cerebral palsy, she wears heavy leg braces, but she can walk with help. These are not her only challenges. Two years ago she was diagnosed with autism, but regardless of these problems, she remains a happy person.
Many parents and families would look at a mentally challenged child as a burden, but someone as special as Sarah is never an embarrassment; it has been an honor for me and my family to have her around and her company is greatly enjoyed. Life as I know it wouldn't be the same without her. Her voice is always the first to greet us at Christmas and Thanksgiving.
The first person she sees is always my father. He has always been there to protect her. I have always seen the love between them. We all adore Sarah; she is a big part of our lives.
Even though my aunt suffers with some debilitating maladies, she has a personality of her own. The handicapped are people in their own right, and my aunt is no different. She is the only person I know who drinks only orange soda, never another flavor. Aunt Sarah also has an obsession with Bubble Tape, a type of gum. I know that might sound rather strange, but like anyone else, she has her quirks.
Everyone ought to remember that even the most handicapped people can feel anger and other emotions. I hope that some day society doesn't look at people like Aunt Sarah with bad feelings, or laugh at her, but comes to understand that they too are like everyone else. Everyone is different, and when we understand that, the world will become a better place.
Aunt Sarah has always lived with my grandma, and I have never seen my grandma act as though she wishes Sarah had been born "normal." I have great respect and admiration for my grandma. She is a very special person and has always known how to show us the true meaning of life. At the age of 34, Aunt Sarah continues to learn new things every day, to develop her speech, and to improve her sign language. She is a great inspiration and will continue to have a great effect on my life.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.