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The Other Keller Girl
It has been told to me that a true southern lady carries her parasol when the sun is shining on her face. If our souls need the same delicate protection as a lady’s skin, then I never needed a parasol. I was always in Helen’s shadow, and I never minded. It never occurred to me to be jealous; my life was covered in Helen’s, and that was what I knew it was supposed to be. Helen filled me with her own special sunshine. I was profusely angry at other people when they prevented me from following Helen on trips to places such as Paris or New York, but I was never, ever mad at Helen. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t stir up anger against her. I not only wanted to be with Helen but also be just like her.
My passion to be like Helen began at a very early age. I wanted a teacher who followed me around and talked to me just like Helen’s Miss Annie. I had picked up a notion that when I turned five, I would be given a companion for my birthday. On that morning, I ran down the stairs as fast as I could. I had relived the vision of seeing my companion in a fresh white shirt and green skirt a hundred times. She would have chestnut brown hair and an unusual gold pocket watch. I was crushed when the only companion I received was a blonde haired doll that had long lashes and a blue skirt. Later I slipped away from playing with our slave, Percy, and began to cry by the water pump. Helen found me and wrapped me in her arms. She asked me what was wrong by signing in her special alphabet. I answered Helen using her magic language.
She simply said, “I am your companion,” and I knew from that day on that my sister was a forever friend.
Helen traveled extensively, and I rarely got to tag along, which made me very mad at Father. I would rant and rave for hours on end and make terrible threats that I am now immensely ashamed of.
Then suddenly, life threw a curve ball that was worse than I could possibly imagine; Father simply dropped dead. I was still in my youth, and Helen was only sixteen. I was heartbroken at all the unkind sayings I had said towards him; again, I cried out to Helen.
“Did he love me?” I asked with some trepidation.
“Of course,” Helen signed me back, “you were the perfect child who…,” she hesitated signing for a moment, “Teacher says is quite beautiful.” I put Helen’s hand to my face to let her feel my tears and sank into misery.
Helen reminded me daily to smile, literally. She would sign the letters S-M-I-L-E constantly. And of course, I stopped dressing in black eventually and began to walk in the land of the living.
Life presents twists and turns that are as unknown to us as what air looks like. It wasn’t many years later I found myself falling in love with Laban Tyson, and we were married shortly thereafter. As much as I loved Helen and my mother, my love for Laban was something very strong and powerful that consumed all of me.
Helen too found change in her life. She wanted to go to college. However, the obstacle in her way was great; she had to complete high school first. Helen accept the challenge and was often hard at work. I too turned myself to another kind of work, being a mother. My sweet first born was a girl named Little Mildred. Radiant Aunt Helen had moved with her beloved tutor to live with Mrs. Annie’s new husband, John Macey. Helen wrote and told me about the ropes they had put in the yard so that she could move about easily.
“They are so good to her,” I said rocking the newest addition to our small family. “I miss her terribly though.”
Laban smiled and said, “She is a wonderful miracle.”
The letters from Helen began to slow down, and what letters did come were simple. She had hired a new man named Peter Flaggin as her secretary, which was all the news in her world. Helen and Peter had gotten to know each other rather well while Mrs. Annie was sick and away with her husband. When we later found out the two intended to marry, my furious mother marched up north and brought Helen home. However, Peter Flaggin refused to give up on Helen; furthermore, one terrible day, Laban had to threaten Peter with a gun to get him off our property.
Helen was my companion through thick and thin. Even when we disagreed, she was my best friend. I loved her dearly and was honored to be known as “Helen Keller’s little sister.”