“A real friend is one that walks in when the rest of the world walks out” Walter Winchell
Growing up in the late 70s or early 80s with a brother with disabilities was not easy. It is never easy: The world is just not made for people with disabilities. But back then, this subject was taboo. I still remember when I was a young kid, about 10 or 11 years old, and my parents went to see this highly renowned neurologist at a very famous institution in Buenos Aires. When they came back, my father told me that there were basically told that since they already had two “normal” children, they should concentrate on raising them, and put the third one, my little brother with disabilities, in an institution. I remember that my mother cried for days.
I started seeing the world in groups of people: 1) Those who had a passion for helping, the superheroes, like my brother’s speech teacher, Alicia, one of the sweetest people on earth, or the “new” neurologist, the one who had the task of making my mother whole again, Dr. Roveta, 2) And those who were angels on this journey, like my friend Lucy, who unbeknownst to her, became one of the most positive influences in my life. Angels were those people who not only accepted me as I was, an insecure, self-doubting big sister, who up until then, did not know what all of this meant, but also catapulted me to look forward in full acceptance, love, and compassion.
This all goes back to when I was about 12 years old, and Lucy came to visit me at home. Even though the circumstances or details of Lucy’s visit are a bit murky after so many years, this encounter which marked my life is still deep in my soul and is still a guide in my life. I had been sick for a few days and had been absent from school. To my surprise, towards the end of the week, Lucy and her mom came over to visit. Neither Lucy nor her mom had ever been to my house. She knew where I lived, but I had never invited her over. Why? Up until that moment, I kept conversations about my brother to a minimum.
Lucy knew about my middle brother, Hernan, but knew little to nothing about my youngest brother, Fernando. I know she must have wondered, how is one of her brothers going to school with her, but the other one isn’t? Up until that moment, I tried to limit those conversations that referred to my brother’s age in particular. It was hurtful enough to hear my classmates talk about their little brothers or sisters calling their names, saying words, communicating, running, talking…..All those things were a struggle for my little brother. He was a school-age little boy and he was still non-verbal.
But that day, as Lucy and her mom walked into my house, she was surprised, but not because of my brother, but because I hadn’t told her. I hadn’t confided in her. I hadn’t trusted her. And to my bigger surprise, she was not angry with me. She didn’t judge me. She was, instead, full of compassion and love. She made it clear, at her young age, right then and there, that she would never stop loving me and that she would always accept me.
That was the first time that Lucy visited my home and met my little brother, but it was not the last time. She continued to visit me and my family. She continued to show me not only the humanity in her, but the humanity in my brother. So what if he can’t talk? We can help him get what he needs. So what if he can’t run? We run for him. Lucy gave me hope.
Lucy was an angel on the journey, and still is. I would go on to meet so many more angels and superheroes over the years, who helped me fight the villains out there and the doubts within me. Do you have any superheroes or angels in your life?
If you want to share your stories of angels, superheroes, or villains on your journey, please leave us a comment!