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October 01, 2004 - Friday, 7:45 a.m.

Sister and Dinner..

I went out to dinner with my sister, Maureen Sunday night. She'd called me a couple of days earlier and wanted to go out to dinner. So, I set aside my Sunday dinner to go with her. Maureen is a sweetie, but has a tendency to drive me crazy. Maureen was a tough kid from the day she was born. She never progressed like she should as a baby. Slow to sit, crawl, talk, etc. Often didn't react like one would expect a baby to. Once she was walking she was exceedingly clumsy and often got hurt. In the world of today, people would have questioned it all. For instance, at about 3 she tripped on the concrete step in the garage and knocked out her front teeth. She was constantly falling and getting hurt.

My mother had her into the doctors almost constantly trying to get a reason why and a possible solution. They did all sorts of test and ruled out basically everything. No brain damage at birth, she wasn't retarded, just very slow. As she grew she began to manifest nearly every learning disability you ever heard of from dyslexia to general confusion. Socially she lagged through all of her childhood and teen years. In her twenties my mother and father finally found a doctor that could give us some answers. It had to do with how her synapses fired in her brain. With testing the doctor was able to find that her right and left sides of the brain don't communicate with each other very well at all. I once watched her testing. It was a simple test. The doctor blindfolded her and gave her a 'puzzle' to put together with her left hand only. It was about 12 pieces, a star, a circle, etc. that each fit in a spot shaped exactly the same. With one hand she felt the puzzle board. Then she'd pick up each piece and put them into the right slot. Normally, for most people the first time they do the puzzle is the slowest, then when they do it with the other hand they are a little faster, and then when they do it two handed they are the fastest. For Maureen, her slowest time was the two-handed. What one hand was feeling could not be very well communicated through her brain to the other hand. I found this amazing. Maureen had pretty much stalled at about 12 or 13 developmentally.

In her twenties, after this diagnosis, the doctors prescribed drugs that would help her synapses fire properly and within a few years she matured into at least her mid-teens socially and she began to care about her physical appearance. It was hard; some drugs would exaggerate her paranoia. Some would make her lose weight, others to gain it, some drugs would stop her incessant talking and repeating herself, and some would make it worse. Eventually my mother and father pulled her off of the drugs completely. The paranoia is still there; she worries about things like the acid in batteries, or killer bees arriving in here from South America. She talks incessantly, for the most part, but rarely realizes that she does it. When she does notice it, it bothers her a lot that she can't stop. She adores 11 to 13 years old girls. She likes to talk about the same stuff that they do. For all the challenges that she has had in her life she is amazingly kind and sweet. Why? To a great degree, because my mother is a saint, she's always been there for Maureen with an amazing amount of patience, and, on the other hand, because we, her family, love Maureen. She never married; so much of her life is very lonely. No kids, no boyfriend. The vast parts of her life are filled with the company of my mother and father. the other half with her memories. The fondest memories of her life are the ten years that we lived in Minnesota. What she doesn't remember with crystal clarity, she has completely recreated in her mind to fit what she sees as a memory. Though I am a year older then her, and have many, many fond memories of my own, less then half of what she tells me rings any bells in my memory. And what she likes to do best is recall and retell those stories. A good percentage of the stories make me cringe, and are not things that I would be holding onto as memories. Her complete love of animals makes a good percentage of these stories about neighbors cats and dogs that I have completely forgotten. Though, worse then these stories are the stories she tells of the people she currently runs into. Maureen has the kindest heart and constantly is talking to and cheering up people I'd never run into in my life. Most of those stories are heart wrenching or terribly sad or uncomfortable. They are often tales of a side of life that I know exists, but would really rather not dwell on. She often talks freely about things that make most people very uncomfortable, and she doesn't seem to realize it.

Dinner out with her is always interesting, and often tiring. But the thought of the emptiness the flits throughout her life, keeps me quiet and politely listening to her. It seems the very least I can do is take her out to dinner and listen. I love her dearly, and once my kids are all grown up and moved away, I figure there is a good chance I'll spend some part of my old age taking care of her. And I find, a daily dose of her is often far better then a couple hours every couple of weeks as she seems to want to say everything to me that she has been thinking about since we last did something together.

That was my Sunday night. I went home and unwound for hours and hours after that. Snuggled under the covers I watched "Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone" and drifted off to sleep well after midnight.


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