“7:15 AM. I reluctantly climb out of bed, reaching for my hoodie with one hand and turning on my iPOD with the other. The wooden floor feels cold to my bare feet, but I ignore it as I turn up my music loud enough to wake me up.
“Havilah, time to get up.” I pull the covers back and gently shake my sister’s sleeping form. Havilah pulls the covers back up, stubbornly keeping her eyes closed. I pull them back off. “Time for school, Havilah.”
Sometimes that gets her up, sometimes it doesn’t. This morning it doesn’t. I pull the covers back off and try lifting her up. She is small for an eleven year old, but lifting her is considerably more difficult than it used to be. Even though her eyes remain closed, she is obviously resisting me, much desiring the warmth and security of her blankets to the cold and unpredictable day ahead. I finally manage to pull her out of bed and stand her up. I nearly have to pull her to the door, as she tries to brace her feet against the floor and remain immobile. As we near the door, she clenches the door jam with surprising strength. When I pry her tightly gripped fingers away, she lets out a cry that to an observer might sound like a mixture of pain and anguish—but I understand it as frustration. She is upset that I am taking her away from bed.
When she is fully dressed, I dab toothpaste on her brush. “Havilah, I’m gonna brush your teeth now.”
“Brushteeeee” She echoes in a high pitched voice as I start brushing her teeth. She can brush her own teeth, but she will only concentrate on a few front teeth for about three seconds.
When her teeth are done, I tell her, “Ok, go into the living room now.”
She squeals and runs down the hall into the living room. I follow her hurriedly, because I never know if she will decide to open the door and keep running down the driveway. Sitting her down on the couch, I pull her on socks and shoes, and then zip up her jacket. She insists on her coat being zipped up as far as it will go. Some mornings she refuses the hat altogether; other mornings she slyly leaves it on until my back is turned, then slips it into a hiding place with a giggle. She may be mostly uncommunicative and helpless when it comes to caring for herself, but she knows what she wants. This morning the hat comes off twice.
I give her some leftover apple pie and a banana to snack on until the bus comes. She has diabetes and her blood sugar is always dangerously low in the mornings. This morning she eats half the banana and takes a few bites of the pie. I consider that pretty good. Getting her to eat before 10am can be nearly impossible. When she sees the bus coming down the driveway, she squeals again and I quickly slip her hat and backpack on before she can protest.
“Have fun at school,” I say with a smile. I never get an answer and she never looks back as she runs toward the waiting bus. She has never showed appreciation or spontaneously said I love you. Still, I know she understands more than we give her credit for and also that she knows who I am. She may not understand family dynamics or grasp the abstract meaning of love, but she still feels it. I know she does. And I love her. My little sister is teaching me the true meaning of love; giving without expecting anything in return. It’s difficult. It’s stressful. It sometimes feels unrewarding. But it’s worth it. Love is always worth it.”
I wrote this during my freshman year of college. I was 17 years old and living at home, working a part time job while taking classes at the local community college. Most of my mornings looked like this and it was normal. I remember the day I thought that I should write it down because someday, possibly someday soon, it would no longer be a normal routine.
There is a part of me that misses it.