Shannon. . .this one’s for you

Martina McBride – In My Daughter’s Eyes (LIVE)

This is my daughter Shannon; she and her twin sister Sarah just celebrated their 25th birthdays. Their older sister, Erin, had a birthday in March, and she got a lot of blog time here. Shannon and Sarah, not so much. And I’m guilty as charged.

I thought about that a lot today, but thought mostly about Shannon and how she’s spent twenty-five years being known as: the twin who didn’t have Down’s Syndrome (DS) or the sister of the twin with Down’s Syndrome. Not that Shannon has ever, ever, ever made that an issue. The very fact that she never made it an issue, I’ve always thought, is her quiet recognition of being grateful for who she is and, yet, feeling guilty for being grateful.

When the twins were born, I didn’t find out until the next morning that one was born with DS. I fell asleep Easter Sunday dreaming of my twin daughters in their twin smocked dresses in their twin stroller. I woke up the next day to a reality that pushed twin smocked dresses to number 2,786 on my list of things that needed to be handled.

Sarah required a great deal of care her first year; three pneumonias, a Life Flight, a 60-mile ambulance ride, surgery, a feeding tube. I spent so many days and nights at the hospital, those months of their lives are a blur. So much of Shannon’s life that first year was told to me in phone conversations. Not long after Sarah was discharged, I was out with the girls in their twin stroller, their sister Erin, 3, and brother, Michael, 5, somewhere in the vicinity. People would immediately be drawn to Sarah, cooing over her, asking about her health. Certainly expected. But I remember Shannon, her wispy blonde curls framing her little face, her sweet smile, bright eyes–watching. She had a way of measuring situations and people even then. Her expression serious and, yet, curious, but there was an unmistakeable wisdom in those eyes.

Shannon was spry and wiry, and loved her pink “babing suit”; so much so that she wore it constantly. One day she and I were caught in a quickly passing, but drenching rain. She jumped up and down crying until we reached cover, upset because her “babing suit” was getting wet.

In the past twenty-five years, Shannon and I have found ourselves entangled in several dramas more complicated than a wet bathing suit. Clearly, this isn’t the appropriate forum to air them. I mention that only to emphasize how much I cherish the relationship she and I now share. Her sense of humor is so sharp, she could be a one-woman comedy act. And that wisdom I saw in her decades ago, has blossomed. She’s a beautiful young woman, ad I dearly depend on her for fashion advice, cosmetics consultation, and people perceptions. She reminds me so much of my mother in that way she has of seeing through someone’s mask.

Yes, Shannon’s experienced life in ways that Sarah will. But Shannon’s also acutely aware of that fact in ways that Sarah never will. And I wanted Shannon to know that I’m aware, too, of the times she’s stepped back so that her sister could step forward.  

So, Shannon, this one’s for you. Just you. 



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