Teaching My Little Sister Everything I Know
By: Jenny Anderton
To this day I remember when my mom and dad told me that I was going to be a big sister. I was 17. Jacqui was a surprise, in every sense of the word. I remember being so excited to dress her up, teach her how to paint her nails, braid her hair, and play Barbie’s. I couldn’t wait to do all the things you’re supposed to do as a big sister and then some. I already knew I was going to be great, it was legitimately the thing I wished for most growing up.
I was trying to think of the many things that Bird and I enjoy doing together, and what came to my mind were our sister sleepovers, and swinging really high on the swing set in her backyard while trying to touch the leaves on the tree with our toes. I thought about reading princess books together and dressing up in ridiculous outfits and having dance battles in her bedroom.
I thought about all the letters, phone calls, and Skype dates we had while I was away at college. Then I thought that I better get her input and ask her what she remembers most about hanging out with her cool big sister. Her first response? “You teach me about how to take care of my diabetes.” Wow. I smiled and my heart sank at the same time.
That’s my baby sister. Bird- her nickname because she literally must do everything that I do. From how she dresses and where she’s going to go to college, right down to her finger pricks and insulin shots. She wants to be just like me. When I think back to the day that I started thinking about all the things I was going to teach her, managing her diabetes was not one of them.
I also remember when my mom and dad told me that Jacqui was diagnosed with diabetes. She wasn’t even 1 years old yet. I remember thinking how unfair it was. She is perfect. Why? I remember saying that I’d take diabetes twice if it meant that she got to be normal. A friend of mine that I was with when I heard the news simply said: “but how lucky is she that she gets to learn how to live with diabetes from someone as special as her big sister?”
What kind of responsibility is that?? How do you teach a little girl that barely walks and still calls me Nenny, because the ‘J’ is too hard to pronounce, how to manage something as complex as diabetes? Then it dawned on me. I’ll teach her by doing it myself. From having her touch and feel the lumps on my arms to understand the importance of moving sites. To letting her know the only good diet soda is Dr. Pepper, she was going to learn it all.
Jacqui is almost 10. She is getting so big and I am SO proud of her. Bird is in the third grade and loves school. She is a fantastic reader and her imagination is incredible. She loves all animals and riding g horses is her most favorite thing on the planet. I love to watch her dance and I love to listen to her talk. She is amazing. Resilient. Inspiring. My baby sister.
Diabetes is all I have ever known. It’s all she’s ever known too. I don’t know how to teach her to be normal. I don’t know life without diabetes. But enough with things that I do and don’t know. Here’s the one thing that I hope for. I hope for a cure.
And when that cure comes I believe that Jacqui will be able to tell you that the greatest part about having me for a big sister is that I can make some pretty intense blankets forts to watch Princess movies under, that I never just let her win at swings, I actually had to work at it. I’d hope she’d tell you that I taught her that the books are always better than the movies and that dancing like a fool is definitely okay and that the people who don’t are the weird ones. I’d hope she’d tell you that I was always a phone call away for whatever she needed.
Lastly, I’d hope that she’d tell you that we HAD diabetes together and that now we don’t.
I love you, Bird. #typeonetilltypenone