Integrated Holidays

As some you know, I had an older sister named Millie Kay who was born in 1942 with cerebral palsy accompanied with a moderate mental retardation. She lived in a group home in Covina and enjoyed her life of independence as well as a daily workshop for the developmentally disabled. She was the social queen bee and everyone knew who Millie was. She had a way of getting close to people and was a staff favorite. With this privileged position she was able to garner extra perks and privileges such as an extra burrito from the food truck or a cup of coffee when everyone else was working.

I would always bring her home for the holidays which brought her great joy. To just sit, drink coffee and watch the our family going through the pre-holiday craziness made her erupt in laughter and tell everyone how much she loved each one of them at least a dozen times throughout the day. Around 10 PM I’d say, “Millie it’s time to drive home” at which point the “other” Millie came out. “I’m not going!” “How about fifteen more minutes?” I’d suggest that I’d load the car up so she could stay a bit longer, but inevitably that moment would come when I’d start pushing her wheelchair out the door.

Her spasticity made transport and transfers challenging, but when she was angry it became harder. I’d finally get her into the car, get on the freeway and she’d say ”Well, be that way then” and proceed to give me the silent treatment for the next twenty minutes. I’d put on Christmas carols and reminisce about our childhood, aunts and uncles, cousins and mom and dad. Somewhere in the drive she’d say,” I love you Brother.” I’d respond with “I love you too” and talk about how fun the day was. By the time we’d get to her group home, she was tired and ready for bed. I’d get back on the freeway and decompress from the tension and try not to doze off for the next fifty miles.

Our day with my sister was wonderful and difficult all at the same time. Good elements and irritating moments… side by side. That’s how every holiday was, a mixture of good and bad. I came to expect it and anticipate it. Instead of being bummed out by the negative emotions I learned to remind myself that this was how every day is, good and bad, happy and sad, joyful and hurtful. Accepting this fact has made life easier for me. I hold things more loosely, lower my expectations and learn to see the simple joys within the reality of every day.

Millie passed away three years ago and we will miss her…the good moments and the not so good.

May you have in integrated Holiday season where you learn to embrace and accept the tension of joy and pain coexisting side by side.

Love and blessings,
Milan