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  • Writer's pictureDarcie @ Leighton Lane

What's Normal

“Do you ever wonder what it would be like if your sister was normal?”

“Which one?”

I laughed so hard when my brother told me about this conversation. He was driving down the road with the middle child, the oldest in the house at the time, when he asked this question. Taken out of context, it doesn’t seem funny.

To put it in context: He has four daughters, one of whom is mentally and physically challenged.

While he was referring to Emily who lives with challenges, his other daughter questioned the normalcy of her two older sisters. This conversation serves as a perfect example of explaining the relativity of normalcy.

And gave us all a good laugh.

When you spend time in the mental hospital, you witness the use of a baseline of normal. There’s a particular standard of how a “normal” person should behave and act. You have to achieve this basis of normalcy through the use of medication and therapy before you will be released. Of course, if you run out of money, you are also released.

There was a man named Daniel who lived at the hospital. His chance of achieving normalcy were slim to none, because he was born challenged. Daniel looked like a young teenage boy but he was well in his twenties.

He was always accompanied by a caretaker. Daniel walked the halls with his head down and his fists crossed tightly behind his back. Mr. Rembert, another patient, warned me about those clenched fists citing that Daniel had knocked out a person or two.

It caught me off guard as Daniel was small in stature and seemed relatively peaceful. He only spoke a few mumbled words and would shake his head in agreeance for food and drinks. He suffered with some gastrointestinal problems and could clear the hall in seconds. His caretaker would fuss at him laughing every time and he’d just grin as big as he could.

You could hear Daniel coming down the hall, because his tennis shoes flopped on the ground. The shoes he had been given were too small, so the backs were simply folded down. His shorts fell down, because they were too big for his small waist. The drawstrings had been cut – standard hospital protocol.

Daniel had been discarded and he wore discarded clothing. It’s a stark contrast from the way my brother and sister-in-law care for their daughter, Emily. They sacrifice every day to provide their daughter with the care she needs.

Daniel and I brushed shoulders many times walking the halls. Periodically, several of us would strike up a conversation in the hall and I’d watch Daniel. His facial expressions during the conversations led me to believe he understood a lot more than he’d been given credit for.

One day, I decided to walk with Daniel a bit. Of course, the caretaker was with us. She was a beautiful red headed lady with fair skin. Mr. Rembert said she was one of the good ones – always working instead of socializing.

Mr. Rembert knew a lot of things.

We walked side-by-side for a bit and then I decided to cross my fists just like him. Not sure why I did this – I question my normalcy every day. But for whatever reason, I think this gesture put us on the same wavelength. He still stared down at the floor, but would cut me an eye with a big ole grin.

I would smile and he’d smile back with a head nod. Then he stopped, faced me and went to plant a big kiss on me. The caretaker intervened and sent Daniel to his room. He looked back at me while he walked away and gave me a wink.

He stole a piece of my heart that day.

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There aren’t too many days when I’m out and about that someone doesn’t mention their brother or sister who lives with challenges. Maybe it’s an uncle or a granddaughter. I usually see a mom or two holding their adult child’s hand at the store.

I smile and I say “hello” just like I normally do.

I think of Emily. I think of Daniel. And then I think of all of the caretakers, sacrificing every day to love on these precious souls.

I’m not sure why God makes some of us with challenges or why He makes some of us caretakers. I know it’s completely normal to question these things and wonder what it would be like without these challenges.

We all have those “what if” moments.

I do know God sees your sacrifices and sees your heart. He sees the precious souls. And one day He will restore everything.

When that day comes, I hope to see Daniel again. And get my kiss. On the cheek, of course (I’m a married woman after all)!

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