You may not know the impact you've had on my life. I have endless memories of our childhood together and I could probably write about them forever. But there are specific moments looking back that I realize just in how many ways, I am who I am because of you.
One of these moments I remember quite vividly. It was a beautiful summer day and we were excited because mom had the day off. Giancarlo (our older brother) was playing with friends and so it ended up being just me, you and mom. You were in that blue stroller you used to have when you were 8 years old. With my hand on one of the handles, mom pushed the stroller and we cheerfully walked down Ft. Washington Avenue and 173rd street in uptown Manhattan when we ran across two young boys playing outside. They began to laugh and tease you, pointing and saying things like, "Look at the big baby in the stroller!" I was in shock and infuriated that they could be so cruel. I wanted to run over to them and tell them a thing or two but mom told us to ignore them, that they didn't know any better. I looked over to you and to my surprise you were calm and unaffected -- you seemed to understand that they were ignorant. I on the other hand didn't understand why they were making fun of you. You were just my normal little brother in a stroller. What was so strange about that?
For years, I was under the impression that mami's approach of handling the repeated public insensitivity was by ignoring the ignorance. However, she opened up to me recently revealing that she was put in the position to defend you time and time again. She would get comments from strangers like "Look at the mamma's boy!" "Stop babying that big kid!" or "He's so big, he should be pushing YOU!" She even recounted how one day while walking down Broadway Avenue in Washington Heights, a deranged man purposely came between you and her as she held your hand and roughly separated your grasp, in which you fell to the ground. With her help and encouragement, you were back on your feet.
But it was not always easy for you to deal with it.Your feelings were hurt on many occasions and you struggled. You carried with you pain on many levels and those moments broke my heart. The bullying you experienced came from a lack of awareness and education in our society. Some are under the assumption that it is a part of growing up and do not even consider to take it serious. I know if they were to put themselves in your shoes they would feel differently. They would see how important it is to educate and bring awareness to developmental disabilities so that more people can be compassionate towards others. It is frightening to hear about the tragedies that are a direct result from bullying. Not everyone has the support and strength to push through it.
You fell. You fell a lot, and I recognized the sound of it when I heard it in the apartment. I would run with my heart popping out of my chest expecting the worst and most of the time I'd get a very calm "I'm ok" from you. I would help you up if you needed it, tend to any wounds, but no matter what you always got back up. You have been strong, stronger than anyone I know and for this I thank you. You have never allowed anyone to bring you down. You are brave, pure and honest. Because of you, I've always seen that everyone is different in their own way but equal- not any one being better than the other. Because of you, I not only see potential in people to follow their dreams, but also see that others are happy with the simple things in life. Because of you I root for the underdog, the "minority" and I'm a strong believer that people are capable of pushing themselves past their limits.
I learned a lot from all of those experiences, but we have far more fun and sweet memories. Remember when we couldn't sleep and I would ask if you would sing "Peaceful Valley" from The Land Before Time with me? We'd sing it in the dark over and over until we fell asleep. Remember all the family parties where I asked if you would dance with me? I'd never have to ask you twice before you grabbed your crutches and joined me on the dance floor. Remember when I first asked you to run lines with me for an audition? With the biggest smile on your face you made it a priority to help me.
For all the beautiful things you have done for me, I am grateful. However, there truly are no words for the appreciation I have for all you do and all you are. From the bottom of my heart, I am honored to be your sister. Thank you for teaching me that no matter how many times you fall, you always get back up.
I love you.
Frankie and many others attend a wonderful program at UCP (United Cerebral Palsy).
UCP educates, advocates and provides support services to ensure a life without limits for people with a spectrum of disabilities. UCP works to advance the independence, productivity and full citizenship of people with disabilities through an affiliate network that has helped millions.
For more information or to make a difference by donating, please visit ucp.org.
If you or someone you know is experiencing bullying or you'd like more information including Policies & Laws please visit stopbullying.gov/
Follow Karina on Instagram @itskarinaortiz