Paige was born 5 years before Paul. She was not only the lone child for those 5 years, but the only grandchild for Ken and Sue. They had plenty of time and disposable income to spoil their “one and only darling granddaughter” during that time. She showed an early dislike for girly dress-up, even though Grandma Sue kept trying. She was stubborn, independent and the center of everyone’s attention.
Ken and Sue live by a rule that they needed to see their granddaughter every two weeks, at least. They never came empty-handed. Sue had a laundry basket filled with gifts and treasures each time she walked in the door. We called it the BOS – Basket of S***. Paige would find the good stuff and ignore the rest. She had it made and could have gotten very spoiled.
Then, boom, along came Paul. Paul was not expected to have any issues, so when he was born with SB, we were taken completely off guard. Suddenly, we were dealing with a baby in an incubator in the ICU instead of the normal “learn to breastfeed and go home in 2 days” scenario. Surgeries to close his back and to shunt his hydrocephalus soon followed. Paul was in the hospital for a week while we shuttled back and forth. Paige was shoved to the margins. We tried not to ignore her, and I think a lot of visiting family went out of the way to show her attention, but her family position had changed dramatically overnight.
It would be normal to resent a new baby after being the center of attention for 5 years. It would be normal to lash out, misbehave or throw a tantrum. I don’t remember Paige doing anything like that. For a 5-year-old, she was remarkably compassionate and accommodating. Not just for a 5-year-old, but for any age person, actually. She instantly became Paul’s big sister and champion for him. She always seemed to understand our priorities and where she fit in.
Paul was born on December 18 and we got home in time to go to the Christmas Eve service and have a quiet night by the tree. Last minute gifts, the only kind I buy, did not get bought. Yet, I think this was the one of the best we ever had as a family. We were home long before it was expected, Paul was doing well, and we were together and comfortable at home and glad to be out of the hospital. Paige seemed just as content as the rest of us that this was good enough and a lot of gifts were not needed.
Paige paved the way for Paul at school and looked out for him when she could. Since they were so far apart in age, they were seldom in the same building. School and sports came more easily for Paige, and for Paul everything was a challenge. Her reputation and compassion helped others to see Paul as part of a cool family who happened to have a disability, rather than a strange kid to be figured out. She didn’t coddle Paul, she treated him like a little brother should be treated. She could pick on him, but you couldn’t.
When Paul had surgeries, the first thing he did when he woke up was to ask for food. The second thing was to ask for his sister. She could break up a day at the hospital better than anyone, just by watching TV with Paul. Paige sat around hospitals with us sometimes, but we tried to keep her busy and active. Why should she miss out because Paul was sick? We would split up to deliver her to events, or send her to soccer games with Grandma and Grandpa when we couldn’t go with her. If she resented this, she never let on. She would come back and tell us, and Paul, all about the game and how she did.
From early on, before Paul was even born, I thought Paige would do something great with her life. She is strong and independent and has an infallible moral compass. Paul added to that foundation and she now has a unique set of life experiences to draw from. I am sure she would rather have her brother for a little longer, but given the choice, I know she would rather have 15 years with him and lose him, than not to have had him at all. She has yet to write the rest of her story, but we could not be prouder of the big sister she was to Paul, and of the women that she is becoming.