My little sister is probably a lot like yours. She is hilarious and open hearted and a complete pain in my ass. She can make me literally pee my pants when we get started laughing about something stupid and can’t stop. She annoys me to no end when she harps on me about something. She will play with my hair for hours sometimes. She insists on talking about and celebrating her birthday for MONTHS. She is rad. She is a scaredy-cat. She has Down Syndrome.
She lives with my dad and step-mom for most of the time, but comes to Portland to stay with my mom pretty often. My mom has lived on her floating home on the Columbia River in Portland for 8 years. It fucking rocks.
In the summer, us kids (*cough* if you call mid-thirties ‘kids’) basically take it over. We barge in on hot days, grabbing the swimsuits we keep there on the way to the back deck and leap in.
Except for Leah. It has taken her YEARS to get over her fear of the steep ramp down to the house. She is terrified of stepping over the small gap between docks. And as we all jump in, cool off and frolic, Leah roasts in the sun. See, Leah LOVES the water. You can’t get her out of it. The hard part is getting her INTO it. On the floating home, the only way to get in, is to jump in. There is no gentle slope to walk down, no stairs to ease your way in. Leah’s love of water has been overshadowed by her terror of jumping in from the dock for all these years.
Until last week. Last week was HOT. My sis-in-law (well not technically, but calling her my brother’s girlfriend of 7 years, just doesn’t get the job done), Mom and I were melting in the sun and in no time at all, were laughing and playing in the water. Leah sat on the dock watching.
And then something changed. All of the sudden Leah got up, went inside and put on her swimsuit. She came outside and put on her lifejacket and decided get in. We all couldn’t believe it. We all go out of the water to help her. She sat on the edge of the dock, her whole body shaking with fear, feet dangling over, flopped onto her stomach and then… PLOPPED RIGHT IN!!!
The three of us ladies leapt in after her, laughing with unadulterated joy. We stayed in the water for almost an hour, until we were shivering. Just to soak in every last ounce of this moment.
I’m not sure what was the final straw to make Leah take that last, terrifying leap into the unknown waters. Had years of begging and cajoling, guilt tripping finally changed her mind? I suspect that the scales finally tipped in favor of taking a chance. That the thought of NOT swimming with her family was something finally unfathomable. That the chance for adventure outweighed her fear. I’ve never been more proud of her.