Paul was my little brother, and he was special. He was different from me because he was blind, and he sat in a wheelchair. Lots of people knew he was different because he had his own school bus and had to go to a special school. But that’s not really why he was special.
Paul was special for the things just our family knew about – like introducing us to new friends. Lots of times when we walked with Paul, other kids came over and asked us why he was in his chair. They wanted to know why Paul couldn’t see, and I would tell them to shake Paul’s hand. Then we’d talk about other stuff.
Paul was a good listener. I could tell him all kinds of things, and he never got tired of listening to me. He laughed when I told him something funny, and he was the only one in our family who could keep a secret.
Paul helped me exercise. Sometimes when we’d go for a walk, we’d have to go uphill. Paul liked to feel the sun and the wind on his face, and he liked to listen to the birds. When I pushed his chair to the woods at the top of the hill, I was really getting my exercise!
Paul helped us carry things. He never minded if I hung my backpack on the back of his chair or if Mom put her purse there. Sometimes he carried the packages we’d get when we went shopping. I think he felt like the driver!
Paul helped me hear small noises. When I was with him, I’d have to be quiet as a stone to hear the munching Chipmunks and the talking trees that he heard.
Paul let me practice my reading. When I was his reader, I read at my own speed. Sometimes I had to stop to figure out a difficult word, but Paul didn’t mind. His favorite stories were about animals, especially worms.
When there was a special day in town, like the circus in summer or the one time when the president came in his helicopter, Paul would let me share his front-row seat.
In winter, Paul helped me keep my feet dry. When Paul went somewhere, he had to use ramps instead of stairs. The snow was usually shoveled off the ramps, so we both kept our feet dry! Inside buildings, Paul gave me free elevator rides. Paul’s chair didn’t fit on the escalator, and boy, was I glad. I don’t like escalators!
Paul hardly ever complained. He went along with whatever the rest of us wanted to do. One time when he had a fever, he got crabby, but he never yelled or fought or asked me to switch the TV channel.
Paul let me put things on his lap. We played a kind of feel-and-tell game. Sometimes I put different toys there for him to feel, or I’d surprise him with our dog, Muffin. Once I put a crawly worm in his lap. He was always surprised when I let him hold something new. He made faces and sounds to let me know his guess.
Paul let me come with him on the rides at the fair. They have a handicapped-ride day, and all the kids in wheelchairs get to go on the rides for free. Since Paul couldn’t sit up by himself, I got to sit on one side of him so he wouldn’t fall over.
Paul was my friend. He couldn’t talk to me like most of my friends, and he couldn’t run outside or play hide-and-seek. But he was there for all the quiet times, and he had the best smile in the world.
Paul died in his sleep five years ago. Growing up as his sister was a blessing. He helped me to see that there is a positive side to every situation if we simply make the choice to find it.
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