Saturday, September 10, 2016

September 10: Locusts, Down's Syndrome, Complex Innocence

In 1921 a Russian naturalist named Uvarov solved the mystery.  Locusts are grasshoppers:  they are the same animal.  Swarms of locusts are ordinary grasshoppers gone berserk.

Grasshoppers gone berserk.  Creatures transformed through drought or other natural calamity into something dangerous.  Great hordes of locusts swarming over farmland and field, pillaging and marauding like shoppers on Black Friday, leaving behind shreds and stalks.  Nature can be cruel.  Locusts and tornadoes, tsunamis and earthquakes.

I have a sister with Down's syndrome.  All my life, she was a loving presence.  Everybody loved her.  When I was in high school, the members of the football team loved her.  I never went to a game, whether it was homecoming or playoffs.  My classmates came to my house, picked up my sister, and brought her to the football games.  Like I said, everybody loved her.

As people with Down's syndrome get older, they can sometimes change.  Alzheimer's disease and dementia are fairly common.  There's a genetic link between Down's and Alzheimer's.  Over the last few years, my sister has become a different person.  She asks the same questions over and over.  Although she's always been stubborn, she was never mean about it.  Now, she will become downright physical if things don't go her way.  She's punched me on more than one occasion.

I'm not sure if that means that my sister is developing Alzheimer's.  She's certainly not the girl who went to high school football games with my friends.  It makes me a little sad.  Sometimes she's the sister I remember from my childhood, but, more and more often, she's belligerent and downright mean. 

People who are not around her on a daily basis don't recognize how different she is.  In small doses, she is still sweet and funny, hugging everybody, saying, "You know, I love you."  To those closest to her, however, she is just not the same.  Of course, I know she's still the sister who I grew up with, but I miss the simple innocence.  Her innocence now is more complex.

I love my sister.  It's tough to see her aging and changing.

Saint Marty prefers the grasshopper.

I just needed a good laugh . . .

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