My Sister’s Keeper

 By Harrison Knox

I take a bite into my burger, and India, my younger sister, spits at me and starts loudly cursing, attracting an audience of stares in the restaurant. 

Why can’t we just be a normal family? 

With that thought, she then spits on Grandpa. I cherish every moment with him as I know that he won’t be around forever. This family dinner with him a few years ago is no exception. However I can’t take India anymore. I get up and leave. 

I was four when India was born. I ran through the hospital hallways imagining a sibling relationship like my friends Ace and Zed, brothers who frequently roughoused with each other. But a year after her birth, I learned that she had a rare chromosomal abnormality. She would require constant medical attention and never mentally mature beyond the age of five. At first I resented her for stealing almost all of my parents’ attention. However, understanding her challenges in the face of my own struggles has been a journey that shaped my maturity.  

In first grade, after being diagnosed with ADD and auditory processing issues, I transferred to Gateway, a school for students with learning differences. By seventh grade, I was ready to return to a mainstream school, yet some of my teachers predicted the worst: You won’t be a strong Math student, especially if you go to a mainstream school. You would have to work extremely hard to be average. 

I could not forget those sentiments when I stared at the screen last spring and saw the 800: a perfect SAT score on Math. There is a lot more than a number to that score. My sister became the backbone of my academic motivation as I grew to realize that I will be responsible for her when my parents are gone. I have to work hard now to be in a position to help her in the future.  

An ugly attack on India captured why I can’t run from the dinner table when she embarasses me. I was watching the news one night and saw India’s bus matron violently shoving her head repeatedly against the seat. The second matron filmed the brutality which went viral and made its way onto local news shows. I felt nauseous flicking through the news channels seeing it over and over. I felt sickly powerless. My head started throbbing in pain as I wondered if this could have been happening for months. If it had, India wouldn’t have been capable of telling us. This propelled me further into my own maturity. All my feelings of annoyance and impatience with her subsided. For the rest of my life, I must make her home the safest place possible as the outside world is unpredictable. I must be prepared to protect her from bullies, who will not only take advantage of her, but might even abuse her. 

My own commitment to India faced a test on Christmas morning last year. She shattered my excitement over presents. She spat on Mum and poked me in the eye. At first, I wanted to forget about the gifts and escape. However, instead I comforted Mum and tried to soothe India out of her outburst. 

“India, if we behave well and open these presents, we can go play soccer in the backyard together.”

After continued consoling, we left the room and kicked the soccer ball. 

My proudest moment as her brother is at her soccer class for special needs children where I volunteer on Saturdays. She has the best shot, the best dribbling, and is the athletic star of the class. India is almost like a mini me: whatever I play, she tries to play as well. She wants to be like me. Outside of our relationship, her influence on me continues to grow, teaching me to be patient and sympathetic to others. 

Harrison Knox, a graduate of the Brooklyn Friends School, will be a freshman at USC in the Fall.