Allow me to introduce you to my aunt Vernie. She was and is my most special aunt. She was born a Downs Syndrome child only a year younger than my Mom. She has the sweetest spirit of anyone I have ever met.
As a child one of the perks of visiting Grandpa Masts was that I could play with Vernie. From the time I was a toddler to about 8 years old, she was my best friend. We would play with our dolls, and spend hours coloring, she would read her story books to us and give us rides on her wagon or swing, we would talk and sing and play any game we knew.
Then the day came when I could read by myself, and discovered the books had a story completely different from what Vernie had always read to me, and tables turned a bit as I would read the books to her. She didn't seem to mind, but somehow the books got laid aside, and we focused on our dolls and coloring books.
Time went on, and I no longer played with my dolls. I can still see her so plainly, eagerly coming to greet me with her dolls when ever I came, and I would tell her I'd rather help her color.
She would look disappointed, but was still happy to spend time coloring together, and so it kept on. I was growing up and gradually leaving my childhood behind. And she could only stand there and watch me go where she could never join me, for she would always live in childhood.
As one group of nieces and nephews grew up there was always another one and so the same cycle would repeat itself.
There was always things we did together, like washing the dishes, working in the garden, cleaning house, food preparation for canning, and little odd jobs and we always had to sing a few songs.
Some years ago I had the chance to once again spend time with her, and had to smile at how thrilled my own children were to play with her.
Memories of her are bittersweet, sweet because, well, she was sweetness itself. But bitter because I could have made life a little nicer for her by not thinking I'm too big to play with her.
I will always love her and have a very special place in my heart that only she can fill. I wish there was a way I could let her know.