Sister, Friend, Caregiver

Now 26, the thick curtain of bangs cut above her eyebrows has grown. Several years of braces corralled her front teeth. She finally learned it wasn’t her pinky she should thrust in the air if she wanted to give someone the finger. But she still wants to play like we did when we were younger.

“I’m not a kid anymore,” my mom told Ellie recently as she explained why she didn’t want to join her in a game we enjoyed in elementary school. Ellie and I would crawl on the carpet pretending to be dogs while our mom faithfully fed us invisible bowls of food and scratched our heads. She had retired from the role when Ellie last asked to play. By then, Ellie wasn’t a kid either.

“But I still am,” she said. “Why am I?”

Eight years ago, after Ellie—not her real name—turned 18, becoming an adult in the eyes of the law, a piece of paper was filed at a King County Courthouse formalizing a decision that was reached without much discussion, drama, or fanfare. If my mother died, one of her sisters would become Ellie’s guardian until I turned 30, at which point I would take over.

-A beautiful essay by Ciara O’Rourke, in Seattle Met magazine, on preparing for a time in which she will be the primary caregiver for her sister, who is living with autism.

Read the story