Historically, I would have said I was the stronger identical twin sister however, over the last few years I have realized that I do not have half the strength of my sister Jenn Solomon. Some people are strong because they have to be, there is no other way, without it they would fall apart; my sister has strength because she chooses to, she chooses to live each day with the sole goal in life to ensure that her children feel loved, that they are happy, strong and independent. They know that family always comes first, that they should always be themselves and never try to be something that others think they should be. They know that at the end of the day they only have the power to make themselves happy and if they are in a situation that does not feel right, is unsafe or doesn't make them happy - no matter how hard it is or how hard it will be they can always choose a different path, a path that is best for them.
Each day, I hope and pray every day that I have taught my children these same values. If I have given my children half of the values and love that my sister has given hers, then I will have succeeded as a parent. They have the kind of Mom we should all have, one I wish I had had. I love Tori, Peter and Rachel for the individual tiny humans (well maybe they aren't so tiny but they are still tiny humans to me) that they have become. She gives them the confidence and guidance they need so that each of her three children are able to be the people they are today.
Sixteen year old Tori, a junior at Chelmsford High School and a member of the color guard, is the comedienne of the group. She has a quick wit about her that always keeps me on my toes and can make anyone in her family laugh and cry at the same time. I am not going to lie, she does love her naps - well don’t most teenagers? She is the bright spot in our family as well as the person my sister counts on the most, when you are a single mother of three, you need to have someone you can count on and Tori is that. She is a strong confident teenager with an old soul, I hope my girls use Tori as their role model when they are teenagers because Tori is a good as it gets.
The bravest, strongest, and most courageous 14 year old I have ever met is her son Peter. At 14 he wakes up each morning with a smile on his face and with a sense of himself that some of us at 40 still have not obtained. Peter is a transgender child and has never questioned himself even though others always have – he has always insisted that God was confused the day he was making him and accidentally assigned him the wrong gender. Peter has never wavered; despite being born as a girl he has always declared himself a boy. I can’t even imagine what he has gone through over the years, before people in his life understood that it wasn’t just a phase, that he is in fact a strong young man who I am proud to say is my nephew. God knew what he was doing when he gave my sister this loving child, in all honesty I would love to say I would have been the wonderful, loving parent she has been to Peter but I am not so certain I would have handled it with the same dignity, grace and love she has. This is yet another indication that my twin sister is one of the strongest people I know.
Last but not least is her 8 year old daughter, Rachel, who has taught me that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. Rachel was born with Cerebral Palsy after a porencephalic cyst that developed in her brain in utero caused a grade IV intraventricular hemorrhage. Jennifer has never allowed Rachel to be pitied or feel pity because she has CP, she has taught her that anything is possible. Jennifer has always been determined to give her daughter the best life possible, and has sought out several types of physical therapy, both conventional and unconventional. Rachel has undergone countless medical procedures; she receives quarterly Botox injections and attends endless occupational and physical therapy sessions - hippotherapy, swimming, and robotic therapy with Lokomat, to name just a few. She has also attended wonderful camps such as the Double H Ranch and participates in the Special Olympics at Brestyan's Gym. All these procedures and experiences have contributed to Rachel’s success in staying active. In May of 2012 after attending my daughter Delilah’s dance recital, Rachel declared that she would dance in a dance recital some day without the use of her walker, a year later Rachel did just that. In May 2013 Rachel received a standing ovation for dancing without her walker, which trust me, is no small feat. (http://youtu.be/eRmzMCrO8OI)
A few months ago Rachel declared that her next goal is to “Run a Mile” and there is no doubt in my mind that she will be able to do just that. Rachel is scheduled for Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) surgery tomorrow, October 17th, you can read about it in detail here http://www.childrenshospital.org/az/Site3491/mainpageS3491P0.htm. Dr. Robinson believes that Rachel is one of the best candidates she’s ever met for the surgery. Traditionally, children with Cerebral Palsy aren’t as cognitively aware as Rachel, therefore they expect she will have tremendous results post op because she has always been 100% participatory with her therapy and will be able to be so cognizant of her rehabilitation. Rachel’s surgery will require intense rehabilitation. In layman’s terms: Rachel uses the tone in her legs right now as a stabilizer to walk and stand, after surgery she will lose all of the tone in her legs and will be extremely floppy. She will have to relearn how to walk and how use her legs, there is a post-op requirement of a one week stay at Children’s Hospital and a 3-5 week rehab stay at Spaulding Rehab in Charlestown. The intense rehab would make almost anyone say no to the surgery, after much discussion, Jenn and her three children decided that 4-6 weeks is really nothing in the scheme of things and in the end is worth the temporary chaos that will most likely occur and will all focus all of their energy in helping Rachel achieve her goal.
This past Sunday Jennifer had a party for Rachel (pictures enclosed) so that a hundred of Rachel’s nearest and dearest could wish her luck before for her surgery. After witnessing the interaction with Rachel and her friends I am 100% certain that Rachel now, and has never, felt that she is a child with a disability because she has never let her disabilities define her. Rachael has taught me more than any word could describe or any article I could write. Rachel has taught me and our family to never to look away from a child with a disability and more importantly, never to pity a child with a disability, but rather look in her eyes and talk to her because chances are she is most likely stronger and wiser than we are. We are so lucky that she is part of our family.
Please contact me if you would like to hear ways in which you can help Rachel achieve her goal.
A proud Auntie