Scene 3: Hurricane Sandy
As Sandy stormed out of the room and through the hallway to the kitchen, she worked herself into a rage, and her murmuring became a rave.
“Why can’t Tammy see I have to take over every time Mommy’s not here? It’s not that I don’t care. It’s just that I am not her mother. Besides, I can’t stand being around her all that much. Maybe it’s me, and maybe I just don’t have it inside of me to be that compassionate, but I wasn’t born to be a personal attendant. The thought of being by her side, as she says—of being her dutiful helper—repulses me. How grotesque! It creeps me out. Being with her takes everything out of me. It drives me nuts! I am going to have my own life, and my own life is going to be without her. But what will people think of me if I refuse to care for my disabled sister? What will my friends say? I don’t care what Tammy and Mommy think, but I care what my friends think, and what other people think. My family is too much. I hate the whole situation. I just want to go away to college and never come home again.”
“Sandy, calm down,” Patsy said as Sandra slammed open the kitchen door and stomped in, her eyes fixed on the floor. “Mrs. Hershstein is here visiting me. We heard everything, and you and I should discuss the situation with your sister, but not in front of company. I need to run some errands right after our guests leave, so I need you to stay with Tammy for the afternoon. I hope I can count on you for that. It’s just a few hours, and then I’ll be back, and you can go out and have fun with your friends.”
Sandra’s eyes fixed on the Baccarat glasses beside the sink. She turned away from her mother and picked one up, mesmerized by the crystal, stroking it with her finger, tapping it gently and listening to it ring.
With her eyes on the glass, she whirled and shrieked, “Mommy, I just can’t do this anymore. It’s beyond me. I’m barely sixteen, and I have to be my sister’s attendant? Can’t I just have a life for myself? Besides, I made plans to spend the afternoon with my friends, and I want to show off my new car. I invited them to cruise Wilshire and watch a movie. They are counting on me to drive them. How can you tell me to break my commitment to them?”
Patsy exploded. “Sandy, you are three-and-a-half years older, and you’re not disabled. Have some kind of kindness and compassion! All you think about is yourself, your girlfriends, and what you can get me to buy you. This is your sister, not a stranger! What is she going to do when I die, when you won’t even help her now? You have a responsibility.”
Sandra glared at her mother and shouted, “But Mommy! Tammy always gets her way!”
Patsy erupted. “Don’t but Mommy me! You don’t get it, do you? I wonder if you ever will! Can’t you understand I see through your games! I let you take advantage of me because I love you, but I don’t like the way you act or the person you think you are. You can’t even find it in your heart to help your own mother or sister. This is not about Tammy getting her way. This is about you helping me, instead of being the Cadillac girl running around with your girlfriends all the time. Are they more important than Tammy and me? You need to take some responsibility and help me take care of Tammy!”
Something hard hit the kitchen door, and Tammy rolled through it in her power chair.
With her arms and legs striking out in spasms of emotional pain, Tammy shouted, “Sandy! I never asked you to help me like this. All I ever wanted was to have a sister and to be close to her. Can’t you see you don’t have to provide any help for me? I hate needing this much help. Can’t you see I wish I could do everything for myself, like you? I’ll trade places with you right now. Do you think I enjoy being handicapped? Try it for a day! Try it for a week! Or try it for a month and then tell me how you feel about being disabled and about yourself! Just try having someone else take twenty minutes to get you out of bed and into your clothes. I am not broken! I hate needing help from you or anyone else! I’d trade places with you in a second. Put yourself in my brace and see how it feels! I am not broken! I have C.P., but I am a whole person!”
Sandra froze and trembled. “I can’t stand this anymore!”
She hurled the crystal glass at the floor. The crash of it shattering brought silence to the room. Then Tammy sighed and held up her left hand. A shard of glass had pierced the back, and red blood flowed down her arm to her elbow.
Everyone converged on Tammy. Sandra held the injured hand and burst into tears.
Patsy took the hand and pulled out the triangle of glass. “How could you…”
Tammy remained calm. “Kitten, the drawer right behind you is full of clean dish towels. Can you press one against this, please?”
Karen applied pressure to the wound, and it stopped bleeding. Tammy gave her a big smile.
Patsy hugged Sandra. “I’m sorry. I can see I’ve asked too much of you. You want your own life, and you want to put yourself first in your life, even before your family. I will cancel my plans for the afternoon. Besides, I need to take Tammy to the doctor now, anyway. You can go out with your friends in your new car, and you can cruise Wilshire. And I know you’ve been wanting a TV set for your room, so you can watch your own TV shows and not have to suffer through the ones Tammy or I want to watch. So, I will get one for you. Then, when you absolutely cannot get out of staying home with Tammy, you will have some entertainment of your own, and I won’t have to listen to your arguments about which show to watch! You will have your TV and your car and your life, and we will have ours. And we will all have a little peace in this house. All I ask is for a bit of help with Tammy.”
Patsy put one arm around Tammy. “You girls are all I have left. When I am gone, you will have only each other. It’s a very hard world we live in. It will be a lot harder for the two of you if you can’t learn to get along.”
In the silent room, her words repeated in their minds, again and again. Things would never be the same.
Karen stood silently, heart pounding in sympathy for Patsy and Sandra, but especially for Tammy. She watched as Patsy gave Mama a pleading look. Mama would not approve of rewarding Sandra for misbehaving, but she smiled reassuringly.
“Krana Layala,” Mama said. “You and I should leave now. Mrs. Beaumont needs time to take care of Tammy and Sandra. They all need to heal.”
Karen wrapped her arms around her friend. “Tammy, I will be there for you, and I will see you in school on Monday. Thank you, Mrs. Beaumont, for letting me visit with Tammy today. I hope we can do this again soon.”
She turned to Sandra. “I like your art and your sense of style. Please don’t hold it against me that I am handicapped like Tammy. I am sure that, despite everything, she would still like to be your sister, and I’d still like to be your friend.”
Original text ©2022 by Karen Lynn-Chlup. All rights reserved.