I have two siblings, sisters, named Maria and Angelina (Gina). I truly adore them both.
Maria was born when I was twelve, right after my Yia Yia passed away. She was premature and for a while, it was touch and go and we didn’t know if she’d even survive. In my twelve-year-old arrogance and self-centeredness, I railed against God and complained to everyone about how unfair it would be to take my sister from me right after taking my grandmother. I made deals with God but nothing seemed to help. Maria’s heart wasn’t strong enough. A good friend of my dad’s, who is a priest, finally said, “Liana, why don’t you pray to God to keep giving strength to your parents? They are losing a child.” With that simple sentence, he gave me back my perspective. I prayed for my parents, and together, we prayed for Maria. And Maria survived. Her survival wasn’t without consequence, though. Maria was diagnosed as autistic. I kind of threw myself into learning all I could about autism. Maria was sensitive to noise and music and obsessed with long hair, tattoos, and piercings. Through early intervention and therapies (as well as her school, she attended an excellent one), she can listen to and loves music of all kinds and isn’t as visibly noise sensitive as she was as a child (she still has trouble with certain sounds, though thankfully metal doesn’t bother her). She still has her thing for long hair and tats, though. She wouldn’t let my friends into the house until they showed her their tattoos. One day Pete said “should I just take off my shirt in the car, Maria?” Her response was, “No. I want to see your tattoos, not any more of you… arms are OK.” She adored Pete. She also approves of JP as he has long hair, tattoos, and lets her play his drums and guitars. She’s twenty-three now and attends a work program where she does very well.
Then there’s Gina. A twenty-two year old wildchild. She’s just finishing up at UCLA and aspires to be an actor. I wish her nothing but the best with that… it’s tough and even I gave up on that idea! But she’ll have to discover her place in the world by herself, like we all do. Gina is smart, pretty, and has a heart the size of Montana, even though she does often get in trouble for following her heart instead of her mind. I don’t think I would want her any other way. I hope she reaches all her goals and achieves all her dreams. I hope that for both of my sisters.
and now, a small plug:
I’m going to plug the upcoming Comedy Central benefit for Autism: “Night of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Concert For Autism Education.” The comedy concert part is sold out, but it premieres on Comedy Central on October 21, 2010 at 9:00 pm. The concert will be taped but there will be live stuff from Los Angeles, including a celeb phone bank. I will be working backstage there like I did for Hope for Haiti. Please watch. And if you can, donate. There’s still so much we don’t know about autism and not everyone has the resources that my family had for Maria.