The first time I met Suzie, she changed my life. I can remember it as though it were yesterday, although it was almost 40 years ago. I was a foster child who had seen some pretty bad abuse and had some emotional baggage to prove it. In the last year and a half, I had lived in more foster homes than I can remember; some good and some not quite as good, but mostly the issue was me. I was hardened by the abuse and put up a pretty good wall that began to crumble on my first dinner at the Pettits. It was dad’s birthday. The meal was good, but nothing fancy. Suzie sat at the end of the table and fed herself with the aid of a plate guard. She was happy and food seemed to be going everywhere. I was caught off guard by not only the number of people who stopped to bring cards, gifts, and cake but by the realization of who really was the guest of honor at that dinner. It was not the birthday boy or the weird new foster kid coming for a visit, but Suzie.
She had a presence that gently invited you to take a moment and be with her. Everyone who stopped gave her a hug and kiss, called her by her name and most stopped a moment to sing a song. She would return their efforts with a gleeful squeal or just a big smile with lots of eyelash blinking. It was hard to miss just how much love was in that home, especially for Suzie. I did not sing or hug Suzie that day, but I observed her be loved and return that love. A small part of me realized that I too must be lovable. I came back the next week to what would become my forever home. This is my family and I am so proud to call Suzie my sister.