The true story of two sisters, one with Down syndrome, the misfits in a large, dysfunctional family. When their father dies, the two sisters find their lives quickly unraveling.
The North Side of Down is winner of the 2015 Medallion from the Book Reader’s Appreciation Group.
This work of nonfiction sells for $17, but this week you can get it for under $10.
Order directly through the publisher: https://www.createspace.com/5137551 and enter this discount code:
for a whopping $8.00 off the $17.95 list price.
Our lowest price ever!
Sale ends Friday!
Polly was Dad’s red-headed niece, and one of his life’s greatest darlings. She had a perpetual smile that squeezed her eyes into happy slits. Her hair was a mass of tight curls and she kept it barely contained by pinning it up over her ears. Her home had always been open to Mom and Dad and Amanda. Nearly every trip to the Soo, whether it was for groceries, or doctor visits, or any type of business, involved a stop for coffee at Polly’s. We parked in the alley behind her house and a walked through the yard to her back door, into the homey kitchen peppered with photos of grandchildren. She greeted us with a big grin, and hugs all around. “How are you, Amanda? You want some coffee?”
“I’m fine!” Amanda said. “Yes please!”
Dad sat down and stammered, “I’ve been to – to the doctor.”
“Yes, what did you find out?” Polly was turning away from the counter with a steaming mug, and she set it down in front of Dad.
“They said I have lung cancer.” It was the first time I had heard him say the words, and he gasped, a sharp breath after they came out. Tears suddenly began streaming down his face. I felt a cold, stabbing pain go through me; an awful helplessness.
“Oh, I’m so sorry.” Polly’s eyes immediately flooded. She came over and quickly embraced him. “Well, we don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”
Dad took a napkin from her little ceramic holder on the table, and mopped at his face. He looked calmer, I thought. As I sat down at her table, I marveled at this woman’s ability to say just the right thing, to offer so much comfort in so few words.
She turned again, with a cup for Amanda, and I saw that her face was reddened, but she was maintaining an anguished smile. Amanda was steadfast as usual, but her eyes leapt from face to face, assessing every reaction.
Polly cradled her mug, sat down and talked about her grandchildren, and how everyone was spending the fall, and how the little ones were doing in school. She talked about how Frank would stop in now and then with her favorite donuts from Cedarville. “They’re just the best.” She nodded to Amanda. “They have that crispy little edge, eh? I can’t get enough of ‘em. It’s a good thing they make ‘em a half hour away or I’d weigh 300 pounds!”
Dad and Amanda laughed. While I watched, they both relaxed visibly as Polly chatted on about how lawn mowing was over for the season, and how Frank’s grandson was doing in basketball, and how she had seen a late flock of geese flying south, finally, and wasn’t it strange that fall had been so late in coming, this year and last. She talked about her childhood days on Lime Island with her sisters Bonnie and Maxine, and Dad absorbed this like one who has waited all day for a drink of water.
When we left there and I loaded Dad’s oxygen tank back into the car, I reflected on the gifts of a person who asks for nothing, who has no agenda, who merely offers companionship through small anecdotes. This, I thought, was heroism in its simplest form. I thought that anyone should be able to do this. I thought Polly had the right idea. There was so much comfort in little things; in normalcy. It was a good example for me to follow. Driving past the brown fields and naked trees, we were all feeling grim. I knew attitude could make all the difference and I was firm in my resolution to meet this head-on. With this in mind, Amanda and I continued our bickering.
“Way to slop up the coffee, there, Java Sucker,” I said.
“You should tell Nancy to stop teasing me, Dad,” Amanda said.
“You should give Amanda a spanking, Dad,” I said.
“You should pull her hair, Dad,” Amanda said.
“You should pop out her eyeballs, Dad.”
“You should run over her with the car, Dad,” Amanda said.
Dad had his customary smile and delivered his line, right on cue. “You two get along.”
Perhaps as a result of our determination to maintain some semblance of normalcy, Dad was able to recover his sense of humor. He was trying hard, I thought. I remembered when he had his biopsy, we had waited an excruciating four hours in radiology pre-op. I thought we might never get out of that room. Eventually, we noticed a Black and Decker power drill sitting on a desk in the corner. Dad nudged me, nodding toward it. “I hope they’re not gonna operate on me with that!”