When it comes to looking to the future, the typical 18-year old many times will look all the way to next weekend. Life is immediate because it is so complex, complicated, confusing, filled with so much uncertainty. The future for an 18-year old? Let him get through the next weekend. Anything else, well, you might as well ask him how he is planning for retirement.
Pedro Guevara did not have that luxury. At 18 his mother, Claudia, sat down with her son and told him the facts of life, his life to be exact. Guevara had just graduated from Montgomery High. He was headed to Dominican University in San Rafael to continue his education and his love for soccer. Guevara would become, just as he had been for Montgomery, an all-star for Dominican. But soccer had nothing to do with this conversation.
Pedro had no idea what was coming.
"Your parents," said Claudia, "aren't always going to be around. You are going to have to be the one to take care of your sister."
Forever, son. Not just through the next weekend.
Pedro's sister Waleska, 9 at the time, was born with agenesis of corpus callosum, a rare disorder in which the fibers that connect the two hemispheres of the brain are partially or completely absent. The absence of those connective tissues affects the ability to learn at the same rate as other children. Now 11, Waleska has the learning capacity of a six-year old, Guevara estimates.
"I was shocked," Guevara said when his mother told him of his responsibility. "Forever" is a wildly expansive, nearly unfathomable concept for someone who is still a teenager. Of course Guevara loved his sister; that wasn't the issue. And sure, he already had been thinking about majoring in occupational therapy at Dominican; that wasn't the issue either. But Guevara had a hard time getting his mind around the concept of forever.
And then, a few months later, early in his freshman year at Dominican, came The Slide.
Guevara, who frequently comes home to Santa Rosa every weekend, was at a park with Waleska. Waleska was climbing up a slide and her brother was anticipating the usual result. Waleska would walk away, saying she was too scared to go down the slide. This time Waleska didn't walk away.
As she came down the slide, Waleska shouted to her brother, "Look, I can do this!"