Saturday, March 4, 2017


I am the youngest in my family--the little sister to three older brothers, David, Don and Dan. David lives in New York, Don lives in Georgia and Dan lives a couple hours south of me in a group home for men with mental disabilities.  Thursday was his birthday.  Ever since last March, Dan has been looking forward to March 2--the day he would turn 60 years old--and has excitedly shared his birthday wishes with all of us. I was so glad to be able to celebrate with him a few days ago!

Growing up with Dan, I was the sibling that was closest to him in age, so we have always been especially close.
My parents recognized that he had some learning difficulties when his major milestones such as walking and talking were delayed. As many parents before them and since, they began searching for a diagnosis, but after visiting various therapy centers and doctors, realized there would be no magical cure and instead settled into embracing both his strengths and weaknesses alike and providing him with plenty of love and support.
While he went to outpatient therapies, we both went to a regular kindergarten at our church and then started first grade at our neighborhood school together.

My parents made the decision to hold him back from starting first grade (long before that was a popular thing) so that he could begin with me and have an extra year for maturity. He struggled through first and second grade before enrolling in a special school in our city where he thrived.

Through the years, there have been many challenges and so many joys. Thursday, I was once again reminded of the many ways Dan has affected my life in a positive way.  He has a charismatic personality that never met a stranger. While he struggles with depression at times, most people would never know it. His challenges with motor control have made it impossible for him to swallow pills, so for years, he has chewed up the nasty medications that are needed, thinly disguised in a spoonful of apple sauce or pudding---without ever complaining. His teeth have slowly been eaten away by the these medications, but yet he chooses to make jokes about the medicine instead of really complaining.
He loves a pretty lady and can charm most anyone he meets. He also has a mischievous side and loves to hear stories about the his childhood mischief.
When Ron first met Dan, he was amazed at his music knowledge---he can name the title and artist of most any popular song since the 60's and has quite a collection of DVD's. While he loves a good ghost story or old police sitcom, history documentaries are some of his favorites and he can tell you random facts about tons of events in US history.

Dan is especially fascinated by ghosts and monsters, so for this birthday, I wanted to do something special for him--a whole set of Big Foot themed gifts.
My favorite and most labor-intensive gift was a quilt featuring Big Foot walking through the trees.
He told me that he was going to start using it instead of his LSU fleece blanket, so I am pretty sure he liked it.
He seemed especially touched by the dedication label I sewed onto the back.
When I think about Dan and the most important lessons he has taught me, I think it really boils down to this.
Dan doesn't see differences in others the way many of us do. He doesn't care about your race, your age or your abilities or disabilities.
Everyone is his friend and he treats everyone the same. He offers a greeting or thank-you to servers at restaurants, doctors, nurses, receptionists, social workers, teachers, gas station attendants and trash collectors, just hoping to brighten someone's day.
He will hold the door for you and help you carry things if you need it. While childlike in his understanding of some things, he is protective of the people he loves and is KIND to everyone.
While there are many who openly make fun of those who are different and think that those with different abilities are lesser in some way, I can't help but think that this world would be a much better place if it were filled with more Dan's.

I am the lucky one. He's a "light" for me.  He's my big brother and I am so proud of him!!

Be First to Post Comment !

Custom Post Signature

Custom Post  Signature