Today’s guest blogger is my brother, Dan. He’s the youngest of three lawyers in our family. He is being sworn into the bar in a few weeks and we couldn’t be more proud of him. Though nothing makes us prouder than the amazing uncle he is to Annie. I’m not going to say much more about him because his letter says so much about the kind of person he is. We love you and miss you every day, Zio Danny! And your Annabelle can’t wait for the next chance to dance with you to The Felice Brothers’ “Radio Song.”
I write you at the request of your mother in honor of the second Down Syndrome Awareness month of your young life. She did not specifically ask me to write you a letter but rather that I write something expressing how much you and Down Syndrome have beautifully impacted my life over the past year and a half.
I decided that the way in which I am most qualified to speak on the subject is in a personal letter to you. If the letter serves as nothing more than a concrete expression of how much you mean to me and how much I love you, then the letter will be 10,000 times more valuable to me than the time I have spent on it. And if by some miracle some wisdom or awareness is imparted onto someone then we will count that as a bonus.
Before I start I want you to know that it was with great pride and nervousness that I accepted this assignment. Pride because you and this cause mean so much to me and nervousness because contributing to a blog belonging to as talented a writer as your mom is a daunting task; but just as you do when your mom challenges you with a new and seemingly impossible task, I will let out one sigh and then give it hell until I can smile with pride at my effort.
In this month of Down Syndrome awareness I must ironically admit that my greatest sin in my response to your diagnosis was too much awareness, or at least the wrong kind of awareness. Before I sent an email to your mom expressing my sheer joy about your birth I spent hours researching Down Syndrome. I thought that the worst thing I could do would be to say the wrong thing and accidentally hurt your mom’s feelings. I read about and considered the possibility that you would have heart defects, learning disabilities, and other health complications. I let those things define you and that day. I celebrated the first hours of your life by imagining the difficulties you MAY face. What a terrible and unfair thing to do to you. Never before had I put a newborn through this exercise in my mind, why would I start with you?
But I did and I agonized over the wording of the email I sent your mom, trying to be extremely sensitive to your diagnosis. Hours later, I decided I was finally satisfied with the wording of the email. I read it out loud and began to laugh. I realized that the email was worded almost exactly as I would have written it had you not been diagnosed with Down Syndrome. And what should have been obvious to me from the beginning, and would have saved me a lot of time, was finally clear; it was clear that the response you and your family needed and deserved from me was simply the love and support I would give any child born to one of my siblings.
It is unfortunate that throughout your life you will be treated differently by people you meet simply because you have Down Syndrome, but as this happens try to remember two things: that most of these people are not bad people at heart and more importantly know that you have the power to teach these people about the beauties of Down Syndrome. I know you have this power because I have experienced you exercise it on me countless times. I admit that on the first day of your life I spent most of it thinking about heart defects and the learning and developmental challenges you might face, but then I met you.
From the first moment I met you the only heart I was concerned about was my own. It melted when I met you, skipped a beat the first time you shared your food with me, and I knew it would never be the same after your baby-hogging Madrina tried to steal you from me and you turned from her and hugged me tightly around my neck, letting everyone know you were not quite ready to let me give you up. The only learning challenge I think about now is whether I can keep up with your sign language vocabulary and the only developmental issues that cross my mind is whether I can pull off your latest dance moves. Without even trying you opened up my eyes to the beauty of Down Syndrome and to the fact that those beauties are not really different than the beauties associated with any human life. I’m excited to watch and hopefully help you open the eyes of those who have not yet had the great benefit of knowing how awesome you truly are.
Annie, I do not think that it is a great secret in our family that I have wanted to be an uncle for a long time. If your mom and dad would have had a shotgun wedding, I would have been on board because it would have meant I would have been an uncle even sooner. Having had a lot of time to dream about being an uncle, I developed some pretty high expectations for my future niece or nephew. I want you to know that you have already exceeded every one of them. People ask me all the time how it is to finally be an uncle. I always tell them that it is unbelievable but also a little scary because I never knew I was capable of the kind or amount of love I feel for you. You are the greatest gift in my life. Happy Down Syndrome Awareness month! I miss you so much!
So much love,