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World Down Syndrome Day

Updated: Mar 23, 2020

Today is World Down Syndrome Day. In a time when we spend so much time talking about quality of life … and "choice" ... I felt compelled to share the vital role my Uncle Frank played in my life. Regrettably, no one can “accuse” me of returning the favor. Uncle Frank was born with Down Syndrome. At the time of his birth … my grandparents were told he wouldn’t see 12. He died in 2011 at the age of 67. During that time he taught me patience, compassion, understanding and an awareness of my own limitations without intention. Raised by my grandparents who refused to institutionalize him (Frank and Mary Felice), he was at all times encouraged (and expected) to rise above the frustration of an impairment that cruelly accommodated his own awareness of it … with dignity. With the assistance of tutors, Frank learned to read, write, play the piano, organ, drums, and swim with rhythmic breathing. No matter how neglectful a nephew I had been … he always told me he loved me, was ready with a smile, and up for a joke or “teasing” that produced his trademark body convulsing laugh. He referred to me as “Franken.”

Busy with my own life … my contact with him was very limited after law school. After he died … I spent several days in the house where he lived out his life winding “things” up for my mother where I became sensible of my relational carelessness. I was sorry that I hadn’t told him that I am a better man for the things he taught me, that his life had tremendous value, and that I loved him. So instead … I’m telling you. I hope in the telling that I can share Uncle Frank’s legacy to me … with you.

Pass it on …

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