I was raised in a family of three kids, two parents and one uncle. One down syndrome uncle. He moved in with my family when I was just 2 years old. He's the youngest and only son in a line of 5 daughters born to my grandparents in the 1940's and 1950's. For the next 20 years or so he resided as one of the Anderson's.
To say Steve was special is an understatement. No doubt special needs children are very special but Steve was a rare gem. He was smart and funny and a bit of a prankster. He knew how to cover for himself and he knew how to work hard. I remember on many occasions him pretending he couldn't remember a current boyfriend's name so he would call him by the last boyfriend's name. Then he would wink at me and chuckle as he walked away.
Our church started a Sunday School class for special needs people while I was in high school. My parents brought Steve with us to church and he would go to class and then sit with the family during the service. I remember in those formative teenage years being slightly embarrassed when he'd do something inappropriate...like sing to loud...or shake hands to tightly...God forbid. But as a teen trying to find my place in the world, it was somewhat awkward. I look back now and thank God for all those times. What a gift I had...to learn from him.
It's God's grace when He allows the weakest of these to be the wisest of them all....to teach those of us who think we are smart because we have all our chromosomes. It was in those 20 years of sharing a home that Steve taught me valuable, precious lessons. Lessons on loving unconditionally, lessons on living out loud, lessons on laughing and singing in the shower. Lessons on taking life less seriously. Lessons on hugging and saying grace even when no one was sitting at the table with you.
Today Steve had surgery. He's 60 years old. I'm pretty sure I've never seen another Down's that old. He lives in Texas with my aunt now and I wanted to be there to see him today before surgery. I knew it would help my mom if I was there, I hoped it would help my aunt that I was there, but mostly I wanted to go for me. I wanted to say "I love you" one more time. I wanted to look into those almond shaped blue eyes and silently whisper "thank you for teaching me so many life lessons"..."thank you for blessing me with your life"..."thank you for the way you gave love so easily and for your kind heart".
The surgery went fine...and who knows...maybe Steve will outlive us all. One thing I know... the life lessons he passed on to me sure will.