I want to speak about a somewhat taboo topic, disabilities and mental handicaps. I want to introduce you to someone who I love dearly and consider my good “pal” as he would say it. His name is Uncle Bret. He is my Uncle, and everyone I have introduced him to consider him to be their own Uncle Bret. He was born in Germany while my grandpa was in the Air Force. When Uncle Bret was born, he was different, he had Down Syndrome.
noun: Down’s syndrome; noun: Down syndrome; plural noun: Down syndromes
- a congenital disorder arising from a chromosome defect, causing intellectual impairment and physical abnormalities including short stature and a broad facial profile. It arises from a defect involving chromosome 21, usually an extra copy (trisomy-21).
I remember when I was little and my grandparents would drive from Logan to visit us in Boise. I would get very excited, it meant Uncle Bret was coming. At the time, much of my excitement came from the fact that my mom stocked the house with chocolate milk for him (one of the few things he likes to drink), but now it has become much more. On one of my grandparents visits, I remember going to Albertson’s with my dad and Uncle Bret. At first I was afraid of what people would think of us because Uncle Bret looked different from the people staring at him. I didn’t know if people were curious or were looking down upon him. It was when a son and father had walked by and the son kept staring, the dad grabbed him by the arm and said “stop staring at that retard.” I am pretty sure I was the only one to hear it. My.heart.broke. I was so little, but I knew we never ever used that word, because it wasn’t kind. I wasn’t always clear on why my mother told us not to use it, but that day I learned exactly why. As years have passed I have heard many stories of how my mom and her two sisters protected Uncle Bret. It is hard to think that we ever have to protect him, that there are still people out there who will tease him for who he is and what he looks like. People with disabilities have a unique and special spirit and the kindest hearts. They have talents that many of us don’t have.
Uncle Bret and I have spent a lot of time together. I went to college in Logan and would see him 2 to 3 times a week. I consider it to be one of my favorite blessings. I have learned so much from him. He has taught me kindness, love, patience, true happiness, and has been a tender mercy to so many around him. I have learned that we have some similarities… We both like shows, and we both like to watch them over and over again. We can quote them, and we never get sick of them. We both love a good routine, there is nothing better than a regular schedule and sticking to it. We both enjoy teasing each other. Usually we have fake arguments that end with him saying “Clare Cry” and him giving me a hug and saying ”back better.” Even though we are different in appearance, we still have similarities.
I consider myself lucky. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that not everyone grows up knowing someone who has disabilities and I have been blessed by a love that is rare. When we come across something unfamiliar we are not always comfortable. Sometimes when we meet someone who is “different” from us, we tend to stare, or feel uncomfortable because it is new to us. When we are unsure on how to do something, or feel uncomfortable, the only way to overcome that is to try it out, get to know them, find out what they like to do, spend time with them, I can promise you that you will have a lasting friendship. The reason I wanted to write on this was because it is end the R-WORD week. If you are someone who uses the word, just stop. If you use it as a describing word of something you find “stupid, uncool, or dumb” I want you to reconsider. God made all of us and he loves all of us, we should follow his example and never show unkindness towards someone who is different.