“Your baby brother has Down syndrome.” These words were daunting in association with the cute little boy my parents had just brought home to join our family. As we gathered in the family room, “oohing “and “ahhing,” passing Ryan from one sibling’s arms to another, I could not help but wonder what exactly this “diagnosis” meant for my little brother and for our family? After celebrating the joy of Ryan’s birth, I felt the fear of the unknown.
During the early years of Ryan’s life, I maintained my denial that he was any different from any other little baby. He looked the same, perhaps even a little cuter in my eyes. He smiled the same, laughed the same, loved the same, he was the same. More importantly, he was my brother and at that time defining him as different seemed to carry a negative connotation. However, different is not a bad thing. If you identify synonyms of different, you find the words; individual, independent, divergent. And let’s be honest, these are positive words. Who would not want to be defined by them. Looking into the deeper meaning, I have to agree that Ryan is in fact different.
Ryan is different. He is different because he loves without question. When I brought my now fiancé home to meet my family for the first time, I was nervous. I dreaded any awkward moments in that initial meeting, but Ryan doesn’t allow for strangers to feel unwelcome. When you visit my home, Ryan will take you by the hand and introduce you to everyone in his large family of eight. He will pepper you with questions about yourself, engaging you immediately in conversation, offer you some food and choices of a beverage, relay a joke or funny story, demand you laugh, and more than likely the visit will end with a group hug. I don’t know many individuals who welcome all without hesitation, and in this way Ryan is different.
Ryan is different because he doesn’t care what people think. If he wishes to strike a silly pose, he will strike it, even if it takes place while walking down the aisle at our sister’s wedding. If he is at a packed event and his favorite song comes on, then out come the dance moves. Ryan knows how to bring the fun regardless of the crowd. Again, I don’t know many people who do what makes them happy without first thinking about the thoughts and opinions of others, but Ryan does and that makes him different.
I have come to find that the world would be a pretty boring place without Ryan and every other person in our world who openly expresses individuality. Ryan continuously brings a smile to my face each day. He has taught me extreme patience in times of trial, the importance of focusing on the positive things that surround you each day, the benefits of finding moments of silliness throughout your day and most importantly to be yourself. Ryan has taught me to be accepting of other people’s differences because everyone should not be the same. That is the beauty of life.
There really is no greater gift than having a sibling who is “different.”