Down Syndrome Awareness: “My life changed by meeting one person”

By Jared A’Latorre, Sports Editor

With Down Syndrome Awareness month here, many people (such as my family and myself) feel a connection to this celebration.

About nine years ago, my parents considered caring for an adult who has Down Syndrome. He had an unfortunate living situation and the next step was a nursing home.

It all started back in December of 2009 when a man named Dubbie stayed with us for a weekend to see how it would play out.

Surprisingly, I was a little shy, but only because I really was not aware of what was happening.

As the hourglass was running low on the weekend trial, I seemed to have sparked the most conversation with him out of anybody else, and when he left on that Sunday, I could imagine him in our family.

It was Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2010 when my best friend, Dubbie entered our family for good.

At first, we were all getting used to the different scenery in the house: a computer room turning into a personal room, a family bathroom turning into a personal bathroom and a family bathtub turning into a personal bath-tub.

Little did we know at the time, we thought we would have him for maybe a couple years. It’s turned out to be nine years and counting.

Even though my parents have sacrificed so much for him, we have all been enriched by the experience by getting to invite someone new to live life with us.

My parents have to help him walk to the dinner table, change his clothes, get him ready for bed and even have someone to stay to keep an eye on him.

However, there are more bright and uplifting moments than there are chores and sacrifices.

I know that I’ve learned a lot from Dubbie in my time with him. I have learned that Elvis is the best singer ever. Dr. Pepper is the go-to drink. The Dallas Cowboys are still Super Bowl material.

The point is, Dubbie has come from a person we were only taking care of to be a part of our family.

We have laughed, smiled, danced and more.

He has been more than a family member to me.

He is my friend.

Three-and-a-half decades ago, the life expectancy was 25 years for those with Down Syndrome.

Back in the late 50’s, the life expectancy was not even 10 years.

With improved research and medicine, those with Down Syndrome can enjoy longer lives, and we can enjoy the impact of those lives.

We are so fortunate to have people with Down Syndrome living longer–impacting our lives and enriching our experiences. Of course, it isn’t just about “us,” however. Dubbie has an impact on so many more–his heart is. . .wondrous.

My parents have made a sacrifice to better Dubbie’s life. Me and my brothers have, too, and we feel like it is all for the best. Even though my family may have worked to improve his life, I know he made an impact on ours–I know he has improved all of our lives in turn.

Growing up, I may have had more chores to complete to facilitate another family member, but his company was always a gift–I never really noticed any “extra” work.

His company was more social than necessary, and I now feel privileged to offer him aid.

With my personal experience with Dubbie, I now know how it feels to have someone enrich my life in a way I would have never thought.

My parents do what not many people would want to do. They feel it is the right thing to do as parents and as Christians.

My relationship with Dubbie has only improved.

Nine years ago, I don’t think he and I were close enough for my absence to bother him. Now, he becomes sad when I leave home to return to college.

In this month of Down Syndrome Awareness, we must recognize the fact that people are people.

We should not celebrate people and their disabilities. Instead, we should celebrate their abilities. I am confident that my friend Dubbie would agree with that, too.

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