Thursday, June 13, 2013


Growing up I had a number of cousins that lived only a mile or two from us, and we spent countless hours playing, and spending days at Grandma's house.

Dan was one of my favorites, he was about 10 years older than I, and stood at least two feet above my tiny frame.  I remember thinking that he didn't use many words when he talked, but I always knew what he meant, and words are unnecessary when you are little.

He loved baseball, and played countless games in which he was the pitcher, batter, umpire, and fans all in one.  I didn't know much about sports, but I liked to watch him--he was so animated, and happy.  One time I stood too close to his back-swing and received a knot on the head.  I ran to my mom crying, but through my tears told her "Dan didn't mean to--I stood where he couldn't see me."

Dan taught me how to play Uno.  He would patiently deal the cards and then show me which card to play when it was my turn.  I think I was only about five, and didn't understand much of the strategy of the game until later.

 I was about 7 or 8 when I realized that Dan was different than I.  Things that I couldn't put my finger on felt a little off somehow.  I suppose it was around this same age that some children at my school used the word "retard" to label a child who struggled with academics, and I was outraged.

For a rather shy student I spoke out angrily at the teasing.  I gave a 2nd grade lecture, complete with hands on my hips, to the other children on being kind, and the virtues of recognizing different talents than academics.  They gave me a blank stare--but for the first time I realized that Dan and other people like him needed someone to speak up for them.

 I could do that--Dan may not communicate well, or be able to think exactly like I could, but I could speak out for him.  So I did!  When my friends would meet him for the first time I tried to point out his talents, and later explained his differences.

 I didn't realize it, but Dan affected how I looked at the world around me in a profound way.

I see him about once a year now.  He's in his forty's and he still loves baseball.  He talks less than he used to, but I can still make him smile.

Last year when Sugar Pea was a tiny baby I saw him at a family picnic.  He peeked into my arms at her tiny form and wrinkled face, and grinned and gave me thumbs up.  He may not understand foster parenting, or where this little baby came from, but he approved, and that made me smile.