Today is World Down Syndrome Day. This is a real thing. The United Nations General Assembly says so, and the date is quite significant. Today is 3/21 which is an important number because people with Down Syndrome have an extra copy (for a grand total of three) of the twenty-first chromosome. My brother, Jacob, owns that extra chromosome. No, seriously. He tells it who's boss.
My mother has always made that very clear. We were never embarrassed by Jacob's differences, because that is part of what makes him so special. If kids would ever comment on Jacob's appearance, us siblings would always jump in and say "and that's what makes him awesome." As a child, he had the most enviable blonde and curly hair. My mom would joke "it's that extra chromosome at work."
Thirty years ago, my parents were up against a different world. Down Syndrome was something that was whispered and not discussed. That would NOT work in our family. My parents became Jacob's advocates and never settled for less than the best. Jacob was enrolled in so many different types of therapies not to change him, but to make him thrive. And thrive he does.
He can't walk down the street without saying "hi" to at least one person that he knows. Because while everyone else is too busy being busy, Jacob looks around and says "hi" or some form of "hey there, good buddy." Everyone is Jacob's buddy. This extra chromosome is on to something here. Jacob is beyond special. He recognizes the importance of friendship and values these relationships. He is always the first person to post a "Happy Birthday" on a friend's Facebook page or message me at night to tell me "You are a great mom, sister friend." People need to hear positive praise. We live in a society that forgets that being mean isn't something to be coveted. His messages make my evening. Sometimes they make my week. I love being both his sister and his friend.
Jacob reminds people what is really important. Most of the time it isn't at all what they thought. It's the value of a community. Jacob has been embraced by this community. But he's really lucky. My parents are tenacious and adamant that "good enough" is never enough for Jacob. He is entitled to the best that life has to offer. My parents advocated for him when they thought that his education was subpar, a bus route too long, or extracurricular activities that weren't inclusive enough or at all. They paved the way, but now Jacob has mowed down that route in search of the next.
People thought that Jacob wouldn't be toilet trained, would never learn to read, write or swim. How wrong they all were. He's a social media maven. Take that, naysayers. #tenaciousJAKE
Oh, and Jacob finally got his driver's permit. And he only had one mistake.