Virtues My Brother Taught Me
by Patty Aycock, sister of JFGH resident, Bob
My sweet brother just turned 57. It was our turn to host his birthday party. It was grand. The genuine highlight in his life is to be surrounded by his big, loving family. Pure Heaven. He’s The Star. His party was highly anticipated indeed. This is a time of reflection, too.
As the fifth sibling, born in 1958, Bob has Down syndrome. At 65, I’m a big sister and a 20-year legal guardian. Always gregarious, my charming, happy, favorite brother is sadly now digressing with Alzheimer’s confusion and memory loss. Yes, I wept at the news and the loss surely to come. But wait, his life has much to teach me, still.
Anticipating mortality brings introspection, self-examination. In that evolving emotional journey, I’ve realized now that without sweet Bob, I’d never have the chance to reach deep into my heart and mind, and find life’s richest, most meaningful gift. That gift is making another, Bob, abundantly happy and knowing unconditional love. Not by saying, by doing. He arrived abundantly happy, as many people with Down syndrome do. He is well loved and so easy to love. Gentle Bob is always patient and kind. I hope to meet him where he is – at any given moment – every time.
Our family has the good genetic trait of lots of energy. Imagine the challenge of gearing down from our high energy to Bob’s speed, and maintaining his pace, happily. That’s patience. I’ve learned to listen to sweet Bob perseverate, or repeat himself multiple times, and stutter, for a lifetime.
I wait patiently for him to get out each word, and that’s okay. It’s not my voice he hears, but my face he reads. That is patience I learned from him. We all need to be heard.
Kindness–I completely learned from sweet Bob. He’s the kindest, most gentle one I know. Out of the blue long ago, it struck me that Bob is the epitome of kindness. Lacking malice or complicity, he is what a friend calls “having a pure heart”. It took forever to fully comprehend “a pure heart”. Now it feels transcendent – powerful, beautiful, loving. Can we have more of that from humanity? Just watch sweet Bob – his full smile can melt an iceberg.
The role of sister, advocate and chief cheerleader is one I want to do well. Wearing those hats brought the added virtues of fortitude, perseverance, and prudence-looking ahead to pre-plan for Bob’s future. Time, hopefully, has added a sprinkling of wisdom and maybe some knowledge. Thanks, Bob, for the all the virtues you taught me. I am forever in your debt. Where and who would I be without you in my life? It’s ironic, how people often say how lucky Bob is to have me as he sister. The truer fact is how lucky I am to have Bob as my brother.
If you have a sibling story you’d like to share, please email BShapiro@jfgh.org.