At age ten I sat in my family’s dining room perusing the glutinous treats that were spread across the table. Father Michael, our family priest (I am Irish and Italian…yes, we have a family priest) sat down next to me, popped some cookies in his mouth, and quizzed me on my recently acquired knowledge from the fifth grade. Father Michael is a highly educated man, stemming from the nation’s best universities and always seeks answers to profound questions. However, for some reason, we, ten-year-old Emily and the Roman Catholic priest began talking about my Aunt Gracie. He gently asked me, “Emily, how old were you when you actually noticed Gracie was different?” He wondered if I understood that my Aunt was unique.
Ever the politically correct child (okay, the sass may have just been starting), I mentioned something about everyone being special. He smirked and then pressed for more information. I knew Grace was “different.” I was ten and taller than her. I could read and write. She was 28 years old and couldn’t do either particularly well. But, I had no idea when in my life I made that observation. I was quick to heed to his cheeky personality. I responded, “She’s the most normal one in the family.”
However, Gracie is ANYTHING but ordinary. She is my Aunt and she has Down syndrome. She defied a generation of doctor’s opinions and society’s impressions of the developmentally disabled. She was born in 1966 when the medical world was slowly transitioning to tolerate (yes, to tolerate) children with disabilities. Gracie has had a profound impact on my life, and the life of my family and friends.
(To be continued)
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