Getting down with the “Up Syndrome”
For as long as I’ve been alive my uncle Todd has been working. He LOVES his job. He tells me every time I see him “Brittany I work, I made the fries!” When breakfast became the 24/7 crave, oh man was he pumped, to quote the man, “Fries, hash browns, hash browns, fries all day. I busy now, can’t talk.”
Late last year some of you may have seen an article, in the news or on Facebook, about a man being honored for 30 years of service at McDonald’s. That man? You guessed it, uncle Todd. To some, 30 years may seem like nothing. Shoot, I haven’t even been alive 30 years yet (I am getting close though), but to him, this was a great accomplishment.
When asked if he plans on retiring he proudly says, “oh no, I not old to retire.” He is such a young heart. My grandmother has always told me raising him had its challenges, but she would change nothing about her time with him. She always encouraged Todd to do and try new things. I know my grandparents would love for my uncle to retire so the three of them could travel more and see the world, but to her own fault, she raised a hardworking man.
Working isn’t my uncle’s only love. When it comes to sports you better love football and you better like the Dallas Cowboys, The Ohio State University, or the Liberty Center Tigers. Growing up Hope services offered Todd many outlets for sports. I love to look back on his track pictures and basketball trophies. As a young adult Todd joined the bowling league. Now I can assure you I inherited NONE of his bowling skills.
My grandmother’s advice to any families out there whose child has Down Syndrome, get them active! Nothing can hold you back except your own self-doubt. Children need outlets that involve them to use their minds and muscles, to help grow both physically and mentally.
Growing up I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have my uncle Todd. He is one of a kind, just like all of us, but he really is one of a kind. He was always pushing himself. When he wasn’t working, he was at home writing random facts about literally everything. I would see him grab a dictionary and write out words and their definitions, sometimes for hours while I visited my grandparents’ house. He also LOVES a good word puzzle, again another gene that I didn’t get.
At the time I didn’t realize that my uncle was teaching me something that I now teach the kids. Not everything will come to us easily. You may have to put in a little work to understand and to get places in life. He knew that he had a hard time remembering things so he would write them down, and read them over and over again. I struggled in math, so I found an easier way to help get me through high school algebra.
When most of America thinks of Down Syndrome, they only think of the struggles an individual (and his/her family) will face. They seldom think or can envision the joy and love of having a child with an extra chromosome. When I say those words out loud it feels so weird to say, because for me, to think any differently of my uncle is crazy! He still loved playing sports with me. Before his back surgery, he was the noblest of steads a cowgirl could ask for, and he attended every game me, my siblings, and my cousins played to the best of his ability. I like to think that my sweet uncle went through the hard periods of his life to be the best uncle a girl could ask for.
Each year about 6,000 babies are born with Down Syndrome. I feel so lucky to not have one but TWO family members that are among those numbers. My kid cousin Luke, who is a literal ray of the sun just turned 18 this past December. That kid can turn the darkest of rooms into the happiest of places. These two are the prime examples of the joy and love families and communities are blessed to know and have present in their lives.
Seeing my uncle get old is really hard, I want him to remain the happy hardworking Todd he has always been in my life. But I know that is not how life works for any of us. I challenge everyone to follow my Uncle Todd’s advice “Be happy, Have Faith, and have a nice day.”
Written by guest writer: Brittany Ruehl