With the 24-hour news coverage of Sept. 11’s 10-year anniversary this past week, it can be difficult to see beyond the sadness and violence in the world. It seems there are always famines, political standoffs, wars, attacks and death. While these stories of tragedies almost always inevitably surface tales of heroism, kindness and the best of humankind, it can still be hard to find something to be gleeful about.
I’m lucky, though. All I have to do to find something happy is look at my Uncle Brian. Uncle Brian has Down syndrome, and he is also one of the happiest people I know. He is so happy, I think, because all he worries about are the simple things in life. His world revolves around Weaver Workshop, eating, singer Tom Jones and the Cleveland Indians. I would add family to that list, but although he loves us, if he had to choose between family and Tom Jones I really think Tom Jones would win.
Uncle Brian is a special person. Despite the chaos and drama that sometimes surrounds him, I almost always see him with a smile. When he drives with my family to Mass each week, he always says, “Hi, Enemy.” He’s never been able to say “Emily,” and it’s a long-standing joke in the family. Someone will quip, “Emily’s no enemy.” Brian responds with a no, he loves “Enemy.”
He also can certainly make me laugh. He spent the weekend at my house once and we set him up with YouTube to watch some Tom Jones videos. He was in the kitchen and, once he was all set up, I was in the family room watching a movie. I turned the volume up so his music didn’t distract but it did absolutely no good. Before long, I had the volume all the way up, but nothing could tune out Uncle Brian’s singing voice. It was so funny I had to record it to share with the rest of the family.
Yes, Uncle Brian loves singing. He has a weekly Saturday night Tom Jones concert. He is known to be wailing songs like “What’s New Pussycat” until the wee hours of the morning. I’m not at all sad I’ve only been exposed to that once.
Uncle Brian also has a hilarious laugh. It’s a silly giggle that makes you want to giggle in turn.
That’s not to say he’s perfect. Like any other person, he certainly has flaws. Uncle Brian tends to be very ornery. (Although I can’t say that’s really his fault necessarily; it seems to run in the family.) When he’s scolded for it, he reacts as a child would and pouts.
He also gets on my nerves sometimes when he seems to need to know everything about everyone. If my dad isn’t at Mass one day because he had a weekend meeting, Uncle Brian will ask five times, “Where’s Patrick?” even though you’ve already told him. Sometimes when he does this I snip at him. I always immediately feel bad about it. I feel badly, partly because he has Down Syndrome and maybe I should cut him extra slack, but mostly because I know he asks because he loves his big brother and is concerned Pat’s not where he usually is on a Sunday morning.
Uncle Brian reminds me to be happy with what I’ve got. It’s important to remember your family and the activities you enjoy. The world outside of your little hamlet can be daunting and depressing at times. I think it’s important to be aware of what happens in the world because it inevitably affects us all. However, it is also important to take time out in the midst of the chaos to do something that makes us joyful, even if it’s singing a tone-deaf to a Tom Jones song at 2 a.m.