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The Question My Cousin With Down Syndrome Asked When He Caught Me in a 'Funk'

I remember the day I met you. You were a baby, and my 5-year-old self was intrigued by how small the palms of your hands were and how your eyes wandered to each of us. I always wondered what was going on in your head. I know for sure your baby self wasn’t thinking about the tremendous impact you would have on your cousin Anna’s life. In fact, my 5-year-old self had no clue how much you would teach me. You would influence my views on life and teach me of a love so strong that I didn’t know existed.

It doesn’t take much at all for you to put a smile on my face. In fact, seeing you stand in the doorway as you arrive at family parties all dressed up to perfection is enough to make me feel an overwhelming sense of happiness. You always do the best out of everyone at making your rounds, saying “hello,” and of course giving hugs and kisses. I hope you know these small acts don’t go unnoticed. You make each and every one of us feel special and important. You have your inside jokes with all of us and your curiosity leads to some of the best relationships. It amazes me to see the special connection you have with each of us, and it makes me hope I can have just as large of an impact on everyone I meet.

I rarely see you without a smile on your face. What amazes me is how quickly you manage to get yourself together, put that smile back on your face and be a trooper. Whatever the scenario may be, anything from a meltdown to finding out your cousins off at college won’t be at the family party, you manage to accept the bad and move on. Now when I get upset for whatever reason, I remember what you would do. Accept the bad and move on.

I can recall a day when we were together with our families. I wasn’t feeling like myself, but I shrugged it off and tried to make the best out of the family time I had. It wasn’t unusual for me to feel this way considering I occasionally get into “funks” due to my depression. I went about that night trying to distract myself from how I was feeling. I laughed and smiled, but I wasn’t able to shake it off altogether. I felt alone, and nobody noticed anything was wrong. You and I shared a chair in the family room as the rest of our family sat around the dinner table exchanging stories.

Out of nowhere, you looked me in the eye and asked “What’s wrong?” It left me speechless. You knew something wasn’t right and you expressed your concern to me when I did everything possible to hide it. Right then and there, I realized nothing was wrong. I may be in a funk, but I was surrounded by the ones I love most. That night, you gave me an extra hard squeeze when we hugged goodbye. You taught me to love unconditionally and to always keep my eye open for when a loved one may need me most.

Thank you for teaching me lessons I can’t learn from a textbook. Whether I need a laugh, somebody to get my mind off of life’s stressors, a shoulder to cry on or whatever else, you are there. Your unconditional love and bubbly personality go a long way, and you have impacted my life more than I could have ever imagined.

woman and boy in front of tree
Anna and her cousin, Matthew.
The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us one thing your loved ones might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. What would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Have you seen the first film with a national release to star a person with Down syndrome? Check out the film “Where Hope Grows” today!

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