My "Normal" Brother
I heard it said that you cannot understand what "abnormal" is until you have established what is "normal". But what is "normal" to little children? If you have lived for only five years on earth, you have had very limited experiences, not enough to be able to correctly determine what counts as strange or weird. Every experience is strange at first, even the ‘normal’ ones. But after the initial encounter, this experience becomes normal…
This was me and as far as my five year old mind was concerned, I had two normal brothers; one was different from the other, and that was how it was supposed to be. I knew that Damola, my then 8 year old brother did not act the same as Demilade, the 6 year old. He did not talk as much and did not always understand what was being said to him. He did not seem to have any inhibitions, and did not express feelings of shame. He did not often stand up for himself and would always answer truthfully to every question asked. He did not write neatly or answer most math questions correctly. Yes, he was different from Demilade, different from other 8 year old children, but to me, he was just Damola. His disabilities and quirks were hardly different from the ones of any toddler. Was I supposed to know or care that an eight year old should not to act like a toddler?
I grew up and so did my perspective. I began to see what normal entailed, and I began to care. Damola, Demilade, Dedun, my younger sister, and I went to the mall on one of those Saturday afternoons that make you wish you never left the house. As usual, we kept one eye on Damola to make sure he did not get lost, but when we walked into a fast food restaurant, all three of us were distracted by friends and no one saw Damola walk up to a table where a family of five were having lunch. My brother turned just in time to watch Damola pick up a glass from the table and without a word, gulp down the drink that had belonged to the teenage daughter sporting a very surprised look on her face. Damola put the glass down on the table, expressed his content with a loud sigh, and turned to walk away. Demilade rushed up to the family and began to apologize and explain to the family that Damola did not fully understand social norms. Fortunately, they saw the funny side. When I heard the story, I was half amused and half horrified. It was one of those times when I could admit to myself that "normal" was easier.
Princess and Damola at the 2015 Summer World Games Welcome Ceremony
I grew up and so did my perspective. I knew what was considered normal but it didn't change my mind about my brother. I simply decided that "normal" wasnt always a good thing. You see, Damola doesn't tell lies, he simply doesn’t know how to. Think about it, telling a lie requires the mental capacity to create an event that did not occur or create a fact that does not exist. For my brother, it is simply too difficult to lie. I love that I know that everything Damola tells me is the truth that he believes. Damola cannot grasp the concepts of resentment, bitterness or revenge. It simply comes naturally to him to forgive people and forget the wrong they might have done to him. Damola does not lie and does not expect any one else to. Call that naiveté, and I’ll call it unbending trust. He does not need to be cautious about who he trusts because he has us, his family, to ensure that whoever he places his faith in, is someone who is worthy of this honor. Damola simply cannot understand arrogance and will never treat any person with less respect or affection than the next person, regardless of status or authority. Damola is affectionate, loving and friendly, and he exudes this air everywhere he goes and with whomever he meets. Damola is neither selfish nor self-seeking. He is not hypocritical, cunning or sneaky. He will help anyone who needs it and will never ask for something in return. Damola might never become a brain surgeon, a physicist or award winning writer but he will always be a person with the most affectionate, loving and wonderful soul imaginable. He has Down syndrome and so society will call him abnormal, but like I imagine he would say, who wants to be normal anyway?
By Princess Roberts
Younger sister to SO Nigeria athlete and Greece 2011 and Los Angeles 2015 gold-medalist - Damola Roberts
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