Thank You, Peter
By Katherine Bruening
I was frustrated. My eleven year-old brother simply could not
understand that fifteen plus three was eighteen, not two. While my frustration
turned to anger, I realized we both needed a break, so we played our favorite
game. The rules were simple: first one to laugh lost. It was easy playing with
Peter. He always lost. I winked at Peter and he burst into laughter. When he
laughed, I could not help but wonder how he was able to find such effortless
delight despite the daily harassment and challenges he faces because of his Down
syndrome. If I had to endure one day of his life, I doubt I would be able to
find such joy. As soon as Peter laughed, I did too. With his laugh, I was able
to rid myself of my anger and frustration; my patience and perspective returned.
Eleven years ago I sat on the hospital bed, disappointed that
my parents had ignored my simple request to have a sister; they explained to me
that Peter would never be the same as my other two brothers. He would never talk
as well, run as fast, grow as tall, understand as easily, or be treated as
fairly as others would. Not quite understanding what my parents were telling me,
my mother gently took my hand and looked at me intently. She told me that life
would be much harder for Peter, that people are going to think he is strange,
and that he will not always feel accepted. She explained that it was my job to
be his big sister, to make him feel accepted at home, and to give him extra
love. This would be a job for all of us. Though I was still unaware of what was
to come, it was at that moment I set aside some special love – love designated
only for my special brother.
As I became older I grew more aware of my own disabilities
and shortcomings. Being home schooled through the third grade, I did not possess
all the social skills that other children my age had acquired throughout their
years together at a mainstream school. But I was able to adapt and be accepted.
Peter was not as fortunate as I. As Peter grew up, his disabilities became
increasingly apparent, and the love I reserved for him proved to be more vital
that I ever could have imagined. All that my parents predicted about my precious
brother became a reality. When Peter started school, mainstream children did not
understand why Peter acted and looked so different from them, and as a result,
it was not uncommon for Peter to be name-called and taunted. Unlike me, however,
he is still not able to communicate his thoughts and feelings and his pains and
joys to others. Yet, Peter was and is able to continue through these moments
with a smile.
Today I often wonder how Peter views his life and if he has
any idea how much he has impacted mine. It is natural for one to have moments of
frustration or even anger. I know I that I do. But Peter, my younger brother,
has shown me how to accept not only my shortcomings but also my abilities.
Furthermore, he has shown me patience: patience for others as they struggle to
overcome their limitations as well as patience for myself as I struggle.
I am human; I get frustrated, angry, and exasperated. But because of Peter I
have learned how to be a more loving sister. I have learned how to be more
accepting and patient with myself and with others. Without my little brother I
would not be the same person I am today – his impact on my life has changed me
forever. I am thankful everyday that I am fortunate enough to have such a
wonderful person in my life.
Thank you, Peter.