This blog post is the first in a series titled “Lessons from my Brother”. Since Ken’s Place, in essence, is the result of a book I wrote about him, it’s only fitting that I include blogs related to how I experienced life and what I learned with Ken in it! As I write this blog post we are heading into the Christmas season and I’m listening to the Boney M Christmas Album. Dating myself I know but yes, I’m thinking of Ken since he loved “Feliz Navidad” and in a way, I think he’s here with me right now.
What’s it like growing up with a Down Syndrome brother? Well, you’ll find out all about it in my book “Hello My Name is Ken”, but I’ll give you a sense in this series as well.
So many people, friends and acquaintances alike, who knew me or our family thought life must have been pretty difficult having Ken around. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ken was the glue, the rock, the steady eddy when things were difficult for the rest of us. He had a way about him that was always calming, peaceful, wise and true. He could look at us with his big brown eyes, taking in what seemed like a big deal for us, and offer a comment or even just a classic smile that would put it all in perspective. Life for me was the ordinary day to day life of a kid, teenager and young adult with some of the challenges that go along with these ages. But having Ken with me through it all, honestly had a bigger impact on me then I realized at the time. In fact, one recollection during my early twenties, I was struggling more than usual and Ken sensed it. Since I lived a few hours away, we called once a week or so to check in and catch up. After hanging up from one of our usual calls, Ken turned to Mom and said something like, “Diana’s sad.” I didn’t know I had given any indication that indeed I was having a hard time dealing with an issue that felt too personal to chat with anyone yet, but Ken knew I was not in a good space. So Mom followed up, calling back and paying attention now to the tone in my voice, not prying but listening more intently, and decided to see if I would like Ken to come for a visit. I never hesitated to have him all to myself whenever I could, and saying yes, he arrived two days later and stayed for three weeks! Looking back now, I know that visit helped me gain perspective for my life at a particularly low period. Being in his presence, full of love, compassion and heartfelt connection, how could I question what life was all about. It was right there in front of me! Smiling, helping, caring and kibitzing with me, showing me that what seemed so serious, was in fact nothing I couldn’t handle. It was one of the TSN turning points in my life. Thank you Ken. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without you. A joy for us all, a gem for anyone who knew him.