My friend Donna Spina recently posted pictures on Facebook of her brother and Dad while they were visiting from the weekend before. I immediately sent a message to Donna and said, "Please, tell me more about your Dad and brother's relationship!" I knew just from looking at the pictures that there was a great story....and I was right. I asked Donna to write this post so we can all enjoy this love story...
A Father and His Only Son
A Touching Tale Told by His Daughter
It was on September 6, 1960 that my brother was born in a small suburban hospital a short distance from Philadelphia, PA. The doctor regretfully informed my father that his new son had Downs Syndrome. This diagnosis was withheld from our mother for two weeks. Somehow, her intuition sensed something was not quite right.
The sixties were a much different time for a special needs child and their parents. Due to a lack of skilled training and programming, structured family and financial support, or just understanding, professional medical guidance recommended the child be placed in an institution to not burden the family. The belief was special needs children would not live long anyway. With the nature of institutions in those days, that was a guarantee.
My parents would not hear of such a course of action. Named for his father, Joseph, rather “Jophus” (my childlike pronunciation) came home to us. It is a nickname, among others, that has stuck.
To this day I marvel at my father’s unwavering, unconditionally loving acceptance of his only son.
He has never once talked about the “what if” Jophus was not different.
With all the sincerity in the world, he says he would not change a thing. In Dad’s generation, some fathers were known to have abandoned the family to avoid the perceived disgrace.
Not our Dad.
A Miracle. A new, wonderful, much sought after school was built in our area just for boys like Jophus. The education and care promised could make his quality of life even greater. With much effort and endurance, my parents were successful in getting Jophus, then 9 years old, a coveted spot. One drawback. He would only come home every other weekend.
I remember the first night around the dinner table. Just like the characters in Dickens fabled “A Christmas Carol”, Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim, the emotional impact of that empty seat proved too much for my father.
It was the first time I ever saw my Dad cry.
The Blessing. Dad was a lifelong expert auto mechanic. He loves everything with an engine from cars, to motorcycles, boats, and airplanes. His workplace was down the road from the new school and his skill proved integral to help his beloved son and the transition. When servicing their small fleet of vehicles, Dad used the opportunity to secretly peak in on Jophus and even partner with his less than enthusiastic son make the workshop “quota” of bagged rubber bands. To Dad, the good deed of donating his time would also be insurance reflected in my brother’s care.
Two Peas in Pod turned BFFs. Growing up, Dad and Beatle (as he was also called) spent much quality time together. Side by side at any dinner table (“Get a good seat” Dad tells Beatle), car rides (going fast over bumps just to hear Beatle say “wheeee!”), motorcycle rides (to ask for one Bean mimicked the throttle wrist action that makes the bike go forward), Saturday afternoons at the field flying model airplanes Dad built in our basement (his flying friends would help watch little Jophus and “bury” his dirty diapers), and summer fun on the water (many radios went overboard and are at the bottom of the ocean). At family gatherings, a quick glance around the room would find them sitting together or walking while holding hands.
Dad bought only one new car that he still owns today, his entire married life. Guess what is on the vanity license plate? “JOPHUS” My mind’s eye conjures up these images and it still makes my heart melt.
My mother once asked me if having a brother like Jophus had ever held me back in any way. I answered without hesitation, absolutely not. He made me a better person.
What was the effect being the Big Sister to such an Eternal Innocent Child? Let’s start with Gratitude. The list of what I was able to learn, do, go, experience as a result of being born “normal” is too long to itemize.
Patience, kindness, acceptance, forgiveness, humility, and unconditional love knowing Jophus did not have a choice in his Being but I do. Despite those inherent limitations, he courageously fought back from chronic respiratory illnesses, learned to be a gentleman like his father, communicated his needs despite being non-verbal, and grew into an endearing, affectionate little man who makes people laugh with his unexpected humorous antics. At 54 years old, less than five feet in height, and a bit of a Santa belly, he continues to amaze us as to what he knows and the new things he still learns. “He is so funny; you never know what he will do.” Dad often says. Jophus picked us to be his keepers. That’s the greatest reward.
Throughout his life our now 84 year old Dad authored many funny phrases to put a lighthearted spin on things. “When Beatle grows up I am telling him what you said.” “That’s my boy!” he joyfully exclaims to introduce Jophus or as he enters a room. If accused of not thinking clearly, Dad will say in his own defense “I am saving my brain to leave to Beatle”. Try as he might, that will not be possible. Dad has memory issues now. Still, my favorite is how Dad sums everything up with “My Beatle is perfect.”
This fabulous father and his superbly special son share an indivisible bond that endures growing older and the physical challenges which accompany the cycle of life. Whether it is play time, nap time, or even when time runs out, I will be forever thankful for smart phones. In a swift click the magic in the moment is captured creating a treasured memory to re-live over and over again.
This was a guest post by Donna Spina. Donna is a business, personal growth, and Entrepreneural Transition coach. She is also the co author of:
“Woman Power: Strategies for Female Leadership” (forthcoming Amazon, September 27, 2014)
“The Happy Law Practice”
Expert Strategies to Build Business While Maintaining Peace of Mind (Amazon’s #1 Hot Release on March 25, 2014)To learn more about Donna, please visit her at Coaching Indeed
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