Though written by me in the voice of our son Josef, who has Down syndrome, the following piece was intended as a thank-you from myself to Hans for all his help in caring for his younger brother. Each member of our family contributes to meeting Josef’s needs and I wanted to thank Hans, in writing, for doing his part. He never expected a thank-you, which is why I so wanted to give him this one. I planned on giving this to Hans on his twenty-first birthday. Even though I was not able to, I trust he was told about it and is very much pleased with his final reward.
Sometimes, when I am thinking about something that makes me feel mad or sad, I can’t put enough words together to explain how I feel. Sometimes I just need to say something and I don’t know how to say it, or I can’t say it fast enough and everybody just keeps talking without me. But you would always stop and wait and ask me what I wanted to say and then make me say it.
Sometimes, it’s just too much trouble to say something clearly – like “church” or “spaghetti”. But you would show me with your mouth how to say it over and over until I got it almost right.
And when I got mad because I couldn’t talk like everyone else, you would tell me to quit it in your almost Daddy voice. That made me even madder, but it worked. Then I could be happy again.
Sometimes when you were making me do things for myself, Mommy would tell you to back off and don’t push me too hard. But I think it was good that you did that.
And I still don’t really like saying “Good morning” at the breakfast table, but you would always keep after me until I said it. I didn’t like it, but I said it so I could finally eat my oatmeal.
The other day I was trying to nail up a board onto Noah’s tree fort. I just couldn’t do it. Mommy wanted to help me, but I wanted to do it myself, like you. Your grave marker is not far from the tree fort and I think Mommy was sad because you were not there to help me. She kept looking at the spot where you are buried and then at me and then she went to the house.
And I still can’t tie my shoes or cut my meat. You were working on the shoe tying thing with me just before you left us.
When my bicycle chain falls off, I can’t fix it by myself. I found the right socket wrench in your tool box, but I couldn’t turn the bolt.
Sometimes someone will do something nice for me and I’ll forget to say thank you. Noah and Livvy help me and remind me now, but they’re not always here, so Daddy or Mommy does it.
Back when I wasn’t doing too good and I couldn’t talk and I wasn’t very much fun, you never gave up on me. You liked to teach me things and you would show me one step at a time that I could do it. I never got a chance to say thank you.
I will be nineteen next week Hans. A big man like you. If I could talk as good as you, I would say thank you for being my friend and my brother. And I would try to say it very good.
I can’t wait until you come back with Jesus.