My brother Stevie has a knack for arranging fun moments. He makes suggestions, and we let him know he has piqued our interest when he talks about going out for ice cream and all things fun. We’ve learned to nod in agreement and give a thumbs up to his ideas.
It was the supper hour on Christmas Eve when my family heard the sound of sirens slowly making their way to our home. Stevie noticed those around him were excited about something.
He didn’t hesitate to accept a helping hand to head outside to see what all the commotion was about.
After he stood on the porch for a few moments and saw the holiday fire trucks parked in front of the house, he turned and asked, “What’s going on?”
Stevie’s story about his Christmas Eve – which really was a foggy one – ought to be written into a children’s storybook. An artist would have fun illustrating scenes from that night.
Certainly it’d be fun to draw the fire trucks, adorned with Christmas lights, idling in front of the house.
And Santa and crew jumping off the truck and walking up the driveway. We’d see the hugs. We’d see how happy Stevie was to find they’d brought along a fireman’s helmet for him to keep.
We’d see Stevie waving goodbye as the trucks honked and drove away en route to their next destination. The book would include scenes of Stevie spending the evening with his family.
The cookies that Santa left for him would certainly be highlighted in the book – especially the sugar cookies with sprinkles.
We’d see how Stevie shared the assorted cookies with his family and how glad he was when he saw them helping themselves to their favorite cookie.
Of course, our family made sure the cameras were rolling. Photos from his perfect Christmas Eve can now be found on Stevie Kimpel’s Facebook page.
When Stevie was in elementary school, it became apparent he was going to grow up knowing a lot of people. He began his school days at Sunnyside School but spent his growing-up years in the surrounding community school systems.
When we drive through the towns of West Unity, Montpelier, Bryan, and Stryker, he often points out where he’d once attended school.
A few years back, I was shopping with Stevie when he saw a lady he recognized from days gone by. The two were obviously happy to see each other and exchanged hugs and well wishes.
The holidays were upon us, so she took the opportunity to ask Stevie what he was buying her for Christmas. His smile never left his face as he replied, “Probably nothing.” His honest answer made us laugh. And laugh each time we retell it.
It seems everyone has a favorite Stevie story, and I imagine the gal who was told she was likely getting nothing is still chuckling.
Every Christmas goes down in history as the Christmas everyone receives nothing from Stevie. Except he’ll renew his friendship with you.
Down syndrome was named after Dr. John Down, who first described the condition in 1862. If we were to rename it, many would agree it should be called “Downright Awesome Syndrome.”
No matter what we call it, it’s easy to see the upside of Down syndrome. The unique set of challenges, however, would be the downside.
My siblings and I would like to find a book that tells us what we’re supposed to do during the moments when those challenges arise. We’ve looked. We’ve talked. We’ve made changes. We’re open to whatever we need to do to keep Stevie safe and happy.
Our conversations often end with the realization that we can share what we know, and we sincerely appreciate thoughts from others, but each family will be writing their own book.
As I watch Stevie deal with the challenges of advancing age in light of Down syndrome, I see how he implements the same coping measures we use when our short-term memory doesn’t function as it should.
Memory loss makes us rely on others for protection. For good judgment. For help when something that shouldn’t be frightening becomes frightening. For a gentle approach and a soft voice, no matter what the circumstance.
We know not how many more Christmas Eves we’ll be spending on earth with our loved ones or how many more times we can brighten another’s life.
We do know we’re here to experience the trials. The heartaches. The victories. The laughs. The hugs. The winks. And in Stevie’s case – the whistle he uses to get our attention.
It would be fun to see a coloring book with pictures of our own life story. We’d see how it was a blank slate. We’d see the friends we’d met along the way. The fun things we did. We’d see how often we colored outside the lines.
There’d be rainbows and crescent moons. Toy wagons and strollers. Bicycles and motorcycles. Our favorite ice cream. Butterflies and hummingbirds stopping by.
We’d see proof that our life is full, and that we already have it all. We’d see that the hugs and handshakes from friends are simply part of our wonderful world. And there’s “probably nothing” that could make our life more wonderful.
Marlene Oxender is a writer, speaker, and author. She writes about growing up in the small town of Edgerton, her ten siblings, the memorabilia in her parents’ estate, and her younger brother, Stevie Kimpel, who was born with Down syndrome. Her two recently published books, Picket Fences and Stevie, are available on Amazon.