My favorite person in the world is my older brother, Danny. I mean no offense to the other important individuals in my life, but Danny has been able to teach me some of the most important lessons that would be impossible from anyone else.
Danny is five years older than I am. He was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 when he wasn’t beginning to speak. To this day, the only sentence he ever has said was when my parents brought newborn me home from the hospital, and Danny said, “Go away, baby.”
That wasn’t the best start to a sibling relationship, but I think we’ve found our footing during the past about 27 years. Similar to the other key people in Danny’s lives, we’ve been able to create a language that’s all our own.
Going back to my youth, I learned early on the significance of caring for family. Danny is older, but I always have had a maternal connection to him and a need to keep him safe and happy. With Danny, I was able to, more or less, skate past that “I’m-the-center-of-the-universe” phase some kids (and teenagers … and adults) go through.
Because my parents were divorced and both worked full time, my older sister often kept an eye on us after school. She went away to college at the same time I was old enough to start babysitting, so Danny and I had a lot of time spent together in the afternoons and evenings.
Similar to many siblings, our brains were being molded around the same time, so we have a similar taste in movies and music. One of our favorite things to do together is watch movies such as “Clueless” and “The Brady Bunch Movie.” There’s a whole subgenre of films that exist in my mind as “Danny Movies.”
Aside from being a sweet and funny guy, my favorite thing about Danny is how completely genuine he is. Within reason and with parental guidance, he basically lives his life exactly how he wants to.
He eats what he wants, leaves the room when he wants and never has felt the twinge of embarrassment most of us are subjected to on a daily basis. He is completely himself, 100 percent of the time — how amazing (and envious) is that?
More often than not, Danny treats the little things in life as if they are a trip to Disney World. A fresh case of Diet Coke is cause for celebration. Rewatching an episode of “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse” for the 100th time is like seeing it for the first time.
As I write this, I realize how hard it is to simply put Danny into words. His is a personality that is much larger than life and is impossible to confine to paper.
When I was younger, I used to feel sad Danny wouldn’t get to live a “normal” life equipped with career, marriage, mortgage, voting, etc. Now, I have a completely different view on that; he is living the life that is normal to him — all without the everyday stresses adult life tends to possess.
And he’s loving every minute of it.
I know you likely never will get the chance to meet Danny, but I sincerely hope you have someone in your life who inspires you the way he does me. At the very least, I hope reading about him inspires you to enjoy the Diet Cokes and “Pee-Wee’s Playhouses” in your life.