The Downs That Picks Me Up

First of all, I’m sorry for the delayed posting.  I try to be pretty regular, but this week I haven’t been feeling too hot and I’ve taken it easy in the evenings.  But I think I’m feeling better, so we’ll see how today goes…

This morning I have to have a first trimester Downs screening.  Its a blood test and an ultrasound where they examine your baby for Downs Syndrome.  I’m sure to many moms, this is a really stressful test to have.  Everyone wants a healthy baby.  But I’ve got to be honest.  I’m smiling a little bit this morning

When I was in high school, I was active in Student Government and almost every Friday, our Student Government would send a few people down to the special needs classroom to spend some time with the students.  In all honesty, a lot of people complained.  It was uncomfortable for many people, and I understood that.  But I loved it because of Matt.

Matt was a 20-something guy with Downs.  I knew him already because he and his family went to my church, but I got to know him much better on those Fridays.  He was a big guy, even for a person with Downs.  He had glasses and he always wore old man shirts, with the button pocket on the front.  He had blonde hair and he was already starting to bald a little bit.  And he had a huge crush on me.  He liked my red hair.  And I have to confess, I had a huge crush on him.  He had the best sense of humor.

Matt didn’t talk too much, even to me, but he loved a good joke.  And he understood about any joke you told him.  He loved when you played jokes on him, too.  One Friday, I spent the whole hour pretending like he had a parrot on his shoulder.  He thought I was hysterical.  He couldn’t even catch his breath.

One year, Matt was in the Florida Special Olympics.  He was a runner.  And I was his cheerleader.  I sat with him while he waited to start, and then I ran along with him outside the fence when he ran the race.  He won a medal and I thought his Mom was going to cry she was so happy!  And then I thought Matt was going to cry because he was so happy!  Turns out, they were both fine and I cried instead!

Me and Matt at the Special Olympics

Me and Matt at the Special Olympics

One Friday, I went to see him and he wasn’t in class.  His teacher told me that he was in the hospital because of a heart problem.  I sent flowers to him, and looked for him at church on Sunday, but he and his family were missing.  I prayed even harder that Sunday.  But the following Friday, he was back in his classroom and I was so relieved. Matt had had a pace maker installed in his heart to keep it beating regularly.  It was a serious problem, but hopefully the pace maker would keep him healthy.

I walked in and gave him a huge hug.  When he pulled back, he kind of blushed and I noticed his teachers were giggling.  Finally, after some teasing from his teachers, one of them encouraged him, “Go ahead, Matt.  Tell her.”  I stood there for a few more minutes and Matt turned even more red.  Surely this couldn’t be healthy – he looked like he was about to pass out!  Finally, he turned to me and said very quietly,

“You make my machine flutter.”

I about fell down!  And the whole class erupted in laughter.  Sensing a joke, Matt started laughing, too.  It was a great moment for him.  He had told a joke!  And a good one, too!

I went away to college after that year, and I saw Matt less and less.  I worried that when I came back, he wouldn’t remember me.  But every time I came home to visit, I would go find him up at the church where he now worked as a janitor.  When I found him, I’d just kind of hang around a little.  I didn’t want to run up and scare him.  But whenever he saw me, he always recognized me and came over to give me a hug and ask me to pull his finger.

Today, I get home less and less, but Matt is on my mind a lot.  I think about him when I see a Downs person working at the grocery store or Target.  I always go stand in their lines and talk to them a little bit.  Not so much for their needs, but to meet my own.  I miss my friend, Matt.  I thought about him last year when I raised money for the Connecticut Special Olympics by participating in the Penguin Plunge (which I can’t do this year because I’m pregnant, but you can still give: Click Here!). I think about him when the Downs classes come to campus for concerts and shows.  And whether I mean to or not, I always look for Matt.  Even up here in Connecticut.

And I’m thinking about him this morning, as I get ready to have this very scary ultrasound.  But, I’m not really scared.  Like anyone, I want a healthy baby who lives a life as full as possible.  But Matt has shown me that even when the situation doesn’t seem ideal, you can still be healthy and you’re life can still be so full.  Matt showed me that you can still have an impact, make a difference, be a blessing, live happily.  And so this morning, I’m not so scared.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “The Downs That Picks Me Up

  1. SusanL

    Have you seen a documentary titled Teachings of Jon? It’s been our local PBS station a few times. The website is http://www.teachingsofjon.com/.

    Jon is a Downs man in his mid 40s, who did not live with his family until he was 7. The documentary is about Jon. But more importantly, it is about the impact he has had on his family and the things he has taught them.

    If you ever get the chance, I hope you will watch it. It is a beautiful story.

  2. Chris Jarrett

    Awesome!!! I remember Matt stealing and eating my sandwich (when i turned around) at summer camp one year when I was about 12 or so. It was so funny because he turned and act like he didn’t know who did it. We always used to invite him over to the lunch table when we would eat at naval live oaks. He was always quick with his joking ways and his famous “pull my finger.” I loved that kid and haven’t thought of him in probably 10 years! Thanks for bringing back that memory! Hope all is going well with your little lime!

  3. Susan Mangan

    This post had me in tears. I used to cry at everything…even tv commercials…and believe me I got a lot of crap from my brother about it. But after everything with my Dad and then my Brother, I don’t cry about much anymore. Maybe I’m still a little human after all. Love your blog, Katie…can’t wait to see you and Chris again and meet the baby! Love…Susan

  4. That was such a touching post. You have such a good heart. Hope you keep feeling alright and hope the ultrasound goes fine.

  5. Ginny

    Great… I’m crying at work again. I always admired the special bond you had with Matt when we were growing up. I know somewhere he’s thinking about you, too. (And listening to his walkman while dancing)