As a child, I felt deeply hurt and confused when people would stop, stare and start acting weird around my uncle.

My uncle was retarded. This isn’t a word you hear much today because it’s been appropriately replaced with “special.” I like this new description because indeed Uncle Harry was special. My uncle had the mannerisms and all the joy and energy of a perpetual 10 year-old boy – the trouble was he didn’t look his age.

As a child, I felt deeply hurt and confused when people would stop, stare and start acting weird. Mom explained, that these people were just teasing. But even as a child I could tell that they weren’t.

Uncle Harry didn’t mind and he often teased back not knowing he was being made fun of. To him it was a game. He was truly having fun because he didn’t know any different. I watched this behavior take place endless times almost everywhere we went. Yet, Uncle Harry’s reaction was always the same – he was playing.

As I grew I became more aware and as such began protecting my uncle. You could see it coming. Normal looking people would gawk and then predictably try to withhold the judgment they had. This was the most sophisticated of the responses. I saw first-hand much worse. Grown men jumping around with their thumbs under their arms saying that my Uncle Harry was a dumb as monkey.

Uncle Harry didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, his condition was the result of an unnatural mistake when his birth Doctor squeezed the forceps too hard. I have a lot of emotion about this because I spent most Thanksgivings and Holidays with Uncle Harry.

I’m sharing because I’m actually very grateful for Uncle Harry. He was always fun and loving and he never grew up to protect himself as I did. I’ve often asked myself if I love as unconditionally as Uncle Harry. I don’t know and I have some tears writing because his love was pure and I would dare say even “perfect.” In other words, he was just innocent.

I hope that there’s more than a little of Uncle Harry’s love in me that I can share with the world as he did. I am grateful.

Wishing you with a Happy Thanksgiving!