The National Advocate for People with Down Syndrome Since 1979

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Frankie's Garden
Frankie loved taking car rides.
Frankie loved taking car rides.
Frankie's Garden

I looked at my garden last year and wondered how I could honor my uncle, Frank Brescia, for living a divine life as a person with Down syndrome. Along a tree line, in front of a stone path, I spotted a perfect location. It faced a flowing stream of water that runs season after season, moving like life even long after death. I quickly got out my shovel, sorted through an array of rocks, untangled weeds and pruned back twigs to make way for Frankie's garden. Frankie loved flowers as much as I do. Although in referring to them he often said "B-E-E,"' as if somewhere in the petals hid a bumble bee. Frankie had always lived at home with his mother until he was twenty-seven, but shortly after her death he moved into my parents' home to live with his sister. I was six years old at the time and can vaguely remember that day. All I seem to recall is that a short, stout young man moved in and began living his life with our family. Frankie didn't settle into his bedroom quickly. I guess he thought he was visiting our home for a few days even though we told him, "This is your home from now on."' He didn't seem easily convinced at first, but after two weeks of living out of his suitcase he decided to hang up his shirts and fill the empty dresser drawers. Over the weeks and months that followed we discovered that Frankie had many incredible gifts: he could write his name with someone guiding his hand; he could say short-syllabled words, particularly the names he gave us--calling "Weezle"' to his sister, "Boss"' to my father, "The Fonz"' to my brother and "Karle"' to me. He could also organize things like a fastidious butler, beat drums, sing Beatles tunes and wobble two spool-topped sticks we called "twiddle sticks"' between his fingers. No one who knew Frankie could ever forget his "twiddle sticks."' Every Christmas someone from the family had to buy him a new can of Tinker Toys. All he ever wanted were the green sticks and spools; everything else remained in the can. Like a virtuoso, Frankie had mastered the art of drumming his sticks, moving them fast and slow to the tempo of music. Our little earth angel flew home to heaven on November 5, 2008 after a battle with Alzheimer's Disease and other progressive illnesses. He was nearly fifty-nine years old. There is hardly a day now that we don't think of Frankie and say, "Do you remember when"'?"' And with every question the answer is always "yes."' Frankie made an indelible mark on our lives. We believe he came to us as a messenger, conveying in his own way the importance of embracing life and shining bright. In a way, Frankie's memorial garden is doing the same"embracing warmth and nurturing buds into bloom just like Frankie did--the brightest flower in our lives.




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Cheryln Gates, United States, MA
5/8/2011 12:26:54 PM
I saw photos of the garden but had not heard the story in such an eloquent way. He was most fortunate to have a family that could see his divinity and joy.

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