Today, January 8, is my brother’s birthday. His name is Jonathan Ordoñez. 20+ years ago, when I was seven years old, I took it upon myself to read in the encyclopedia about Down syndrome and learn more about my brother. I read that there was no cure and that my brother would always be disabled. I read that he wouldn't exceed the mental age of a seven-year-old child. I read that my brother would not live past 20-25 years old.
Today he turns 29, and he is healthy and strong. Even though he can't always explain himself, I know he's smart. He constantly surprises me with his abilities. He is definitely smarter than I was that day years ago when I read about Down syndrome. That day, I cried because I realized he would never be normal, I didn't understand why my brother had to be different and disabled, or as the encyclopedia put it, "abnormal" and "mentally retarded." I was ashamed. I was scared. I thought he was going to die and never live a full, happy life. I wanted more for him. I cried because I didn't know then what I know now.
My brother doesn't have to be normal. He is happy, healthy, and loved. He is perfect the way he is. I don't need to be ashamed nor afraid. He is and will always be a blessing, an inspiration, my motivation, and the best brother I could ever have. And I pray every day that I can be the best brother that I can be for him. He has gone through so much in his life. He had a surgery on his spinal cord when he was around eight years old and had to wear a halo for a year. He became depressed and sad when I moved away from home to go to college. This spurred our mother into opening up a home care business for the developmentally disabled because she felt my brother needed companionship. When I came back from college, I joined in running this business, and came back to appreciate my time with my brother even more.
To go home, even on the worst of days, and see him look up at me with the biggest smile, his slanted eyes wide open, full of pride, looking at me like I’m a hero, asking me for a simple hug. I hug him and say to him, "I..." and he finishes my sentence by replying "love, you, Niko." There's nothing more inspiring, nothing better to make any day feel great.
Little does he know that he's the hero, and I'm just the normal one. I’ve written a book about my special relationship with my brother and the effects this relationship has had on me. It is important to me to share just how much having him in my life has changed me and helped me see the world differently. I hope that others can one day read what I’ve written, and understand, even just a little bit, the love we have for each other and the blessing he has been to me and my family.