You Can't Teach This


This is my brother Keegan. He is 16, and has Down Syndrome. While he can be pretty laid-back upon first meeting, he’s not the total wallflower you might think. Turn on any song with a good beat, and this guy completes a metamorphosis into Michael Jackson junior in about 3 seconds. His penchant for dancing is the same wherever he goes: at school, home, or the grocery store.  Even though I should know by now to expect a flash mob whenever I hear one of his favourite songs come over the radio,  I'm always amazed at the moves he seems to pull out of thin air. And, his ability to disregard the sometimes crowd of people who gather to watch his shapeshifting talents.

Lately Keegan’s been exercising his independence. Normally this would be great. But over the past couple of months this has meant escaping from school to do exciting things like, ride as far and fast away on the bike as possible! And taking solo trips on public transit without telling anybody. Anyone see a Caucasian boy about 5’1 with brown hair and glasses clutching some writing utensils alone on the skytrain? Please give me a call so I can come and collect.

Despite the difficulties that go along with caring for a child with disabilities, Keegan has taught me a lot over the years. Including how kindness knows no bounds.

Like that one time, when we were hanging out at home and I was recovering from a cold, Keegan made me a surprise breakfast. After hearing some unexpected sounds in the house I went downstairs and found him in the kitchen with two plates of food ready. Listening to Jazz music like a Grandpa, he was in the process of grinding up coffee beans to make me a fresh batch, even though he hates coffee. Seriously. I didn’t even know he knew how to use a coffee machine… Did I mention this happened to be on Valentine’s Day? Yeah guys, you should take note.

Keegan, I don’t know if you’ll ever be able to read this, but you are an inspiration to me for many reasons. You are kind and have a killer sense of humour. You are always up for an adventure, know how to throw caution to the wind, and dance like no one is watching. Literally. You talk to strangers who would intimidate some, and succeed at melting barriers between people by initiating conversation with a simple smile. No pretence, no hidden agenda. You just show up everyday with your joyful self, and that's enough.

Despite your seeming limitations and the frustrations you feel at not being able to do what you want as you get older, it’s the characteristics you so naturally carry that make you stand a cut above the rest. Because no one can be taught to love unconditionally. Or exude a lightness of heart that elevates the spirits of everyone around. For these qualities, you are amazing and I am blessed to call you brother.