Around this time of year I’m always tempted to write about the one person whose existence has significantly shaped my life and essentially my entire world.

It was on this day, 33 years ago, that my brother David was born. At birth he was suffering from a mild medical condition but, because it went undiagnosed for the first few weeks of his life, it resulted in a permanent brain injury.

He now lives with an intellectual disability and severe learning difficulties.

And yet, despite his limitations, he is the single most inspirational and effective life lesson I’ve ever experienced.

I was six years old when David was born, and I had been yearning for a sibling (and a bicycle) for years. After nine months in the making, he finally came along. He was a big boy with ten fingers and ten toes and I really couldn’t wait to start playing tag with him.

When he came home from the hospital I couldn’t have been happier and though we had to take him back a few times I never quite noticed that there was anything wrong with him.

Today, after all these years, I realize that society will never see him in the same perfect way that I do, but quite frankly I’m just as ecstatic about his birth as I was then.

However, whenever I’m tempted to write about my brother and the way that I feel blessed to have him in my life, I worry that I’ll bore my readers to death.

I worry that this part of my life is only important to me and that no one else would want to read about it, but then, every time that I do write about him, the response I get is phenomenal.

Some readers have gone as far as to tell me that they only bother to read my blogs when I write about David. They tell me that it’s the only time I show my true colours and write from the heart.

And of course they’re quite right, but I still can’t help but wonder why anyone would want to know what had happened to him; how a silly political situation in the 80s almost caused him his life, and how he overcame innumerable physiological obstacles just to stay alive.

Why would a perfect stranger be interested in knowing that David is incapable of faking a smile, not even to pose for a photo or when he’s promised an ice cream?

Why would it be interesting to know that he loves to shave his hair even though his scalp reveals a scar caused by a medical drain that was inserted in his head when he was still a baby?

Or that he always eats anything that is on his plate (and mine), no matter what?

And that he insists on unclipping my hair because he hates it when long hair is pulled up?

And that he almost died, twice, before he had even turned one?

Or that ever since he was a child he would endearingly kiss my mother’s left hand but forcefully reject her right one?

Why would anyone want to know that he almost choked in his own tongue because it had swelled up and became too big for his mouth?

Or that the two of us used to sleep holding hands across twin beds because it was the only way we felt connected enough to fall asleep?

Why would anyone want to know that when he occasionally wet his bed as a child, he would climb into mine and, that I never minded one bit?

Why does it matter to anyone that this boy, now a man, has effectively taught me life lessons that no great philosopher ever could?

Perhaps people are intrigued in the same way that they are with legal or medical dramas. Perhaps it’s a story that gives access to something that very few will ever experience. Whatever the reason, I don’t think I can ever stop talking or writing about my brother, because it is thanks to him that I am who I am today.

Thanks to David I’ve never bothered with what most people worry about. I don’t sweat the small things and I don’t lose sleep easily. From a young age I learnt that unless it’s a health issue it will likely go away, and if not, I’ll find a way to sort it out.

As a child I never bothered with looking cool or doing what others my age did, and as my friends and family will vouch, I still don’t.

All I’ve ever cared about was making the most of every opportunity and being financially secure enough to take care of the both of us.

When I was younger I was over active, both physically and mentally, because I felt like I had to live for two, but now I know that I don’t need to be, because even though David will never get a chance to do certain things, he’s been blessed with a different gift - without trying, without even knowing, and even though he’s lost the ability to smile on demand, David automatically lifts people up and brightens their day just by turning up.

So happy birthday (not so) little brother, I’m so glad it was you who turned up and brightened my world 33 years ago.


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