My eighteen-year-old son is akin to a complicated jigsaw puzzle.
He is technically an adult (barely), but he acts more like a much younger child, functioning at the level of an eight-year-old.
Joseph Jeremiah ("J.J." to his family and friends) was born with an extra chromosome. This doesn't seem like much; however it was cause enough for him to be born with Down syndrome that's affected his ability to learn/function normally.
He is mentally retarded and has heart problems in addition to physical characteristics common to the syndrome (slanted eyes, small ears, no bridge to his nose, thick neck, doughy skin tone, round, moon face, thickened tongue and garbled speech, as well as stubby fingers and toes, among other things).
In addition, Joseph is short and pudgy: he's as round as a beachball.
Joseph is an easy-going, friendly fellow: nothing really fazes him. He is willing to give a warm hug or a sympathetic ear to all who cross his path.
Because of his heart problems, Joseph cannot work (he gets SSDI every month), and he's had four surgeries so far (faces another one later on this year, a valve problem). At night, he wears oxygen as he sleeps, and he takes medication if his heart acts up. His health is fragile at best. He's been in and out of the hospital three times in the past year due to breathing/heart episodes and/or chest pains.
Joseph, when well, loves to play video games, watch "American Gladiators" on tv, color, read Henry Huggins book, draw pictures, and sing into his pretend microphone. He loves to dance (only as long as his heart will let him).
When sick, Simon (he's my husband), myself, or Jennefer (our youngest child; she's fourteen) spend time at the hospital, so we can be with Joseph and support him during his illnesses/surgeries.
Joseph is the type of person who would give you the shirt off his back to make sure you are happy, have what you need. Joseph puts the needs/feelings of other people over his. He is one of the sweetest people you would ever want to meet; it isn't long before you forget he's handicapped because he has such a lively, upbeat personality.
Oh, if only more people could see Joseph's soul, see him as we see him, his loving ways, instead of judging him by his disabilities or appearance! The world would be a much better place!