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Thanks To Taxpayers, Greg Is Just Fine

By Denny Bonavita

“You are so OLD!” declared my older daughter when I ordered French onion soup just after she had ordered a salad for lunch.

That is typical banter from five of my six children.

The sixth child is different.

Greg, sitting beside me, patted my shoulder as he chomped the first of his three hot dogs slathered with mustard and relish.

Mike, my second-oldest son, echoes Theresa: “Every third column you write, you tell us all that you are such an old man!”

Greg just reaches for a second hot dog and gives me a filled-mouth grin.

Dad-bashing is a regular routine with my children. I reciprocate with my own gibes. The banter overlays the affection.

Greg bashes, too – in a kinder, gentler way. He called me “old man,” at that Oct. 18 lunch to mark his 43rd birthday. He quickly added, “Me old too!” accompanied by a smile.

Greg’s joshing reflects an easy camaraderie that includes fist bumps and high-five hand slaps.

As regular readers know, Greg was born with a genetic peculiarity, Down syndrome. It mangles his speech, rounds his appearance and slows his thought processes. But he communicates. He looks cheerful. He is rational, convivial – and a smart-ass along with his siblings.

Readers of this column pay the state and federal taxes that allowed for educating Greg and providing him with “my own house” in a group home for people with special needs.

Your tax money gives Greg security that has endured despite the death of his mother six years ago and will keep him secure after I die.

Your taxes also give him dignity that comes from standing on his own two feet insofar as his genetically limited status will allow.

Your taxes give him the self-confidence to eat in that restaurant, trusting that his truncated speech and slowed movements will be accepted by the other diners and enjoyed when Greg’s infectious sense of humor brings out his broad grin and laughing participation in the family-at-lunch banter.

Every year to mark Greg’s birthday, I report to you how Greg is doing. Again this year, I can tell you that your money is well spent.

Our greatness as a nation can be measured by how we use the talents of our most gifted citizens.

Our nobility, however, is reflected by how we treat those who have been dealt less than a full complement of life’s abilities.

It is worth repeating one of our family’s memories of Greg as a six-year-old, when he often played with his younger sister Natalie, who was then age two.

They amused themselves in our living room, to the background sounds of “Sesame Street.” Older siblings and adults kept tabs on their behavior by listening to the sound levels.

On occasion, “Crash!” or “Screech!” would send us into the living room. Often enough, we saw quite a mess of crumpled paper, broken crayons, scattered building blocks, etc.

Natalie, knowing what was coming, would make herself scarce.

Greg would just sit there, legs bent backward at knees in a “W.”

“What a mess!” we would exclaim, followed by, “Greg, did you make that mess?”

Greg would hold up his hand, palm outstretched toward us, signifying a delay.

“Wait,” he would say, then, in his typical speech pattern of that time, “Mait-a-mimmit.”

He would bring his other hand up and carefully and slowly fold his middle finger over his index finger until they were crossed.

Then, ensuring that we were watching, he would slowly lower the hand with the crossed fingers until it was fully behind his back.

He would then smile.

“No me! No me!” he would say.

Classmates in Greg’s school had taught him the childhood clichÈ that a lie is not really a lie if one first crosses one’s fingers behind one’s back.

They skipped the part about the finger crossing being a secret.

But Greg didn’t care then. He doesn’t care today. If he crosses his fingers behind his back, he erupts in a face-aglow grin and, eyes sparkling, says, in absolute confidence that you will believe him (or, at least, go along with the con job), “No me! No me!”

So, as Greg begins his 44th year of being raised by the huge village that is us, I thank you for your tolerance, your acceptance and your tax dollars.

Please do chuckle along with Greg as we all nod knowingly to his, “No me! No me!”

¯ ¯ ¯

Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: denny2319@windstream.net

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