It hurt my heart to write that word out. I don't say it. I don't allow it to be used in my home. My husband doesn't say it. My family doesn't say it. My friends don't say it. That one word, those six letters, can be more hurtful than you could ever realize. We don't run around saying the N word, and in my mind and heart, the R word is in the same category. The ONLY time you will hear me say it, is when telling people that they're not allowed to use the R word in my house. That's typically met with "What's that?" and I have to explain. When I explain to them the word, I also tell them about my handsome, walking dead loving, Nerf gun wielding, amazing little brother who has Autism. I then tell them about my beautiful, Fresh Beat Band loving, sock sorting, incredible little sister who has Autism and Down Syndrome. And now, I'm going to tell you about them too.
Joseph Tazwell was born on March 16th, the day before my birthday. I had told my mom the only thing I wanted for my birthday, was not to share it with him. I was a selfish kid. It happens. Joseph has been diagnosed with Autism, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalcula, and I believe two other diagnoses that I can't remember the names of at the moment. He was diagnosed a little later in life, although we knew he was struggling at school, so we weren't all that surprised. He knows he's different than the other kids, and is the sweetest most amazing person despite it. He stands up for those that he feels need to be stood up for, regardless of the consequences that may follow.
Joseph now has a girlfriend. Which makes my heart all kinds of happy. His girlfriend has Down Syndrome, and he took her to a school dance. While at the dance some kids were making fun of here and said that they couldn't believe that R WORD had gotten a boyfriend. Joseph immediately turned around and told him that he likes people for who they are on in the inside, and not what they look like on the outside. When I got that text from my mom, I got a little teary eyed. My heart swelled so big with how proud I was of him. He has a hard time being accepted in school, and rather than doing the easy thing and pretending he didn't hear them, he stood up for her. He stood up for them. I can't begin to explain how that makes me feel.
I don't have nearly as many pictures of him as of Samantha, because my mom sucks at taking/sending pictures. 98% of my pictures growing up were from my aunt haha.
Samantha Nicole was born on April 23rd. She's nine years old and my absolute hero. Samantha has had a hard life, and she does not let it affect her at all. Sam stopped developing at 24 weeks, was born at 31 weeks, and she was born at 1 pound 6 ounces. Pick up a liter of soda next time your out, she weighed less than that. Miraculously her lungs were fully developed. She was so small that my mothers engagement ring could fit completely over her hand.
She stayed in the NICU for three months before she was allowed to come home. She came home with a heart monitor and a feeding tube. She was in and out of the hospital after that for quite a few years. Samantha had open heart surgery five days after she turned one year old. I remember the day very clearly because it was State Testing at school. I just sat there, staring at the clock, waiting to hear from my mom that she was out of surgery and doing well. That phone call was the BIGGEST feeling of relief.
If I were to write about everything that she's gone through, I would literally be writing a novel. The important things are regardless of the ups and downs in her life, she's constantly with a smile and full of love.
I moved away my senior year of high school and was heart broken when I moved back two years later and she didn't remember me. This Christmas, my mom and I were Face-Timing and she put Samantha on. Sam smiled really big and yelled "HI BECCA!" I came very, very, very, close to tears. I may or may not have bawled like a baby when we got done talking. Both my mom and the school have been working with her to recognize pictures of me and it was the best present that anyone could have given me and made this the best Christmas that I've ever had. I love this little girl with all of my heart, and am not ashamed to say that she is totally my favorite sibling.
Do any of those sound like the amazing kids that I described to you? If Joseph could stick up to a group of bullies on his own, surely a new word wouldn't be too hard to find. Now, I'm not going to tell you to stop saying it. I am a firm believer in Freedom of Speech. I am however, going to ask that the next time the word crosses your mind, you take a second to think of the harm that you could do by saying it. You don't know other people's stories. You don't know if the lady behind you at the coffee shop has an Autistic son. You don't know if the man sitting next to you at the movie theater has a brother, uncle, friend, cousin, loved one with special needs. You never know who you could be hurting.