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A Valentine's Day Birthday for My Brother Jeff

This post is from Autism Speaks Staffer Ali Dyer.

Society has made Valentine’s Day such a racket, hasn’t it? How cliché… the red roses, chocolates, expensive reservations, stuffed animals, single-womanhood declarations, like come on!  I remember back to when I was a freshman in high school, dating an older stud, and I was so excited about the day. But that was foiled when I learned the hard way I was allergic to Pepto Bismo. My entire face swelled and I had to stay out of school for a week. It certainly wasn’t my best look and I was just so disappointed – all in the name of St. Valentine!

My dad was one of those guys that claim to have been struck by Cupid’s arrow when he met my mom. I know that he still feels like that about his girl even after 31 years of marriage. But their romantic February 14th’s have been numbered, as everything changed in 1985 when my brother was born. My parents’ date was interrupted with contractions and Jeff entered the world!

Selfishly, I love that his birthday falls on Valentine’s – takes the pressure off! Jeff really loves his birthday and begins to create his list of desired gifts practically the day after Christmas, which he adds to steadily. Sega, yes you read correctly, games, CDs, and DVDs are the staple items.

People can make themselves crazy when it comes to their birthdays, obsessing over the number and the fact that they are getting old. My mom is the poster girl of ‘it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years’ never worrying about that. Each year, Jeff just gets brighter, his soul just radiates through his smile and twinkly eyes. He ages, yet he maintains an innocence that is all his own and it never ceases to amaze me.

Every year my brother is met with new experiences and people that he can learn from. Jeff has a team surrounding him, and together we have learned when to give that little extra push of encouragement to venture out of his comfort zone, but also remain respectful of his boundaries. Sometimes he just isn’t ready for certain things, but he’ll get there on his own terms.

The person I end up spending my life with will have to know that Jeff has my heart, especially on Valentine’s Day. I will know that special someone is a keeper because not only will he understand that, he will support it and establish a bond with Jeff that is all their own.

So happy birthday my sweet man; may 29 be the best year yet. Thank you for letting me in your world and making me a better person each and every day. I am so lucky to be your sister.

And a very Happy Valentine’s Day to all of the lovers out there – cheers to overpriced long stem roses! 

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.