Frankie, Frankie get in here…were the words that echoed down the hall every time I entered my great grandmother’s home. She was letting my uncle Frankie know he had visitors. Moments later he’d scamper down the hall and greet you as if he hadn’t seen you in years. A big smile on his face, arms open wide and a big bear hug would ensue. We’d chat for a little bit and often head back to his room to get a glimpse of his “homework.”
My uncle Frankie lived with my great grandmother until she passed and then he went to live with his siblings. You see, Frankie had Down Syndrome. Growing up, I don’t ever remember anyone telling me Frankie had Down Syndrome or was different than me. In my family, I was taught everyone was the same and learned the Golden Rule early, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”
My great grandmother dissed the notion he was different also. When Frankie was born, April 27, 1951, doctors gave little hope to my great grandparents that Frankie would live beyond five years old. I guess back then, they didn’t know much about Down Syndrome. From what I’ve researched, many with Down Syndrome have congenital heart disease. Well Frankie did have a heart disease. He had the biggest heart of anyone I have ever met. Did I mention he loved hugs?
Frankie attended school and learned how to read and write. He spent much of his days writing. That is why we always had to go check out his homework, something he took great pride in and worked hard at daily. What did we get Frankie for his birthday every year? Notebooks, pens and stickers. Oh and a Cincinnati Reds t-shirt or hat. One of the only times he wouldn’t come out for a visit was if the Reds were on TV. Not only did he have a love for the Reds and Indiana University basketball, he loved playing both sports. I remember some fierce wiffle ball games in my great grandmother’s backyard.
I often say my seven year old nephew Carson is the best dancer in the family, but before Carson came along Frankie held the title. He loved music and dancing. He was incredibly gifted and could identify the artist singing a song as soon as he heard the first few notes. If there was music, Frankie was busting a move. We’d all sit back and laugh. Which made him continue his moves, as he loved being the center of attention and was the life of the party.
Frankie had a deep respect for the flag and military. He hung out at the American Legion and was a favorite to the patrons. At parades when members of the military would pass you could count on Frankie standing at attention with a salute. Annually he’d attended, with family, the local Memorial Day service and as soon as the National Anthem would play his hand would be over his heart.
Frankie had an incredible memory. My mom shared a story with me of a time she forgot his birthday. Yes, he took note of who remembered and who did not. Several weeks later they were attending a funeral and he walked up to her and busted out in song, “Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday, to me…” That was his subtle way of letting her know she had forgotten his birthday.
My cousin shared on Facebook a talent Frankie had that I’d forgotten. He would look at his wrist, as though looking at a watch, and tell you the time. There was no watch on his wrist, but he’d usually be right on the time. We sometimes joked he was Rain Man.
Frankie passed away at the age of 65 on Sunday, June 26th. Frankie was truly a gift from God to our family. The laughter he brought will never be replaced, but the many stories we have of him will be shared and remembered for years.
Not to get all political, but I can’t imagine why some doctors recommend women who are carrying a Down Syndrome baby abort. I say this honestly, Frankie was much better than you or I. He never judged. You were his friend the moment he met you. He never met a stranger. He loved this country and members of the U.S. Armed Forces. He loved Twinkies without worrying about the calories. His heart was filled with joy. He had a passion for life and living. He loved his family. He laughed often and smiled just as much. Maybe the world needs a lot less of what we see on the news and in our social media feeds each day and more people like my great uncle Frankie. The man who never knew a stranger.
I know this is true because I’m seeing all the comments on Facebook.
“Frankie was an awesome human being.”
“He was a great guy!”
“Frankie was always a joy!”
“He was a real sweetie.”
“A very loving man.”
“He was a special guy.”
“He was a special person, with a special soul.”
“Frankie was a blessing to all who knew him.”
“Always smiling with a heart the size of Texas.”
How will you be remembered? If people can’t say these types of things about you, TODAY is the day to make a change. Today is the day you…
- Start smiling more
- Give bear hugs
- Have fun!
- Dance to the music.
- Bless others through your actions
- To never know a stranger
Today is the day to be more like Frankie!
P.S. If you knew Frankie, I’d love for you to share your favorite Frankie story or memory. Thanks!
About the Author:
Stephanie Jones and her husband, Mike, live in Northwest, IN and enjoy lake life and travel. Stephanie is a writer, speaker, life coach, daily giver and soon to be author of The Giving Challenge: 40 Days to a More Generous Life. She challenges people to be bold in their actions, accomplish and live their big dreams, and bless others daily through giving.
You can contact Stephanie by email at stephanie@GivingGal.com.