Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Above: Nathan celebrates his 3rd birthday in 1981 (center), I am to his right.

My brother, Nathan, is 29 years old today, his last year before he hits the big 3-0! Happy Birthday Nathan! Nathan is probably one of the most inspirational people I ever met in my life and whether he knows it or not, he changed my life in so many ways.

Above: Nathan and me in the fall of 1979.

Nathan was born in 1978 extremely premature; he weighted just under 2 pounds! I remember my mother walking up the stairs of our apartment at the time and her water broke, she was only 5 months pregnant, we thought for sure she had a miscarriage. My grandfather was with us at the time and we all went to the hospital and I remember everyone was crying in the waiting room. My brother Nathan was alive even though the doctor’s were not very optimistic that he would survive. I remember looking through the window in the hospital of this little baby that fit in the doctor’s hand. He was in an incubator with all these tubes running through him. I was scared for this little baby but the doctor said, “This baby is a strong, he’s a fighter!”

Above: Me at one of the many hospital visits in 1978 to see Nathan.

For the next three months, Nathan lived at the hospital. He had survived the odds and was well enough to go home. Although Nathan had survived the pre-mature birth he would suffer side effects from being born early. After Nathan was home from the hospital, everything seemed fine and that he would grow into a healthy child but as he began to grow we noticed something was not right. Nathan was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and we were told he would probably never walk. My mom and my stepfather at the time were heart broken. I cannot imagine what it’s like to have a child and be told that your child will never walk, never have a healthy “normal” life. But there was something about Nathan, as he grew older and developed, he had this spirit, this energy and something special about him that made him stand out — a confidence that I have never seen before.

Above: Nathan finally comes home, that's me holding him.
Look how small he was at 3 months old! (1978)

As Nathan grew, we realized the Cerebral Palsy only had affected his legs and motor skills. He was able to talk and was just like me in ways, but his legs were disfigured. Although the doctor’s said Nathan would not walk, my mom was determined to see him walk and he underwent many surgeries on his legs and had to wear braces on his legs and walk with assistance or be pushed in a wheelchair. The thing about all this was Nathan was 3-4 years old at this time and he never stopped smiling, he never complained, he never stopped believing in himself. He kept on going and going until the day where the braces were taken off and he was walking on his own. He had done it. He defied the odds once again and was walking on his own. Although Nathan could walk, he walked with a noticeable limp as he would for the rest of his life.

Above: (left to right) Noah, Me, Nathan and Meme.
You can see in this picture Nathan's right leg and how it's "differnt." (1983)

As we grew older Nathan stood out not only for his energetic and magnetic personality but his great sense of humor as well. Nathan was extremely short when he was going to school so he stood out, but he used that in a positive way and strutted his stuff in school as if he were 6 feet tall. He had more friends then I ever did in school. By the time Nathan reached 6th grade his legs were getting worse as he was growing and he needed to have more surgery, this time he would be wheelchair bound for many months. Being the older brother, I would push Nathan around in the wheelchair and help him get in and out and do what I could to make his life easier. I would drive him up and down the street we lived on and pop wheelies with the wheelchair and we would laugh. I always felt a sense of sadness for him that he couldn’t do certain things like play most spots, run a marathon or dance the night away. Although I was thinking all the things he couldn’t do, Nathan was thinking about the things he was going to do that people thiought he couldn't. He did try to play sports, run and dance and although he was not the best at those things, he still proved he could do it and all with a smile on his face.

Above: Even thought Nathan couldn't ice skae, I held him on the ice and skated with him.
That's me holding Nathan up while I ice skate with him in 1982.

Above: Nathan really was "Superman!" (1984)

As Nathan grew into his teen years he started to get self-conscious about his disability. This was really the first time I had ever seen it bother him. Being a teenager, developing and changing has many effects on everyone but when you are the slightest bit “different” in high-school kids can be cruel. Nathan did experience some of that “cruelty” but he stood up for himself and still held his head high. When he graduated from high-school I have to say I felt like a proud parent myself, seeing him walk up the stairs to get his diploma and throw his hat in the air was a victory for him. He had survived so much and beat the odd—A true inspiration to anyone.

Above: Nathan graduating in 1996.

Now that we are all grown and I don’t see him as much as I would like to. I realized how much strength he gave me as a person. Whenever I feel I cannot do something or I want to give up or I don’t like how I look…I think of my brother Nathan and remember all he overcame and how strong he was as a child. Nathan’s life made me realize that you are dealt a certain hand of cards in life and it’s up to us to make of it what we can. We can lie down and “die” or we can beat the odds and isn’t that all the more rewarding when you beat the odds?

Happy Birthday Nathan! You were the brightest light in my childhood and I will never forget all you gave me. I love you. Your Brother, Neil

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