March 21, 2013We were driving past another lottery billboard on I-94 in Detroit with our nephew, Ian Campbell, nearly 10, one recent wintery morning and began engaging in one of those silly conversations most of us have to pass time.
“Ian, what would you do if you won the lottery?”
Ian’s surprising answer became frozen in time. He said he would give half, yes half, to Fragile X, the syndrome his first cousin and our son, Andrew, 12, has. The other half he would give to his parents. He was serious.
We choked up.
Not because Ian thinks of others. He is kind, thoughtful, sensitive, intelligent and generous. Years ago, he gave Andrew one of his favorite paperback books and told us it was OK if Andrew “ripped it up,” as he often does. Ian just wanted Andrew to be happy.
Ian is an angel, really. His parents do a superb job raising him. Among the best we’ve seen.
What was so surprising — and inspiring — was Ian’s level of thoughtfulness and generosity. He would give “half” to Fragile X. With no delay in his answer.
Mary Beth then asked Ian if she won the lottery, would he accept a well-paying job from us to coordinate Andrew’s care and make sure Andrew was safe and happy when we could no longer do so. Again, no delay in answering, Ian assured us that he would take care of Andrew, but that we wouldn’t have to pay him. He’d take care of Andrew for no pay because he’d probably still want to have a job and earn his own money.
He only wants to see Andrew happy.
Andrew does not have a brother. Or a sister. But if he did, we could imagine no one finer than Ian Alexander Langan Campbell.
The morning after the lottery conversation, Andrew gave Ted a framed photo of Ian from a shelf and smiled. Andrew has never done that before.
Perhaps our nonverbal son was speaking volumes in gratitude about his cousin.
Those of us in the special needs community can learn a great deal from Ian.
Parents are not the only ones who care deeply about their children. Sometimes, out of the mouths of babes, we learn others also want to see our children happy. Sometimes, we learn others may welcome a caretaking job we no longer can do ourselves. And sometimes, we learn others are the answer to our prayers, an “Angel of the Morning,” to quote a Juice Newton song.
That cold winter morning felt so warm.
We may never win the lottery. But we have already won the lottery of nephews. And it pays off dividends every day.
Grosse Pointe residents Coutilish and Langan created this column to share experiences from their journey as parents of a child with Fragile X Syndrome (fragilex.org and fraxa.org). Send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.