Community Stories

Matthew & Ashley

Ashley Frankel shares an essay she wrote about her brother Matthew.


My weekend alarm clock is a slam of my bedroom door.   Footsteps slowly creep towards my bed.  Someone climbs onto the sheets and I feel his breath on my face.  It’s only seven in the morning.  I keep my eyes closed, knowing that if I open them, it’s all over.  I throw my pillow over my head and just hope that sooner or later, he might go away; that maybe, just once, I’ll be able to sleep in on a Saturday morning, wake up at noon, and be as careless as any other normal teenager.  But after about five minutes I give in, my hope gone, my eyes stinging from the light, and slowly, I get up to begin a new day.

This has been my morning story for eight years.   On June 7, 2002, my life changed completely; I had a new baby brother.  After all the commotion was over and the visitors had gone, my parents sat me and my two other siblings down on the hospital bed to tell us that our new addition has Down syndrome.  Having a sibling with Down syndrome can be a struggle at times, but in reality, Matthew has taught me much about life and has influenced me to become the person that I am today.

As I go through the chaos of modern day, racing between activities and responsibilities, I tend to forget to live in the moment. The crazy mixture of academics, athletics, and my social life puts my focus on future goals rather than enjoying the present.  Thankfully, I can always rely on Matthew to put me back on track.  When I’m stressed, he grabs my hand and drags me over to sniff a flower he just found. With no regard for the demands of time, he always insists on one more basketball shot before getting on the bus in the morning.  He doesn’t care about winning or losing, rather he cheers everyone for their effort.

Life with Matthew can be a challenge at times.  Helping him with his homework takes the greatest amount of patience.  Taking him to the grocery store to get milk becomes an hour-long adventure.  He likes to go down every single aisle, picking out different items that he thinks we should have in stock.  Or, he thinks it’s funny to quickly run away from me when I turn to grab something off a shelf.  I look like a fool as I chase him down, but his heartfelt laugh is contagious and I can’t help but laugh along.  Even if I don’t have time to play his game of chase, I get caught up in his carefree personality and surrender to his fun.

 I have realized that I can’t be a normal teenager.  That waking up to Matthew’s grin of excitement and kiss on my cheek is my life.  And though it’s only seven in the morning, I am willing to get up because of my brother. Spending so much time with him has made me literally “stop and smell the roses.”  I am a very motivated person.  I have my dreams and aspirations, and I am very driven to accomplish them.  However, this determination causes me to forget the importance of making time for the more simple and joyful moments of life.  Every day with Matthew has taught me that sometimes, it’s okay to hang out in a grocery store, to shoot just one more hoop, and to smell the flowers along the way.