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Daily Journal
     April 5, 2022      #33-95 KDJ

A TAYLOR-MADE LIFE: Oh, Danny boy 

By Taylor Leddin

April is a special month for me and my family. It’s a time when a light is shined on autism awareness, something that has, thankfully, become much more of a conversation in recent years.

Last year at this time, I wrote about my older brother, Danny, who has nonverbal autism. But that’s not what defines him. He’s funny, caring and probably the world’s biggest cheese fanatic. More importantly, he’s the most genuine person I know.

The beauty of Danny is that he is not as attuned to the social norms many of us have been so conditioned with. You could be in the middle of talking to him and he’ll just walk away. Or you can stop by his bedroom for a quick “hello” and he’ll gently take your hand, lead you into the hallway and close the door in your face.

From anyone else, this behavior would be incredibly rude. But from Danny, it’s just him responding in a completely honest way.

He isn’t shy about his feelings, or about asking for help. If he wants you to do something, he’ll ask for it in his own way. People often ask if it’s difficult to know exactly what he wants, and I always say no because he’s found his own way to communicate.

If he wants you to make him something to eat, he’ll find what he wants in the fridge or cabinet and will bring it to you. If he’s at the house of a friend or family member and he’s ready to go home, he’ll come up to you in his coat and shoes to let you know he’s over the festivities.

I always said that if I were to write a book, it would be about Danny and the endless stories of his. He has so many quirks that have stood the test of time. All under the umbrella of, if he gets an idea in his head, he won’t stop thinking about it until it’s taken care of.

This might include sorting the recycling from the trash at 3 a.m. or watching the same scene from “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” 19 times in a row while cracking himself up.

If I could trade places with anyone for a day, it would certainly be Danny. I would love to know what goes through his mind and how he sees the world. But, I’m lucky just to watch from the sidelines.

And it’s been so special to see the effect he’s had on others over the years. We’re lucky to have a big family and many, many family friends, and all of them have been simply wonderful with Danny. They’ll let him pillage through their fridges when he comes over and will go out of their way to make accommodations for Danny’s interests. I cannot thank them enough for the love that they’ve shown him.

This extends to my soon-to-be husband who has been awesome with Danny since the very beginning. So much so that Danny will be standing beside Keegan at our upcoming wedding.

The summer before the pandemic, Danny turned 30 and we had a big party. The memory of nearly 60 people standing in our kitchen singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to an elated Danny is something I want tattooed in my brain.

How special it is to know someone so unique, genuine and incredible. Thank you, Dan, for being the best person I know.

Taylor Leddin is the Life editor at the Daily Journal and is the editor of Lifestyles of Kankakee County. Her column, “A Taylor-Made Life,” publishes every Saturday in the Life section. She can be contacted by phone 815-937-3369, email tleddin@daily-journal.com or via Twitter @leddinlife

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