For Howard 10/27/1965 to 02/29/2016

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I thought I’d do a little tribute to my brother in law Howard who passed away early this morning.   He was 50 years old.  Howard had a heart that didn’t work as well as it could have, maybe that was because it was doing other work –  holding so much love.

Howard was born with down’s syndrome, a genetic condition that causes individuals to have physical and intellectual challenges as they develop and mature. Most of us humans have  DNA that is made up of  23 pairs of chromosomes for a total of 46.   People with Down’s syndrome have 47 chromosomes because one of the pairs,(pair #21) is a trisomy, or a set of three instead of two. One extra. That extra genetic material is the reason Howard’s heart didn’t work so well at pumping blood, but it may also be the reason that it was extra good at loving.

For the past 15 years or so we would visit him in Long Island NY where he lived with “the guys,”  who were his housemates. Often we’d call him and he was headed off to the movies with “the guys”, or a play, or a dance, even a hockey game.    If you asked him how the game was, he’d say “Great! Very Exciting!” with as much enthusiasm as any sports fan of the winning team.   But if you asked him who won, he’d say “I don’t know,” which was the same answer he gave if you asked who was playing.  It didn’t matter who played or what the score was because Howard was there for the joy.

It was impossible to stay in a bad mood when he was around too. You know the family parties where aunts and cousins show up with their signature dishes, or flowers, or wine?  Uncle Howard had a signature dish too, he always brought a smile and hug and a warm fuzzy feeling.   He was reliably kind, and funny, and even liked being part of the clean up crew.

We were lucky enough to have him as a houseguest twice last year. and when he came to visit us he often would pick up my husband’s acoustic guitar even though he had no idea how to play it.  That didn’t stop him from strumming and singing a love song. I’m sure that Howard thought he sounded like Elvis singing a ballad and the truth is, he did not.   But none of us would tell him that because we enjoyed every heartfelt attempt he made. And if by chance somebody said “You sound awful,” I know Howard would have said “Oh, can you help me?  Can you help me sound good?”  I never knew another person who took every critique he was given as an opportunity for improvement like he did.   He just wanted to make people happy.

Desert was his favorite, or maybe desert was tied for first place with cheeseburgers.  He also liked puppies and notebooks and new pens. He loved his mother and his brother and wished hard for good things to happen in the world.  Optimistic?  Indeed.   If you asked him how he was, he always said the same thing.   “Doing good, doing great!”  It didn’t matter if he was home watching television or in the hospital with only a small chance of recovery.  Howard was always “Doing good, Doing great!”

Trisomy 21, or Down’s Syndrome comes with a host of things like delayed development, up slanted eyes,  low set ears, and speech impairment, but I think they should add extra loving to that list, at least as one possible thing you might expect from Trisomy 21.   So Howard, if you’ve left a lesson for the rest of us still walking around it should be this – life is short, look for the joy, and listen to love songs whenever you get the chance.

RIP Howard.  XOXO

9 thoughts on “For Howard 10/27/1965 to 02/29/2016”

  1. I’m so very sorry to hear about Howard. You wrote a beautiful tribute. I wish I could think of something more comforting to say. Love to All. I know you guys will all miss him very much.

  2. Helen, before I even read this I knew I would cry. Howard was obviously a gift to everyone who knew him. I work in a group home with individuals with mental and physical disabilities and every day I go home I laugh or think about something that touched my heart. Once again, sorry for the loss of your brother I law. Beth

  3. Dear Helen,
    thanks for making our day and sharing a little bit of Howard’s life with us. It’s not every day one gets to laugh and cry at the same time.
    Our 15 year old nephew Mark was also born “Extra Good at Loving” and totally has Howard’s spirit pumping thru his heart. Sometimes on our visits we’ll belt out some Beatles songs, think, “She Loves You” & “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”. If you close your eyes you would think Lennon & McCartney were in the room. It’s uncanny!
    Though we never met him, by your beautiful letter I think it’s safe to say that Howard definitely made good things happen in this world. Made us look at the world from another angle, brought a lot of joy and a whole lot of love.
    Here’s to silly love songs.
    Here’s to Howard.
    Thanks Howard.
    Love Carole & Mark DelSignore

  4. When a happy smile comes over you-it will be Uncle Howard nearby-Lord Be With Him Always-The Crifasi Family

  5. What a beautiful tribute to Howard!!! It was a blessing to have him in your lives and I am sure you were a blessing in his!!! Please send my deepest condolences to Ron and his entire family from an old high school friend! !!!

  6. Ron – I’m really sorry for your loss. You were both lucky to have each other and your wife’s message was very moving.

  7. That was so beautifully written. I am crying…. I’m sure Howard’s biggest blessings were the love of a very warm and special family. I am sorry for your loss. Please send Ron my heartfelt condolences.

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