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Perfectly Human: Learning from Corinne by David Di Sabatino

There were no trumpet fanfares to mark the occasion or festoon of flowers dropping from the ceiling. Nobody took a picture so that we could one day look back and fawn over the day. And had you witnessed the event you would have thought nothing of the introduction between us. It was the simplest and barest of meetings. But that is how these things go. It is only in retrospect that life's Copernican moments are truly recognized. Such was the case when Corinne Alexandria Minniti turned the corner and for the first time said with her own unique mix of effervescence and charisma, "Oh, hello there… my name is Co-win…Co-win Min-etti…Mine-tti"

I had told Susan, my then newfound love interest that I wasn't so much worried about meeting her youngest daughter as I was her two other children, Brianna and Garrett, both a couple of years older than fifteen-year-old Corinne. I had grown up in a church where I had befriended several people with Down Syndrome, and had always felt compelled and drawn by them because they represented a divine curve ball to what everyone else considered "normal." I had long preferred people who embraced and understood that we are all just a little bit off-center.  "I'll get along famously with Corinne," I am sure I boasted in those days leading up to the first meeting. "But I'm anxious about meeting your other two kids."

I had no previous experience meeting a prospective girlfriend's family before, never having dated anyone with a ready-made family, never even entertaining the possibility that I would find myself in this situation having grown up in a religious home where dating someone "divorced" was frowned upon. And yet, here I was, driving to meet "the family" for the first face-to-face pow-wow, and having quite a few cautious moments as I wondered aloud what I would do if the situation were reversed, if someone like myself showed up on the doorstep intent on dating my mother. Susan will tell you that she has only seen me nervous on one occasion. But on that day, I was beside myself. And about the only thing I was sure about was that in meeting Corinne I would have an ally.

True to form, and as with other children with Down Syndrome that I have come across, Corinne came at me with a huge smile and conveyed that she was very glad to meet me.  As with everyone else who came into her atmosphere, Corinne Alexandra Minniti extended an immediate invitation. There was no guile or pretense, no conniving or ulterior motive in her approach. There was no want in her extended hand. There was simply the desire for us to be friends. And as with most of those with this unfortunately named affliction, there was love at the center of her vulnerability, no noticeable shield that any other typical fifteen-year-old girl might have, beleaguered by the realities of our sexually charged day. I was immediately known and then subsequently introduced to someone else in the room as a "friend of my mother … my mother" as she spoke in her inimitable repeat-everything-twice manner.

When Susan came into the room to see how our introduction was going, Corinne took up the charge and had a good laugh at her own expense as she introduced me yet again – "Mom…this is your friend, Day-vid…Day-vid" – and then laughed at herself realizing that she was introducing two people that already knew one another. Everything is delightful to Corinne, and you can't help but burst into accompanying laughter at the joy she gets out of the simplest things.

I cannot claim for certain that this was the hand of God gently nudging me toward that scene where I first met Corinne, but it felt that way – and it always will. I felt as if I had been preparing my entire life for someone like this to enter my world, and that meeting her made complete sense if history has any pre-determined elements to its warp and woof.

There is a parable in the Bible told by Jesus of a pearl merchant who sells all of his worldly possessions just so that he can solely possess a "pearl of great price." I view my meeting Corinne that day akin to this story. As much as I love Susan and the family that I was graciously grafted into, Corinne is the person that has taught me the most, far more than I will probably ever teach her. I count it one of the true joys of my life to toddle around helping her stay on course. And were you to ask her about it all, Corinne would smile and say, "Sounds good to me … good to me."

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