There were tears, gasps, even screams of joy at my parents’ farm on Christmas day.
My brother, Joey, has always wanted to be a school bus driver. Ever since I was a little girl, I remember my brother playing with toy school buses, making bus sounds and pointing out every bus he saw on the roads around Washburn, Wis.
As we grew older, he became the school bus driver’s best friend. He always sat in the front seat, so he could talk to the bus driver. Joey also memorized the name of every school bus driver and the number of their school bus. Not only in our school district but also the neighboring school district. We’re talking about dozens of buses and school bus drivers!
Once he was old enough, in high school, he even worked in the school bus garage. He got to spend his time with his heroes on a daily basis. While his dream was always a simple one, it broke the hearts of every member of my family because we knew that dream would never become a reality.
My brother was born developmentally disabled, so he would never be able to get his driver’s license, and he would never drive a bus.
But two years ago, on Dec. 25, 2011, that all changed.
As we opened gifts Christmas morning gathered around my parent’s huge Christmas tree, my brother Jeffrey announced that he had a gift waiting for Joey outside and that we would have to look for it behind the barn, by the silo. So, my entire family, brothers, sister, husbands, wives, children and my parents — 13 people total — bundled up and walked up to the silo to see what Jeff got for Joey. I ran ahead with my video camera to record Joey’s reaction, and when I rounded the corner and saw a school bus running, with a giant red bow attached to the front, I tried all I could to hold back the tears and not ruin his surprise.
Then came 39-year-old Joey, as he walked around the corner and the tears began to flow.
His little brother, Jeff, had gotten him a school bus as a Christmas gift. A SCHOOL BUS!
My entire family was blown away, but no one more than Joey. He climbed on board and quickly assumed the role of school bus driver. Joey opened the door, let us all on board and reminded us all that we must remain seated while the bus is in motion.
There was not one dry eye during that magical bus ride as Joey drove us around the field of my parents’ farm. Our smiles were so big; they turned the gray winter day into radiant sunshine. And I loved watching our children take this all in. The lessons they learned that day were invaluable. From the generosity and thoughtfulness of my brother, Jeff, to watching their Uncle Joey drive a bus. It’s a day none of us will ever forget.
Our family’s favorite Christmas movie is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and that day we could see how each man’s life touches so many other lives.
Half way through the bus ride, my brother, Joey, turned to my brother, Jeff, and said, “When do we have to return the bus?”
It turns out Joey thought his amazing gift was just being able to drive the bus in the field for one night. He didn’t realize Jeff had bought him a school bus to drive in the field every day, for the rest of his life.
Right now, there’s a school bus driver who may not think his or her life is very special. They may even hate their job. But if they only knew my brother Joey.
He would give anything to have their life, if only for a day.
It took 39 years for his dream to come true. And thanks to my brother Jeffrey, Joey is now able to live out that dream in the field at our family farm. Over the past two years, I’ve ridden on Joey’s bus many times, and each time is even more special than the last. This is one family Christmas story I plan on passing down for generations to come, a story that truly reflects what the spirit of Christmas is all about.