He wanted an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas. He really wants the game “Cooking Mama” for his Nintendo DS. He wanted a cardboard refridgerator box for his birthday so he could make a boat. But he’s not weird–he’s unique.
Santiago Armand Inigo Cato sounds like a name reserved for the most Hispanic of Americans, but Santé, as he is known amongst family, couldn’t be any more Caucasian. His blond hair and blue eyes don’t seem to fit his name but once you meet this young man, you’ll definitely remember him. He’s 10-years-old and has been my one and only favorite nephew for each of those ten years. And his name doesn’t even come close to being his most out of the ordinary quality.
There’s a lot that can be said about Santiago but his first grade Christmas program pretty much sums him up.
You can’t really blame him. I think he had a wedgie. Plus it didn’t help that his mom (my sister) was sitting in the front row trying to suppress her laughter.
At 6, Santé was a funny kid. At church potlucks he would go around to each table and ask them, “How’s it going here? Do you need anything?” While he couldn’t really say his full name, he could get you more mashed potatoes.
These days he’s just as unintentionally funny. When he turned 10 this year I told him, “You’re getting so old.”
“I don’t want to be old,” he responded. “Mama keeps telling me that I’m getting so handsome but I don’t want to be handsome. I want to be cute.” A Peter Pan in the making.
The only difficult thing about having such an eccentric nephew is hearing about the way other kids treat him. He’s obviously misunderstood by his peers at school because he has always had to endure bouts of classmate teasing and bullying. Understandably, his mom is his best friend.
With every kid that has been bullied, there is a story as to why. Santé’s story happens to be mainly because of medical diagnoses. He has Attention Deficit Disorder and most likely, Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. Doctors haven’t yet fully diagnosed him with Asperger’s but that has been the prominent suggestion.
Santé could care less about who the doctors say he is or what he has. He is bound and determined to be his own person. He has developed passionate interests in Egypt, the Titanic and penguins. He cares deeply about American History and the presidents. Like many other 10-year-olds, he also has a close bond with his Nintendo DS video games.
So you tell me. What’s so weird about Santiago? Is it that he can’t play sports like other boys? Or is it because he gets extremely upset when he has to eat food he doesn’t like? Neither. What’s weird about Santiago is he’s more normal than most adults I know. He cares about the simple things, like fragile flowers growing in sidewalk cracks. If we all took the time to save a flower from destruction, life wouldn’t seem so harsh at times.
It’s unfair to characterize a person because of one disease or disorder and Santé certainly doesn’t let that define him. He may not be the most popular kid at school but he’s there and he makes it known that he matters. I have no doubt that he’ll show them all some day. They might have to seek his assistance if there’s ever a flood in the desert of Roswell, New Mexico because he will be the one floating down the street in his boat/refrigerator box that he got for his 10th birthday.