Two Memories

Will must have been maybe 2 or 3 and I guess Dan was a year older. We were all at Grandmom and Grandpop's old house on Graver's Lane and it was around Easter (Alex and I lived in Chicago at the time). Will was still very sick from all of his early surgeries and understandably terrified of any type of mask. Someone had brought a whole bunch of bunny masks for us kids to wear and Will became afraid. Dan leapt into action as his younger brother's protector, somehow simultaneously comforting Will while at the same time berating whoever had brought the mask. I don't know why I remember this, but it was so sweet and so obviously instinctual and Will seemed very much secure in the knowledge that his big brother Dan was going to take care of the problem and make everything better.

My second memory of Dan is after Grandpop died. I guess we were all gathered again and I must have been particularly upset. Dan came over to me and gave me the most loving, gentle hug and just softly kept saying, "It's okay, Grandpop in heaven" and it really did make me feel so much better.
Lauren Drinker
(Dan's Cousin)


Visiting Lehigh

Click Here to watch this scene on You Tube

Our family started bright and early and drove to the Martin Guitar Factory for a tour. After lunch, we stopped at Lehigh University to see the Drinker House. Click Here to learn more about the dormitory.

Thanks to Ross Reilly for the wonderful music. Check out his myspace.

The Man With The Cat (Henry Sturgis Drinker)
by Cecilia Beaux

Below is Lehigh's biography of Dan's great great grandfather:

Henry Sturgis Drinker (1905-1920) was an 1871 Lehigh graduate and the only alumnus ever to become president. The alumni endowment fund was established in 1907, the Lehigh Alumni Bulletin was first published in 1913, and the Alumni Association was incorporated in 1917.

A lawyer and a mechanical engineer, Drinker helped solve the problems of building the two-mile-long Musconetcong Tunnel, an engineering feat that made possible a railroad line between Easton, Pa., and New York City. He started a tradition of business-like management of university affairs.

During Drinker's years, more buildings were completed: the original section of Fritz Engineering Laboratory, Drown Hall, Coxe Mining Laboratory, Taylor Hall, Taylor Gymnasium and Field House, Taylor Stadium and Lamberton Hall. Drinker's interest in horticulture led to the planting of many rare trees and plants.

A teacher's course and a business administration course were begun in 1909, and in 1918, the university was divided into three colleges: liberal arts, business administration and engineering - roots of today's colleges. Army ROTC was established in 1919.

Drinker's daughter, Catherine Drinker Bowen, became a historical writer of note. Her experiences as the daughter of a Lehigh president and occupant of the President's House are recorded in Family Portrait (Atlantic Little-Brown).

This is a short excerpt from the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography:

While Henry was apparently interested in Cecilia, she was never taken with him. On one occasion she had been away from home when Catharine and Henry dropped by for a visit. She later noted in her diary "I don't mind missing him." Diary of 1875, Beaux Papers
Tara Leigh Tappert

Always On The Move

Dan and Mom, Summer 1989

When Dan goes to church he never sits with his family, at least, not for too long.  Typically, he will leave us and invite himself to sit with other members of the community.  He will remain with someone ("my friend"), even fall asleep on their shoulder for a quick nap (what we would all like to do during some sermons!).  But, appropriately timed with the flow of the service, Dan moves on a couple more times to different sections to join others in the congregation.

Dan demonstrates the true spirit of "community." What appears to be a simple action is quite complex.  Week after week, I'm used to staying in my comfort zone, sitting with my family in the same place in church.  Inhibitions prevent us from reaching out and opening ourselves up to each other's joy and pain, to that which makes us human.  We lose many opportunities for growth and connection.  Next time, wherever it is, I'm going to move around.
Diane Drinker


Dan's Big Date In Philadelphia

CLICK HERE to watch this scene on You Tube

All week long, Dan has been planning a date with Sarah. This evening's plan was dinner and bowling. After Sarah arrived, our friend, Evan Cuttic called and invited us to see the Philadelphia 76ers play the New Jersey Nets. Evan is home from Penn State for Easter, in town just for one night and when he acquired free box seat Sixers tickets, he called us. Dan and Sarah happily shelved their bowling plans for a date downtown. My favorite moment from this scene is the shot of Dan standing at the bar waiting to be served. I fall to pieces when I see that image. I imagine a mother might feel something similar watching her daughter board the bus on the first day of school, wanting to help but knowing she has to do it on her own. For me, it's a proud sort of "look, there he goes" feeling.

This is, as far as I am concerned, his first time ordering a beer at a bar. In the past he has walked around a party with a beer more as a prop, to fit in with everyone else who is drinking -- he only would have a few sips because it was only for show. He usually does not like alcohol, it makes him feel "dizzy". Tonight, he finished his beer. There was something about the entire evening that was so spectacular to Evan and I that we don't quite know how to put it into words. I came away from tonight with nothing but respect, love, and awe for my so very big brother.

Photo by Evan M. Cuttic


Dan Endorses Barack Obama

Click here to watch this scene on youtube

Dan has been following the presidential campaign with great passion.  He has been talking my ear off recently about Senator Obama and I decided, after his speech in our native Philadelphia, that it was time to ask Dan to share his thoughts.  I have always thought my brother to be an excellent judge of character and I feel his opinion is as valuable as the most famous or respected political authority because he speaks the truth and adds nothing more.

Please pass this along if you believe in having something to believe in.  Be it Dan, or Barack, or Hillary, or McCain, or Ralph Nader, or yourself.


A Note From Dan

Dan after a dragon boat race

An open letter Dan wanted to post on the site:

I love Melmark and I love faculty/staff and friends and I love Acme and I love PW and High School Musical 2 and I love Sarah and I love my Mom and Dad and Will and Emily and Gran and Jim and Tom and Paul.

Daniel Drinker

Call For Content and Volunteers

Dan featured in a German publication I can't pronounce

Tonight it occurred to me that Dan's story can be told in other ways besides filmmaking.  I want to take the stories I've been getting and try plugging them into a comic based on Dan.  I will write it, using the stories I'm told about him from you, the ones who know him.  I need other people to draw it.  Or sketch it.  Or paint it.  Or however you want to do it.  The key to this blog is to develop a picture of my older brother that goes far beyond my own perspective.

So get in touch with the Blues Brothers if you want to be a part of this attempt to portray Dan as the super hero he is.  For example, one of the first stories, that I'd ask you to draw, would be about the time Dan was rowing with his dragon boat team on the Schuylkill River when a man jumped from the Girard Avenue bridge and they rowed to him, pulled him to safety, and called for help.  Dan called my mom, knowing she was a nurse.  It's a true story, and I know there are many true stories among those of you who are reading this.  If you have something to say about Dan, please send us an email.

Also, if you are a graphic designer, or have anything you could offer the design or layout of this blog, please get in touch with us.  Web design is not my forte.

The same goes for photos.  If you have a photo of Dan, please contact me so we can get a copy and find out the story behind it.  Thanks again.


Dan's Graduation Party at PW

A week before Dan graduated from Plymouth Whitemarsh High School, Dan and his classmates had a party in Mrs. McMahon's classroom. Family and friends were invited. My favorite moment is when Carl starts dancing for the camera, and of course, my dad.


Dan's Seventh Prom

Before Sarah, Dan was with a girl named Connie.  They broke up but remained best friends through high school.  Dan took her to what was, at the time, his seventh prom.  We've lost count at this point but he's now been to at least eleven or twelve.  Dan lives to wear a tux and dance, so you can imagine how important this day was for him.


Daniel Drinker Enters 4th Grade

On the steps of Curlew Cottage
Beach Haven, NJ

This may not sound like news to you, but for Daniel Drinker and his family, friends, classmates, teachers and school administrators, this is a major event.  Daniel, oldest of the three children of Ned Drinker (tax accountant in Gulph Mills), is ten years old, has blonde hair, blue eyes and loves to swim and perform.  Daniel also has Down syndrome.  Beginning in September, Daniel will attend the fourth grade in his neighborhood school, Colonial Elementary in Plymouth Meeting, PA.  He will be the first student with mental retardation to attend any school in the Colonial School District as an "included" student.  That means he will not be in a segregated class or pulled out for special treatment.  He will be treated just like the other children in his class, but "with support." He is supposed to get the support that he needs to function in a normal environment.  To facilitate this inclusion, the number of students in his class has been kept lower than the average in the school and an aide has been assigned to the room, not to hover over him, but to allow the teacher or the aide to spend extra time with Daniel, when necessary.

For Daniel's parents, Ned and Diane Drinker, the move to full inclusion sounds promising but raises great fears.  Says Ned, "Daniel will feel just great being treated like everybody else.  For the first time in his life he is going to the same school as his brother William (age 9).  This increase in self-esteem, by itself, might ease Daniel's transition into a normal setting."  Diane frets, "Daniel's speech problems are so great that we cannot understand him some of the time.  How is he going to survive in the schoolyard?"  Ned elaborates, "Several years ago I coached a soccer team that Daniel and William were both on.  We all tried hard to include Daniel, but he just couldn't play at age level; he would just stand there.  He ended up getting frustrated, throwing all the balls down the hill and pulling his pants down.  He did not make a lot of friends."

Even so, Ned is investing his hopes and dreams in the inclusive model.  "We've fought for the last two years, all the way to federal district court, to keep the school district from sending Daniel to a "special class.  But instead of having learning disabilities, most of the students in this class were socio-emotionally disturbed.  One used to throw chairs at the teacher.  No kidding.  Daniel would have learned nothing but bad behavior.  I learned from this experience that there is no sanctuar; the best hope for the special student is in the normal population.  After years of being a separtist, I am finally becoming a hardcore inclusionist."  If Daniel and his normal peers can learn to get along in class, and maybe even develop friendships, Daniel's future will be much brighter.  Ned concludes, "Theoretically, I see that inclusion is the best way to educate all children.  As a matter of fact, only by educating our children in this way can we expect to fully integrate our society, for all types of differences."

written by Brian Courtney

How Dan Copes With Death

Click Here to watch this scene on youtube

My family feels this scene is significant because it shows us all how Dan mourns. How we think we all should mourn. Whether he knew the departed well, or not at all, Dan mourns the exact same way. I should also mention that after Dan hugs me I turn off the camera for about ten minutes so I could console him.

Two Stories

Dan takes questions from a reporter after his Dragon Boat Race

These are two stories of Dan's.  They are both from his fourth grade class, taught by Mrs. Overcash.

Mrs. Overcash In the Bathtub
by Dan Drinker

"Help! Help!" said Dan.  "Mrs. Overcash is in the bathtub and she won't get out.  Somebody help me."
"I will," said T.J.  "Get out of the tub. It is time to eat lunch," said T.J.
Mrs. Overcash said, "Today we eat lunch in the tub."
"Help! Help!" said Dan. "Mrs. Overcash is in the tub and she won't get out.  Who will help?"
"I will," said Miss Haegele.  "It is time to teach the class."
"Today I teach in the tub," said Mrs. Overcash.
"Help! Help!" said Dan. "Mrs. Overcash is in the tub and she won't get out.  Who will help?"
"I will," said Terri.  "It is time to go swimming."
"Today we swim in the tub!" said Mrs. Overcash.
"Help! Help!" said Dan. "Mrs. Overcash is in the tub and she won't get out.  Who can help?"
The class said, "Lets tie a rope around her and pull her out." Mrs. Overcash is finally out of the tub!
Dan points out "my brother" to the reporter.

Dutchie Swims At P.W.
by Dan Drinker
Dedication: This story is dedicated to my mom because I love her.

Dutchie is Mrs. Overcash's pet dog.  One day he went to P.W. to go swimming.  Dutchie dove in the deep end of the pool.  His paws touched the bottom of the pool.  Dutchie was scared and happy.  Mrs. Swetkowski jumps in the pool to save Dutchie.  Her hair sticks up very high.
About the Author: My name is Dan Drinker.  I love dogs.  Dutchie is a nice dog.  My story is about Dutchie becasue he is a really cute dog.


In Daniel's Head

Ned Drinker
No one knows what is going on in Daniel's head,
but it's easy to guess.

When he stands in front of the mirror holding a broom handle and moaning and skrieking off key, the way only he can,
He sees himself as a famous singer.

When he builds multiple towers with his blocks,
He sees himself as a great architect.

When he makes a bunch of marks on a piece of paper and shows it off proudly,
He sees himself as a great artist.

When kids call him moron, stupid, or retard: he is mean right back,
Because he doesn't see himself that way.

When he attempts to imitate anything his brother or sister do,
He sees himself as a typical child of his mother and father.

When he talks fast and unintelligibly to classmates,
He sees himself as being able to talk like everyone else.

When he winds up with a baseball and it flies off in the wrong direction,
He sees himself as a great pitcher.

When he does arithmetic with counters or works on his vocabulary with flash cards,
He sees himself as a serious thinker.

When he teases the girls on the bus,
He sees himself as a great lover.

When he plays with his friend Mark who also has Down syndrome,
He sees himself as a great friend.

And he is that.

When he lets out a laugh you have to laugh with him and
He sees himself as a great entertainer.

And he is that.

But usually for Daniel there is a difference between the way he sees himself and the way others see him. and though he will never be a great singer, architect, artist, speaker, athlete or scholar in our minds; in his mind, he is the best. For discovering this simple truth at such a young age, he certainly deserves our respect and admiration. Better yet, maybe we can learn something from him.

And, perhaps, even though he doesn't see himself that way, maybe what Daniel is, more than anything else,
is a teacher.

Who is Daddy Freedman?

I found this typed letter amongst old files in the basement.  It is signed "Daddy Freedman". Our mother's maiden name is Freedman, so I assumed it was from our grandfather (or Grampy).  My mom insists that he wouldn't have signed his name Daddy Freedman.  My grandmother removed suspicion by noting that my grandfather was dead when the letter was written.  A true mystery!  Odd as it is, all our assumptions point to the author being my Dad.  I like the words, whoever wrote them.

April 19, 1994

Dear Dano-Man,
Hey big guy!  I just wanted you to know that I think it is just great that you are trying to do new things.  What I am thinking of is turning on the bath water, playing baseball, and learning how to cut with a knife and fork.  In all three of those activities you are really being brave by trying something new and difficult.  I'll be helping you as you learn and we'll celebrate when you can do them by yourself!
Daddy Freedman

Neddy Hooks It Up

Dan and Dad in The Colonial
December 15, 2004

Click image to enlarge

Dan Takes Sarah To His Sister's Show

Click here to watch this scene on youtube

The Hannah Montana date was postponed when Dan realized the perfect followup date should actually be to take his new girlfriend to see "Leader of the Pack" at William Penn Charter School, in Philadelphia.  His sister Emily had a starring role and what better way to show off to your new girl than take her to the theater?  

The film gods are a true mystery.  First, they bring me home with blood clots in my legs so I can continue to film Dan.  Then, on an evening where I'm expected to film both my siblings, they break my camera's lens just before I begin shooting.  Then they send the Bartolozzi's my way, who offer their camera for the night.  Thank you, Bartolozzis, it means a great deal to me you let me shoot that night.  Auspicious occasions happen all the time.

Wacky Hair Day

Dan on the cover of The Times Herald 
Wednesday July 25, 2001

click on the image to read the caption.

I Like To Be Me

I can't quite date this document but the first page is a family tree (which I won't be including) with a "Baby expected, 2/26/90".  All my sources point to that expected child being Emily, but let's not rule out family secrets I have yet to uncover.  It's definitely safe to say my brother was probably 4, and I was probably 3.  This stapled packet of papers must have been sent home as an assignment in one of Dan's earliest classroom environments.  These pictures were collaged into the stapled handout as well.  It was titled "I Like To Be Me" and written in our mother's handwriting.  I will do my best to type it up:

All About Me

This Makes Me Happy:
1. Spending time with his "Grampy" ("B.A.") and Grandy ("G").  Daniel sees his grandparents often but always receives them as if he hasn't seen them for a long time.  He really loves and enjoys them.
2. Playing with blocks - he is very creative - stacking, lining up vertically, sorting by color, building airplanes, busses, cars, chairs...
3. Musical instruments - playing "Marching Band" with his brother William.
4. Playing in the pool and with the hose.
5. Eating out at restaurants and ordering milkshakes.
6. Pretending he is having a picnic (in our living room) with a blanket and play dishware and food.
Helping put away the groceries
This Makes Me Sad:
1. Getting nails cut - has always screamed and fought very strongly - we think it is related to CP and how he perceives this internal stimuli.
2. When Daniel can't do something and he is aware of it without even tring, i.e. riding the tricycle - especially when his brother, William can do the particular task.
3. Afraid of certain animals - big dogs.
4. When his brother takes a toy from him - Daniel cries rather than attempting to retrieve the toy.
5. When his brother, William is ill or away for extended periods in the hospital - watching William in pain - Daniel will pout and hold his hand. 
Dan on the original Apple 2e - With a touch screen
I Do This Best:
1. Creativity with blocks - best block stacker since he was a baby!
2. Throwing and catching a ball (has a future in the major leagues)
3. Charming people - has a real way of winning people over and melting their hearts - can be a master manipulator.
4. Making friends
I like this best:
1. Likes doing things by himself - has real pride.
2. Milkshakes and cookies.
3. Rides and carnivales.
4. Reading books with Mom and Dad.
5. Playing with neighborhood friends, ages varying 3 1/2 - 10 yrs.
6. Dancing at Grampy's house to Benny Goodman.
7. "Winnie the Pooh and the Slushy Day" - "Pooh Day" he calls it.
8. Learning new things.
9. Swinging on swings at playgrounds or in our yard.
10. Playing at the computer.
11. Going to church (since very little), talking to priest, putting money in collction basket, praying.
12. Watching any type of musical.
Daniel and brother William (always serious) at the church carnival.

One of William's many hospitalizations - lots of tubes and pain, very tough for Daniel.

Click Images to enlarge them and see the looks on some of those faces.


My Brother Lifts Me Up

When I was a boy, I was terrified of virtually everything. My brother, Dan, has always acquired my fears for himself. Today, long after my fear of dogs has evolved into a love, Dan remains afraid of dogs. One fear of mine lasted long after dogs.  I was forced to confront it at Camp Swatara every summer when we were given the chance to scale a great climbing wall. As a camper I never could make it to the top. The first year Dan was a camper at Swatara I was his one-on-one aide, a counselor in training. As with every summer, the afternoon arrived where we all put on harnesses, learned how to tie special knots, practiced trust falls, and gathered beneath the great climbing wall that had eluded much of my childhood. Dan and I had walked past the wall before and Dan had made it abundantly clear he would not be climbing it. I had done my best to psyche him up as we approached the climbing day but he was staunchly opposed.

Back below the climbing wall, I found myself to be something of a hypocrite. How could I make him do something I was too afraid to do? As I was preparing to belay him up the wall, I saw a look in his eye that said, “Please, don’t make me do this”. After a moment, I rearranged our ropes and switched places with him. I instructed another counselor to help him belay me and took my first position on the wall. As I climbed, Dan tightened his end of the rope, keeping me snug in my harness. Halfway up the wall it occurred to me that this was not a fear I had outgrown. I stopped and looked down at my brother. We were tied together. He was keeping me suspended two stories above him. “Yeah, Will!” he shouted. I continued to climb. It slowly realized the mess I'd gotten myself into. The irony, the symbolism, and the humor failed me at the time.

Three quarters to the top, I slipped. Dan caught me. I hung in the air for a moment, terrified, doing my best not to show it. That’s when I looked down. Dan was so small. For some reason, from the ground no one on the wall looks small, but from the wall, everyone below seems so far away. Dan sensed my fear. “Go, Will!” I found my footing and began scanning the holds, plotting my final ascent. I knew what I wanted to do but my body was paralyzed. I began to tremble. On previous attempts, this was where I always threw in the towel and repelled down slowly, in shame. I held tightly to the wall, and hoped no one below could see how violently I was shaking. By now, Dan had rallied all the other campers and counselors to cheer me on. Shouts of encouragement cushioned me as I hung on for dear life.

Just then, I felt a tug on my rope. My body jerked upward. Dan, who is very strong, was pulling on our rope, raising me higher. This caused me to lose my footing, but forced me to focus. He pulled again. I went up another foot. I grabbed the wall once more and making a conscious effort not to look down, I climbed to the top, my brother pulling me the whole way. When I smacked the top of the wall with my palm, Dan’s cheer was most notable among the rest. It was like touching the sky.

A Letter From Unruh Street

Here is a letter my Dad wrote.

June 19, 1990
Dear Sandy,
Here's a couple of stories for you.

My son Daniel, age 5, has Down syndrome and has captured the hearts of friends and family, in fact, the hearts of everyone he meets.  But, through him we have learned that it is our own hypersensitivity that often handicaps us, sometimes hilariously.

We have a friend, Ellen, who's son, Jimmy, also has Down syndrome.  Once Jimmy was about a year old his mother was strolling him down a hallway in a medical office building and encountered a stranger coming down the hall.  The stranger kept looking down towards the stroller as he approached the mother and child from the opposite direction.  Ellen was certain that the man was staring at Jimmy and she became more and more incensed as the distance between them shortened.  Finally, as they passed each other, Ellen shrieked at the man, "What are you staring at?".  The man shook his head, and as he walked on said, "Jeez lady, I was just  going to tell you that your shoe was untied!"

Another episode we laugh about, now, was related to us by a friend of ours whom upon hearing that we had had our baby, asked my mom, "What did they have?"  My mom, still smarting and overfilled with the emotion of being a new grandparents of a child with Down syndrome said, "They had a Downs!"  She never did tell our friend that we had had a boy!


Ned Drinker


Dad Shares His Thoughts

My dad is a relatively taciturn fellow, but when he speaks, he doesn't waste a word.  On the night before Dan's last day of school (shortly after Dan learned his teacher's husband had died), Ned Drinker talks about what Dan's life will be like without the structured public school environment he's known most of his life.  Dan lived for school.  When he was sick, he would conceal it in order to attend class.  This was also the day Dan stopped working at APS, where he worked before my parents found Melmark.

Dan Calls Sarah

Click here to view this scene on youtube

       There's a first for everything.  After his first date with Sarah, Dan called her for the first time.  This scene is a little longer than it needs to be, and I doubt all of it will make the final cut.  Still, I wanted to share what a struggle it is for him to have a simple conversation.  I was going to edit a lot of the long pauses out, but our good friend, Evan insisted I keep them in.  He was right.  There's something very powerful about the moments he goes blank and doesn't know what to say.

      They went on their Hannah Montana date yesterday.  Dan says he's in love with her.


Dan's First Date With Sarah

Click here to watch this scene on youtube

Dan has been pushing for me to complete this scene for weeks. I finally reached the finish line tonight and am pleased to share it with you all. It's important to understand how significant this date was in Dan's life. He has always had girls who were into him, sometimes to the point of obsession. But he has never reciprocated. He has always considered those girls to be "weird". If you've seen any of our scenes, you know just the type of people Dan would call "weird". Dan has always pined for girls that were realistically out of his reach (don't we all?). The fact that he asked Sarah to this dance was a very big deal.

His boss, Liza, told me how for the first few months at Melmark, he completely ignored his co-workers and peers. It may have been nerves, but he knew all his bosses names, and talked to them all. It wasn't until very recently that he even referred to one of his peers by name. Once he did, something clicked, and he soon asked Sarah to the dance. What you will see in this scene are a lot of things, but know that there is a real awakening happening, a slow acceptance of reality for Dan. At least that's what I hope. Sarah has brought a joy to him that only love can. She's the first girl he didn't think was weird. I hope you enjoy the scene as much as I enjoyed that very special evening.