FIRST

He was their first born. They named him Donald Alan Eppes; after his father and a favorite uncle.

His mother told him her pregnancy was nearly perfect. She had had no morning sickness, no

unnecessary weight gain, not even swollen ankles. He was born on his exact due date after only two hours of easy labor.

Margaret's second pregnancy was an exact polar opposite. Sick from almost the first day, she nearly miscarried at the end of her first trimester. She endured a week of bed rest until the spotting stopped. She bloated so much during the second and third trimester she was unable to wear the same maternity clothes she had worn before. In the end, she suffered through another two weeks of bed rest before her second son was born, three weeks early, after 21 hours of grueling labor.

As an infant, Donnie was alert from the very beginning. He mastered eye and hand coordination before he was three months old, focusing on the small toy Alan wiggled in front of him, reaching out for it and taking it from his father.

His baby brother Charlie couldn't grasp a rattle in his small hand until he was five months old.

Don took his first stumbling steps away from the safety of the sofa at ten months old and he said

MaMa, DaDa and Bye Bye before his first birthday.

Charlie held onto Margaret's hands or a piece of furniture until he was 18 months old, and he didn't utter a single word until he was two.

Don was the first one to smile, say hi, and make new friends. His outgoing personality was like a magnet and he always had a group of friends around him.

Charlie spent much of his time hiding behind Margaret or sitting alone in a corner with a pad of paper and a pen. Charlie could be "alone" in a room full of people.

Don liked to run, hop, jump and climb. He was the first one in his group of friends to climb the ancient oak tree in the park, at the age of six. But he could be still, too. When his mother or kindergarten teacher announced reading time, he was always the first one to sit down, his attention completely on the story and the reader.

If they made his little brother, Charlie sit for story time, he would fidget and squirm until he could return to his paper and pen.

Don knew all of his ABC's, numbers to 20, how to write his name, his phone number and his address long before he started kindergarten. And he was the first one the teacher called on to recite them.

His kindergarten and first grade teachers told Alan and Margaret that Don was always the first one to

complete a task or assignment and the first one to offer help if someone needed it.

His was the very first A+ paper that was taped to the refrigerator with love and pride.

Don's superior eye and hand coordination and his love of running easily evolved into a natural talent on the baseball field. After two years of T-ball, he was the first 7 year old in the area allowed to play on a Little League team. And he was the first one to sign up the following year.

It was two days after Don had pitched his first "no hitter" that his parents took Charlie to the University Center for Gifted Children.

He laid quietly in his bed that night and listened to his parents as they spoke in excited, proud and terrified voices about Charlie's amazing abilities. He heard them discuss his little brother as someone "special" who would need a lot of attention and nurturing. Someone, Margaret said wistfully, who could make a real difference in the world.

That night, Don Eppes, with a maturity beyond his eight years, understood that he would probably never be first at anything again – and if he was – surely no one would notice.