The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

January 7, 2008

Magic and Matthew

The most memorable holiday gift I received this year, the thing that most made me smile through the whole Christmas season, was to see my nephew Matthew and his emergence into our crazy extended family.

Because at least outwardly, it wasn't always this way when he was a younger lad.

Not that he wasn't a part of our family before, he's always been loved and accepted, same as his brother, Joshua.

But now Matthew, in some way, for whatever reasons that his mom and dad attribute only to him, appears to be opening up to us.

This has not been an easy post to write. I don't want to sound over-emotional about it or anything except what I really do feel: amazed and extremely surprised and happy about Matthew's progress.

Matthew is autistic. He and I have always gotten along fine together, but autism, to the extent I understand it, is a condition that often keeps people affected by it within themselves, in their own little worlds.

(Check here if you want more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism)

And that's how I had always accepted Matthew, although loving him unconditionally.

He was always there, as much as he could or wanted to be there...but aloof, distant in some way, off in a corner or doing something else, most often by himself.

And I accepted that.

He always enjoyed it when I picked him up and swung him around or turned him upside down, sometimes far beyond what my aging bones could manage, but there was also a time just to let him be.

And that was OK.

But he so much has always loved just doing the things we all want to do. And that's HAVE FUN!

I had always understood the amazing caring his parents always had for him and the work they did with him, and the sometimes rough roads they had travelled to get him all the help he needed.

And I believe those have paid huge dividends.

This Christmas, when we had our family get-together, Matthew was an entirely different child.

He was communicating. He was opening up to the world. He was teasing me and others. He was talking. And it was amazing and it made me very happy. And so here was Matthew, breaking onto the scene.




Matthew has grown into a person who now acknowledges he knows us and he loves us and, hopefully, he can feel our love for him.
And while his mom and dad give him all the credit, we know their love had a lot to do with it.



Now, THIS is what life's all about.

17 comments:

  1. That's so beautiful. I know a man who has an autistic son, and I know how difficult it can be... I was also good friends with a girl who had Downs Syndrome in school, and that was difficult for her parents too... I really respect and admire the parents of such children - how easy would it be, after all, to dump them into an orphanage or put them up for adoption? It would be easy to be disappointed to bear a child so "flawed" and "imperfect", and it's truly inspiring to see the instances of families who accept and love these children.

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  2. Oh wow -- I love this post. Big smile from me and I haven't done much of that lately. Consider yourself hugged.

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  3. Wow...this was such a beautiful and touching post. The love you have comes right through the words that appear before me on this screen.

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  4. *looks at pic of him licking the snow*

    As a good Canadian uncle, I hope you've taught him not to stick his tongue on metal objects in cold weather.

    Otherwise, like so many of us Canucks, he'll find out the hard way.

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  5. beautiful...just beautiful

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  6. Stace:

    Yes, it IS beautiful for him to emerge, in his own time and his own way and with his parents' love and support, the way he has.

    I agree, Matthew is inspiring. That's exactly how I felt seeing him -- inspired, confident that good things can and do happen, warm inside, happy for him and his mom and dad, and proud, too, of my brother.

    Andrea:

    Well, anything that makes you smile makes me smile, especially knowing you hadn't done much lately.

    Consider me accepting that hug, and hugging you back.

    Awa:

    Thanks, you. The beauty thing is Matthew and whatever it took for him to open up, I think.

    But thanks.

    MJ:

    Ha! It happened to me probably three or four times, mostly at the swing set, as I recall.

    Matthew is such an outdoorsy guy but he's big and strong...I can imagine him trying to come in the back door of their house dragging their swing set behind him...

    Annie:

    Thanks a lot...

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  7. Ok, I'm crying. This was a beautiful post that touched me tremendously. This is going to sound absolutely crazy, but there's something in me that has always believed (since I was a teenager and dreaming of some day becoming a mother) that I will have a child with some sort of mental disability. It scares me more than I can express, but it doesn't scare me enough to not want to be a mother.

    Do you or your brother know of Dr. Temple Grandin? She's an amazing woman who also happens to be autistic. I read an interview of hers once and remember her saying that the most important thing a parent can do for their autistic child is to keep them engaged. If you haven't heard of her, I suggest looking her up and passing the info along to your brother and sister-in-law (although I suspect they probably already know of her).

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story about Matthew. The pictures are wonderful!

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  8. I worked for autistic childrn for a short while. Even now I volunteer now and then. It is not easy for them, as you are well aware. They can hear, they understand but they cannot communicate. They do not like being touched or hugged. They live in a world of their own. It needs a lot of patience around them. That's what they taught me.

    Energing, as you say does not happen with all autistic children. Lifetime goes by and they do not change. However, they understand love. They just do not know that they are supposed to reciprocate in kind.

    One cannot be unemotional or detached around them. So what if they can't show it? we can..

    I am very glad you wrote about Matthew. His parents are lucky to have such a special child. So are you...

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  9. I forgot! Those are beautiful photos...

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  10. Very moving and insightful. You are incredibly adept at writing these types of postings.

    I bleieve that Scientific research in the 21st Century will deliver some answers. We now have a great opportunity to examine and try to understand the inner workings of the Human Brain...instead of wasting our time, money, and energy on creating turmoil and indifference.

    Wonderful.

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  11. lovely post WW - and Matthew just looks wonderful.

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  12. Anna:

    I think everyone has that fear because having a child really is venturing into the unknown.

    My brother or sister-in-law may read these comments, and my guess is they know the person of whom you speak.

    And that's the one thing I know about Matthew's mom and dad: they have kept him engaged but let him do his own thing, which I think is a fine balance that largely may be responsible for Matthew's coming out of his shell, so to speak.

    Thanks for reading this! And for your comments. :-)

    Gautami:

    Matthew sometimes accepted limited physical contact when he was younger (with me, anyway), but only for a short time, then would want his own space.

    What I noticed was his mom and dad were always very open to whenever he did want hugs, and so I think the rest of us took those cues and did the same, when HE wanted that.

    And smiles go a million miles. Being open, not treating him with kid gloves, but understanding at the same time.

    I think his parents' attitude towards him emanated to the rest of us and we just accepted him fully as he was.

    And now that he's becoming so much more expressive in every way, we've accepted that too.

    I suspect his form of autism or the severity of it isn't as extreme as the kids you're describing that you worked with.

    And good on you for that volunteer work. That's incredible. And you're sure right about so what if they can't show their love...WE CAN.

    Most of those photos were taken by my brother, Matthew's dad...

    HE:

    Wunnerful? Thanks (Wasn't it Lawrence Welk who said that?)

    Gawd, let's hope they come up with a cure. And yes, at the expense of all the other stupid things our tax dollars are spent on.

    Ziggi:

    Thanks!

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  13. Anonymous7:07 p.m.

    Thats great news Chris,and must have been lovely to see the progress made. It takes alot of love and loving for that to happen.

    Laura

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  14. Laura:

    Yes, it was lovely. And I agree, it takes a lot of love for it to happen, plus whatever ingredients Matthew has that propelled it to where it is now and, hopefully, to where it can go. :-)

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  15. What a sad, yet beautiful story. I think it takes special people that have the purest and the truest forms of love withhin them to be able to take care of children and adults with special needs.

    I have a friend that is a foster mom and over the years she has adopted many of her children. The world needs so many more people like her and this little boys parents. Can you imagine the possibilities! On the flip side, they too are truly blessed to have a son like him.

    You know, I read somewhere that children choose their parents. I am not sure I believe that, however in this case, I'd make an exception!

    How sweet of you to write this post. Thank you.

    T

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  16. Tara:

    I can understand how you might see it as sad, but for me, it's totally about joy.

    I agree about Matthew's parents. And yes, I can imagine the possibilities of loving foster parents making a difference. I know some who have done just that.

    I have also heard that children somehow choose their parents. If there's any truth to that, I think Matthew made the right choice.

    :-)

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  17. wow... magic indeed!
    matthew has super parents and a marvellous family!!!

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