It’s been 6 years since I wrote the story, “Happy Birthday Matthew!” for raisetheflagforautism.com, and reading it and seeing Matthew’s smiling face brings me such joy! Now that we’ve passed his 28th birthday, I thought it was time for an update on his life.
Matthew continues to enjoy so many of the life’s moments I mentioned in Part 1, and more! He lives in a wonderful autism-specialized home near us, and the staff and support has been amazing. We’ve had our Friday night dates at Swiss Chalet (temporarily on hold for the past year!), he loves to wade in the pool, still enjoys nature and being outdoors, and his love of all things Disney continues, particularly his love of the princesses! Being with his younger sister Stephanie, his cousins, aunts, and uncles gives him a sense of belonging. He, and we, have missed the family gatherings and hugs for too long.
Last year as we started into the pandemic, our birthday celebration was the last in-person gathering with him for almost 4 months. Like so many people with autism, he did not understand why his life came to a grinding halt – no more visits or car rides with Mom and Dad, no date nights, no walks outside or to Tim Hortons, why were people around him wearing masks and why was everyone washing their hands all the time? I worried so much about how Matthew would tolerate this time, but again he surprised us all! He quickly adapted to seeing and hearing us on Zoom, the staff went over and beyond their jobs to keep him and his three roommates entertained, and most importantly, safe. COVID-19 did make its way there, almost 10 months after it started, and Matthew had it, but with very mild symptoms. We were fortunate.
So, here we are having celebrated another birthday with him, with me dropping off the cake and candles at his doorstep (2 metres away!) and celebrating via Zoom again. Let us all remember that while life has been tough for all of us, we should think about how hard it has been for autistic people and their families and caregivers. It helps put everything in perspective.
My beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed boy Matthew, my heart is full of love for you, and you inspire me to be a better and kinder person.
Monica, Mom, from Toronto
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