Managing Editor's Note: Thank you to our friends at Autism File Magazine for allowing us to post this article. Please, click into the PDF HERE to see the complete article. Mel took the gorgeous photos of his boys.
Happy Father's Day to the Dad's (and the single Moms acting as both Mom and Dad.) Please leave a comment sharing your own Father's Day message.
A Brother for Matthew By Mel Lindstrom
There is an old saying we all have heard: "When you fall off a horse, the best thing to do is hop right back on." I have a question though: What if you don't "fall" off the horse? What if something comes out of the blue and slams you so hard and so unexpectedly that by the time your head stops spinning and you regain your footing, the horse is already a good jog down the road? What do you do then?
Okay, I'll be more direct: What if you had always planned on a large family with wonderfully happy kids running around and laughing about the home, but your first child goes through horrific health problems and you are later told that he's autistic? After your dreams are shattered and you change your lifestyle to adapt to biomedical treatments, occupational therapies, IEP meetings, etc., what do you do then? Especially when the horse (that is, your own age) is already a good distance down the road. . . .
The moral behind the original saying is that you get back on so you are not afraid the next time. You overcome your fears right there in the moment so as not to let them get the better of you. And you learn to ride in spite of any setbacks. The reality is, however, that that's just plain hard to do.
When my first son, Matthew, reached the age of four years old, Shar and I realized that he was indeed getting better, although certainly not all on his own. We used a multitude of interventions that required tens of thousands of dollars, inconceivable sleepless hours, and huge stresses on the marriage. All of these things were utilized to help bring our son from a young boy who was so lost in his own world I never thought he would look at me let alone speak to me to the happier child he was at four.
Things were better. But Shar and I always tend to look at things differently. For me, I saw Matthew's future as bright and wonderful. . . . Someday he will be discussing the means of obtaining artificial gravity and changing the world as we know it. He will go to college, have adventurers' journeys, and so on. So, he will need someone closer to his age to experience the emotional joys and hardships with. In my mind, Matthew needed a brother or sister.
Shar's perspective was in contrast to mine. What happens when we are not around? Who will care for him? Who will help him? Who will love him? He needs a brother or sister for these things. We came from two distinct viewpoints, but we both reached the same conclusion: Matthew needed a sibling.
Considering what we had been through the last four years, having another child was a scary thought. And it was more intimidating for my wife than for me. Fathers don't carry the "maternal gene" that causes a mother to feel a personal burden that she was somehow the cause of her child's illness. With that thought comes the anxiety that the same thing will happen once again. So, we prepared as best we could. We both had all of our amalgams removed. We both went through a personal chelation process, vitamin supplements, and even colon hydrotherapy. We cleaned our bodies up pretty well before we even considered the conception stage. And, of course, we let everyone know that we did not want ANY vaccines.
During the pregnancy, we made Matthew a part of the process. He knew what was happening inside of mom's belly. He said he wanted a sister. He would even talk to the stomach as his little sister. Shar and Matthew spent countless hours in front of the TV watching shows about giving birth and pregnancy and bringing home a new baby. Matthew loved those shows. When the child was born, Matthew came to the hospital to see his new brother. He was not disappointed in a boy. He was amazed.
Even though we had our fears and apprehensions that Matthew did not grasp the concept of his own strength compared to the fragility of a baby, we shared the new baby and the special moments with him often. Matthew tried to help feed him. He watched us change him, put him to bed, and bathe him. Matthew found joy and excitement when Adi first walked or when he first started making sounds and certainly whenever he laughed. Matthew loved it when mom brought his baby brother to his kindergarten class. He showed everyone: "Look everybody! That's my baby brother!"
It became obvious that Matthew genuinely loved his new brother.
These days I come home to a house filled with joy. My little guy Adi runs up to me to give me a hug. Matthew does the same thing and yells "Daddy!" while he is running. Matthew constantly videotapes his brother with a FLIP camera. Shar is so happy because now she can rejoice in the daily rewards that most moms receive when raising a child: a self-amused baby who finds new discoveries on his own.
Since my kids and my wife are happy, I am also filled with delight.
The other morning Adi was up early watching TV in the living room. Matthew sauntered down the hallway and up to Adi, gave him a hug and kiss, then went back to bed. Matthew tickles his brother to watch him laugh. Adi tries to tickle Matthew back and Matthew just laughs at the sight of it. Today Matthew is constantly making up new nicknames for his brother: BillBaby, ShuffleBaby, PopcornBrother. . . . Don't ask me what these names mean or where they come from. I can only tell you that it is a sign of affection when Matthew gives you a nickname.
They play like brothers. They fight like brothers. They learn from each other like brothers. They do this because they have a genuine love for each other. Like Brothers.
If asked about my greatest regret in life, I couldn't answer. But I can easily say that the best decision I ever made in life was to have another child. Another joy for me and mom and a brother for Matthew.