Celebrating independent living on Independence Day

This Fourth of July will be the fifth year our son has lived independently of us.

Our son Gus is 20 years old. He communicates by propelling himself to whatever it is he needs. When he wants to hear music, for example, he scoots to the piano.

Gus doesn’t talk or sing, but he does laugh and poke at the piano keys with whoever is playing the tunes. He claps with delight whenever he hears live music. He loves to hold hands, especially while swinging on a porch swing.

When Gus became a teenager, we needed more help with him at home. We found suggestions and advice about in-home services but as Gus continued growing bigger, my husband Mike and I grew older.

Shortly after Gus’ sixteenth birthday, we realized it was time for him to move. We started researching services for adults and eventually decided a group home would be best.

Gus cried his entire first weekend away. So did we, but we thought it best to leave him alone for a while and give him a chance to adjust to his new life independent from his parents. The transition from our home to a group home wasn’t easy, but it turned out well. For all of us.

On our first visit, we found Gus happy and smiling, yet not quite sure what to make of these visitors on his new turf. I sang to him. He felt my face. Suddenly he burst out in laughter,
realizing it really was me. It was a good visit. As I leaned down to kiss Gus goodbye, he took off. He couldn’t wait to get back to his roommates in his new home.

Now when we visit Gus, it’s all fun. No talking him into sitting on the toilet, no muscling him into the shower, no changing his diapers. No drudgery.

Gus seems relieved too … he’s finally allowed to do things independently of his parents.

Hmmm … maybe Gus has more in common with other 20-year-olds than I thought.

Happy Independence Day everyone!


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  1. Maurice Snell Says:

    Ooh, no, Beth! I’m not a Cubs fan. I’m a South Sider all the way. However, it’s a dismal season for the White Sox and nothing has gone right for them, whether it is hitting, bullpen, or stepping our game up to a different level. But I do believe that we’ll get back to .500 before this season is over. As far as the Cubs are concerned, my advice to Cub fans is not to gloat because they have plenty of baseball to play left, and the Brewers are due to get HOT… so HOT that it’ll be too much for the Cubs to handle!

    As for the White Sox, let’s finish over .500 and finish the second half strong!

  2. Marilee Amodt Says:

    Isn’t it interesting that no matter what our disability or ability, we all seek independence.

  3. Beth Finke Says:

    Maurice, Thanks for the good wishes, we all did have a nice Independence Day. For our next trip to Wisconsin to see Gus we are planning on getting Milwaukee Brewers tickets for all of us. Hope you’re not a Cubs fan? If you are, you might not wish us as many good wishes on our next visit!!!
    Thanks for the note, and keep up the good work, Maurice.

  4. Maurice Snell Says:

    Beth, this is a wonderful story. I’m pretty sure Gus is a well-behaved young man. This really reminded me of when I was little; I didn’t have the urge to express my feelings through words. But I learned to adapt through the obstacles as the years rolled by. I’m pretty sure that is the same with your son, Gus. I hope to meet him someday, as well with the rest of your family. I wish you, Beth, and your family a happy 4th of July and best wishes!

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