Tears of Joy
December 12, 2013
Flash back -- April 2000
I felt as though I was in a tunnel. I just wanted out of that little room where my boy sat with his head sideways, almost on the floor, his eyes locked on the toy car’s wheels rolling back and forth. A strange man, an “expert” in his field, just told me my son had autism. I walked out of the Regional Center with a huge lump in my throat and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
As I reached the exit doors, I could not keep the tears from running down my face. An overwhelming feeling of sadness was completely washing over me. By the time I got to the car, I was in full-blown sobs. Then my husband said, “Why are you crying? Now you know. Now we can help him.” All I could think was, what was going to happen to my boy, and what kind of life would he have.
I had asked the Regional Center case worker if he would grow out of it. Now, I could not get her words out of my head, “Oh no, Matthew will need you forever. Your boy will be with you forever.” The immense sadness I felt -- I’m not even sure how to describe it -- I was devastated. And then the guilt set in. How did I not know? He was six. How did he get to be six and I didn’t know? Am I that stupid? All these things flooded through my head as my husband tried to talk me off a cliff. I could barely hear him.
Flash forward -- November 27,2013
I played a message left by the Admissions office of Northern Arizona University: “This message is for Matthew Castillo. We received your application and wanted to call and congratulate you on your acceptance to our Fall 2014 freshman class. You will be receiving your acceptance letter in the mail soon.”
I stopped my Thanksgiving prep and played the message again. And yes, I burst into tears. I think I cried just as hard as I did that awful day in April 2000. To be honest, I may have cried a little harder. I…HAVE…NEVER…FELT…SUCH…JOY!!!!! I sat in my living room and cried for about 30 minutes, all by myself. I cried for all of my son’s hard work. I cried for the dark years. I cried for the days I doubted he would ever get to this day.
I don’t know if Matthew will ever fully comprehend how incredibly proud I am of him, how in awe I am of his accomplishments, and how he inspired me to be a better mother. My son has turned this glass-half-empty girl into an everything-is-coming-up-roses (dare I say…) optimist! I’m a definite believer in Super Heroes. I share my life with one, and his name is Matthew Castillo Hengehold.
Watch Matt’s story, included with the stories of three other great families and be inspired!