This past Sunday, Dude had his first birthday party in YEARS. The rule in our extended family was that the cousins stopped having birthday parties after age 13. Dude was the exception and got some bowling birthday parties for an extra few years of his teens. Overall though, Dude was never big on birthday parties (read: he ran away and cried when we sang “Happy Birthday”), so when they stopped, this wasn’t a big loss for him.
However, given all the upheaval of the past few months, Mom decided Dude deserved a birthday party with all his nearest and dearest.
The gathering included: our nuclear family, two sets of aunts and uncles, two cousins, two grandparents, Dude’s roommate, a staffperson from his house, his house supervisor and her daughter, one of my best friends from high school, four of the young women who used to provide respite for Dude before he moved out, and the sister of one of the respite girls.
Basically, Dude is a boss.
Prior to going bowling, the family members who hadn’t seen Dude’s house before received the grand tour.
My one cousin is subscribed to this blog (Hi N!!!) and is a Penn State alum. Therefore, she read my post from a couple weeks ago regarding the Penn State/Maryland game. I overheard her asking Dude, “Who’s going to win? Maryland or Penn State?”
God bless him, Dude answered, “Maryland!”
“AHA!” I exclaimed.
“Umm, he definitely said Penn State,” she responded sheepishly. “Come on, Dude!” she tried again. “Who’s going to win?”
“Maryland!” Dude responded.
He’s allowed back in the family now :).
Dude was all sorts of happy at the bowling alley. He smiled and giggled and recited his favorite phrases to anyone who would listen to him.
At the word “presents,” Dude’s head WHIPPED around like a dog when you say the word “walk.” He happily opened cards (you can tell his extended network knows him well because the majority of them got him cards that play music when you open them) and pulled tissue paper out of gift bags.
He was a far, far cry from the seven-year-old Dude I watched in a home video back in January.
And here’s the kicker.
DUDE BLEW OUT THE CANDLES ON HIS BIRTHDAY CAKE.
Maybe my memory is broken, but I literally do not remember him EVER successfully blowing out candles unassisted. Because of his hypotonia, Dude is a shallow breather. Combine that with his motor difficulties and the seemingly simple concept of blowing out a candle becomes anything but.
It took him 23 years, but he’s gotten really good at this birthday party thing.