Matthew is non-verbal, which means he has no words. Sometimes, this is so frustrating for him that he acts out violently. I have been bitten, kicked, head-butted, and pinched, and I needed to warn Brent about these possibilities.
One evening we decided that Matthew and I would meet Brent at a restaurant and see how things worked out. It was cold, so we had on our coats. Matthew and I walked in, and he took Matthew’s hand, led him to the table, and helped him take off his coat. It was at that point that I fell in love with Brent. I could tell in that moment that kindness and thoughtfulness were in his DNA.
Since the early years, Brent and Matthew have grown to be good friends. Matthew trusts Brent more than anyone else in his life, and respects his word more too.
Matthew’s frustrations sometimes led to full-on melt-downs. Now, if you’ve never seen an autistic person have a melt-down, they can be quite scary for everyone including the individual. There is a point of no return for them, where they can’t bring themselves back down.
For example, the last time I took him to get his haircut, which was several years ago, he did not want to be there. For some reason on this particular day, Matthew did not want to have his hair cut. I had been taking him for years. I am still not sure what triggered it, but Matthew started crying, then crying uncontrollably. He started pulling on my arms and really being loud. Then he threw himself into the floor and was nearly convulsing from crying so hard. I didn’t want to leave because I had been told not to give in to him or he would think that by crying or throwing a fit, he would get out of doing whatever it was he didn’t want to do. It was so bad, that the lady getting her haircut told me that she would get up and let him get his haircut, and then she’d let the girl finish hers. It was bad.
I went home and told Brent what a horrible experience we had both had (with the exception of the kind lady wanting to help us). Matthew had cried so hard, he had red spots all over his face and neck a couple hours later. I had a few bruises on me. The next time, Brent took him. He held his hands down while the beautician cut his hair, and talked calmly to him the entire time. Mission accomplished. Brent has continued taking Matthew to get his hair cut, each time Matthew would get slightly more independent and brave. Slowly, Brent could stop holding Matthew’s hands and just stand by him. This took nearly a year mind you. Eventually, Brent could sit in the chair next to Matthew while he was getting his hair cut. Now, years later, Matthew can sit in one chair, and Brent in another and they can both get their haircut at the same time. Brilliant.
This is not extraordinary for MSgt. Brent Schaumburg, but it is definitely extraordinary for most people. Brent has taken tasks such as this upon himself to help a small child learn and grow.
Brent has taught Matthew to put on his own socks. This maybe took Matthew six years to accomplish, but Brent never wavered. He continues helping Matthew learn to put on pants and shirts, shoes and coats. There is no doubt in my mind that Brent’s tenaciousness will prevail, and Matthew will indeed one day be capable of fully dressing himself.
In addition to the help dressing, Brent took on giving Matthew baths and now showers on most days. Some days, now, Matthew and I can accomplish this task together. But there was a day, when for some reason Matthew was not happy about me giving him his bath. He started crying, so I tried to rush through it. He didn’t appreciate being rushed, which I should have known. But he started pinching at me, anything he could grab ahold of, he was going to pinch it or scratch it. One I didn’t see coming landed hard on the tricep. I screamed STOP PINCHING ME!! Oh boy, talk about waterworks from both of us after that. I knew better than to yell, Matthew has more sensitive hearing than most people, and he doesn’t want to upset people either. We both ended up getting through it, but the next night, Brent said, “Come on buddy, let’s take a bath.” And Brent took over most nights since then.
And it’s not just Matthew that he cares for and is thoughtful about. He used to have most Mondays off while in the Air National Guard. On that Monday, he cleaned the entire house, did all the laundry (including putting it where it belongs), grocery shopped, and put the food away!
We recently moved to KY, but lived in Indiana. And we had Matthew in Special Olympics for equestrian. He really doesn’t show much interest in anything, but he has always loved to ride horses. Brent immediately jumped on board with the equestrian program, helping not only Matthew but several other athletes before and during the games. He also went to the games early to help set up and tear down, which is a whole other adventure when dealing with horses. Washing horses before, cleaning stalls after for example.
He is a gift to me and my son. He was taught by a loving mother and father.
His mother was dying from breast cancer in the winter of 2014. He was three hours away but felt compelled to take time off work and spend time with her. He ended up taking care of her, along with one sister-in-law, for about three weeks until she passed away a couple days before Christmas. The last week, he took care of her every need.
His father was diagnosed with breast cancer this past December, and felt very weak during his chemotherapy treatments. He’s a farmer and couldn’t get his equipment serviced and ready for plowing, tilling, and planting. He would attempt to work, but within half an hour or so, he had to go back inside and rest. As soon as Brent found out, he made arrangements to spend a week up there to help him. He serviced every piece of farm equipment his dad had, and his van, before he came back home. In that same time, Brent was having serious pain up and down his right arm. That didn’t stop him. After he came home, he found out that he had a torn tendon in his elbow. He had to have it surgically removed, and re-attached to the bone, and was put in a cast for healing.
Even in that cast, he was more help to Matthew, me, his family, and his country than any other man I know.