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IMPACT

Andreas in 2013
Photo caption: Andreas on the stage at a rock concert.

 

Home Free!

by Susan Yuan

Today, Andreas is living the life of his choosing with the support of Jason, who has been with him for seven years. In December 2013, the pair received the Larry J. Brummond Supportive Relationship Award from TASH. The award “ honors two people who have maintained a mutually supportive relationship in which the aspirations of the support recipient are honored and upheld in their chosen home and community.” In the story below, Andreas’ mother, Susan Yuan, talks about how that relationship has unfolded between 2006 and today.

Knock on wood. Things have been so good for so long now, I’m almost afraid to write about them. In 2006 we found a support person for Andreas with staying power. His name is Jason, and seven years later he’s still here.

With salt and pepper hair, Andreas will soon turn 40. While I’m planning another 20 years, I no longer believe I will live forever – which makes Jason such a gift. Why has it worked so well for Andreas and Jason? They share a common passion for music and the world around it. They are part of the music scene in Vermont and beyond, the subculture of musicians and soundmen, bartenders and bouncers. Jason is Andreas’ entrée to that world, and his protector within it. Long before they met, Jason got the wildness out of his system, and now watches over Andreas and serves as designated driver for his friends.

Many times, he says, people approach Andreas at rock festivals and concerts, and offer him joints. Jason’s answer – “Oh, no; he comes naturally stoned!” Once, while they were in Philadelphia for three nights of Pearl Jam concerts, Andreas signaled an urgent need for the bathroom. When they got there, they found the door blocked by an old man. “He can’t come in here; he’s drunk.” “No,” said Jason, “he has a disability.” The old man persisted, refusing to let Andreas in. As Jason related the story, I asked with growing concern, “What did you do?” He answered, “I’m ashamed to tell you, but I picked up the old man and set him aside, and took Andreas in!”

One year, Jason decided that since Andreas had never been to Florida for spring break, when all the babes were there, they would take a month-long road trip. For three nights they camped at the Langerado Music Festival in the Everglades, where they discovered alligators and a new calling: accessibility consultants for rock festivals. They consulted for three festivals, but have discovered that once the organizers know what to do, they no longer need advice, and they do themselves out of a job!

Since Jason and Andreas are only a year apart, some of Jason’s friends were Andreas’ classmates. On weekly “game night,” they play intricate board games, with Andreas rolling the dice for each turn. Once with a new war game, they decided to give Andreas an army of his own. For the rest of the night, they had to respond to whatever he did with his army.

Andreas and Jason in 2013
Photo caption: Jason and Andreas at the 2013 TASH conference.

While many women were drawn to Jason because of his role with Andreas, after a time, they came to realize how big a part of Jason’s life Andreas occupies. Three times Jason broke-up with women who wanted him to choose between them and Andreas. Finally, he met a beautiful young woman who understood his commitment to Andreas and chose life with them both. The wedding included our granddaughters as flower girls, our string quartet providing music, Andreas giving Jason the ring, and feasting long into the night at our cabin by the lake.

I never imagined Andreas could have a better life than he could have with me. He still wants mama-time when he has been away too long, and both of us cuddle on the couch. He still wants to go to McDonald’s with me on weekends, and ride for hours in the car. I realize, though, that with Jason he is making memories I could never have given him. “There hasn’t ever been someone else into giving that like he has,” said Andreas, who types using Facilitated Communication. “Sitting here typing this makes memories we have together. This is why I work so hard to say things in their special way to honor our connection with living together.”

Jason is paid, and should be, so he can earn a living and still give Andreas a full life. He is far more, though, than that. One day, as I bemoaned how far away my daughters lived, Jason interjected, “But I’m here.” And he is. He has become a brother to Andreas, and another son for our family.

 

Susan Yuan is President of Yuan & Associates, LLC, in Jericho, Vermont. She may be reached at syuan@uvm.edu and 802/899-2883.

 

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Retrieved from the Web site of the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota (http://ici.umn.edu/products/impact/271). Citation: Gaylord, V. (Ed). (Winter/Spring 2014). Impact: Feature Issue on Stories of Advocacy, Stories of Change from People with Disabilities, Their Families, and Allies (1988-2013), 27(1). [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration].
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The PDF version of this Impact, with photos and graphics, is also online at http://ici.umn.edu/products/impact/271/271.pdf.

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