Aaron has a special friend at his day group. He calls her Rosie, although that’s not exactly her name. It’s his variation, and it’s really very sweet that he has a special name for his special friend. Aaron has always had a hard time making friends because of his social skills – or lack thereof – and over the years has had very few real friends. He’s also shown no interest in girls other than as another target of his teasing or as a person with ears who will listen to his talking.
When Aaron first started telling us about Rosie we really didn’t give it much thought. He has now made friends at his day group and it’s been wonderful to hear him talk about his interactions with them during his day. His life is more normal and happy than it’s ever been in that area. However, Rosie began to occupy more of his conversation as time went on. He talked about how he liked walking with her when they would go shopping or eating with her at lunch. He told us that she loves crayons – really, really loves crayons!
One day I found Aaron slipping a box of our old crayons into his pocket. I asked him what he was doing and he replied, “Mom, Rosie loves crayons and I want to take her some.” So I agreed. But soon he began taking her other crayons until finally we had no more crayons in our old crayon box. All the markers went, too, and even some colored pencils. I also found out that Aaron was buying Rosie food or snacks with his money. Or he would share some of his food or drink with her. It was sweet, yes, but we didn’t want it to go too far.
Aaron began expressing some frustration that some of his friends were teasing him about Rosie being his girlfriend. I told him to be nice and to tell them that he and Rosie were just good friends. We had that same conversation several times over the next few weeks. Finally one day Aaron once again spoke to me with frustration over this girlfriend issue. I told him to do what I had said before, and this time even urged him to express that fact to Rosie herself – that they could be good friends and be very happy with that.
Later that evening, as he and I were watching something on television, he turned to me and said, “Mom, you know what you told me to say to Rosie about being friends? Well, I’m going to keep those words inside of me.” As I questioned him about what he meant, he continued, “Rosie told me she loves me. No girl has ever told me that she loves me. I like how that made me feel.” I just sat there, confronted with the humanity of my special son. Despite his social impairments, he had just shown me that he also has the same need for love that all us have. He had no intention of telling Rosie anything that would jeopardize their special relationship.
It was hard to swallow that huge lump in my throat. It was a moment that one of those doors of my heart cracked open – the doors I try to keep closed because they hurt too much when what’s inside them is exposed. Rough and gruff Aaron has feelings. Clueless Aaron, who usually thumps someone on the head or whacks them on their back, was showing tenderness toward Rosie. Egocentric Aaron was wanting to help Rosie by buying her food or taking her crayons. And Aaron exposed a part of his heart that we had never seen before. His desire to be accepted, and loved, and valued by a special someone.
Rosie and Aaron are still friends. Rosie doesn’t go out with the group as often as she used to, but Aaron sees her a lot at their center where they meet every day. Today I was there for his yearly BASIS meeting, and after the meeting I watched as Aaron teased his friends and the staff. He can be loud and rough but they love him. He and I walked to the door as I was leaving, and there sat Rosie. Aaron didn’t try to say something silly about her hair or whack her on her back. He very kindly and gently looked at her and said, “Hi, Rosie.” No big deal, but that’s what made it a big deal. Simple and kind and genuine.
Gary and I are content with Aaron and Rosie being good friends. We hope it stays that way, innocent and sweet. We know that we need to walk with caution in these areas with Aaron. For now, it is simple and good, and we pray that Aaron and Rosie can always be special friends.