Aaron! Good Night!!

Last night Aaron was in one of his “I want to talk about everything that I may have missed during the day – before we go to bed”  moods.  It was late and we were, of course, tired.  Gary and I had both stopped by Aaron’s bedroom to say goodnight to him………but last night that wasn’t enough.

I was washing my face and Gary was working on his alarm clock when we heard the familiar thump-thump-thump of Aaron coming up the hall.  He passed right by his bathroom, though, and burst…….yes, burst…….into our room. 

Gary patiently reminded him that he COULD knock. 

Aaron responded, “Well, I wanted to say good night.”

We already said good night, Aaron.  That zinged right over his head as he said, “Dad, you know the plastic on my lamp burned so Mom and I got a new one.”  Gary told him yes, that he had seen the new one and that it was very nice. 

After saying good night again, Aaron left the room…………only to burst in soon after that.  “Mom!  Is it going to rain tonight?” 

No, Aaron, we already talked about that.  “Well, is it going to rain tomorrow?”  No, it’s not going to rain tomorrow.    “Are you sure it’s not going to rain tonight?”  I’m sure, Aaron.  “Do you wish it would rain tomorrow?” 

AARON!!  I don’t care about the rain right now!  It’s time for bed!

“OK.  Good night, Dad.  Good night, Mom.”   

Thump……thump…….uh-oh.   He turned around!!  Door bursts open……………”Mom, can I keep the keyboard in tomorrow?  Have I been doing good on the keyboard?” 

Aaron!   We’ll see how you continue to do with the keyboard.  Good night!

“So can Jackson go with us tomorrow?”     No, Aaron, I have errands to run after I drop you off.

Whereupon he began talking to Jackson, who was laying on our floor. 

Aaron!  Go to bed!

“But I wanted to say good night to Jackson.  Good night, Jackson!”

And believe it or not, he actually came back one more time………burst in the door…………..”Mom, do you want me to take my dirty clothes down to the hamper now?” 

Deep breath…………..very deep, cleansing breath………..Aaron, take your clothes down tomorrow.  Right now………..GO TO BED!!!!!!!!!!!

“OK.  Good night Dad.  Good night Mom.  Good night Jackson.”

Good night, John Boy!!!! 

Cue the closing music………..I’m going to bed!!!!!!!!

Mom, Basketball, and Tears

I’ve often written about Aaron and football……..how he asks who we are voting for or talks about the refs in their jail outfits and so many other hilarious comments.  However, this post is not about Aaron at all.  I’m thinking of my mother today, because of an email from my sister………let me explain.

My mom and dad loved – I mean, LOVED – sports.  They liked football, adored basketball, and for Dad……….well, he was passionate about baseball.  They had multiple loyalties, I guess you’d say, but were avid North Carolina and West Virginia fans when it came to college games, and especially loved the Atlanta Braves when it came to baseball.  I won’t even discuss how much they loved watching all their nieces play high school and college basketball. 

Their very first date, which I’m pretty certain was in 1948, was to travel from their homes in West Virginia down to North Carolina in order to attend a Tarheel football game.  Mom used to love to tell that story, with a twinkle in her eye, for she would tell how on their first date she and Jack went on an overnight trip to North Carolina.  Dad would look at her and say, “Beth!”  And she would laugh, and then go on to explain that they stayed with her brother and Dad’s sister, who were married………..which is how Mom and Dad met.  Another story for another day, perhaps. 

I don’t remember much television watching of games when we were young, but as time went on and games were televised more, then Mom and Dad totally enjoyed watching as many games as they could.  Mom didn’t really enjoy baseball a lot, but became a very knowledgeable fan as she joined Dad in watching the games, especially after they both retired.  She shared his enthusiasm and also his love of statistics, rattling off wins and losses with the best of them. 

She and Dad wore their favorite team’s tee shirts and sweatshirts, and Dad had a huge collection of baseball hats.  He and Mom made sure that they were hung just right, and Mom kept them clean.  All of this was just another example of their love and support of one another, and of how they shared so much of their lives together. 

I traveled home to West Virginia in November of 2008 to stay for a month.  Dad was dying of liver cancer and I had told him that when he called me to come and help, I would be there.  That call came on November 2, and a few days later I was with them.  We settled into a routine of sorts.  Mom and Dad loved organization and routine………….and one routine was to continue to watch their favorite teams play on television.  Mom and I would get Dad in his wheelchair, move him to their family room and position him in his favorite lounge chair, and then Mom would settle in her chair and I in the other chair. 

Dad still wanted control of the remote, which I found to be so sweet and funny.  He wasn’t possessive at all, but this had always been his job and he didn’t relinquish it easily.  However, he was so slow in his movements that when he finally got the television on and the correct channel found, some time had gone by.  Then came finding the volume button, and slowly pushing his index finger down on it.  The volume would quickly zoom up, and frustration would start setting in.  He would oh-so-slowly find the down button and again would slowly push down until the volume was mute.  More frustration and very slow maneuverings would finally result in the right volume.  I had to smile at the two of them, and wonder if I was getting a glimpse of Gary and I in our future!

The ballgames were a time of coziness and normalcy to them, and to me while I was there with them.  Though both Mom and Dad slept through a good part of the games, they still enjoyed that time together and the feeling it gave them of keeping their life the way it always was, doing what they loved.  Dad knew that he was failing physically, but he kept hanging on……….largely because he knew that Mom was failing mentally and he worried about her. 

In an email today, my sister Jan told us that this past Saturday she called Mom, now living in an assisted living center.  She always calls Mom when there’s a ballgame that she’ll want to watch in order to talk her through the process of turning on the TV and finding the right channel.  Yes, my sweet little mother even has a hard time getting the television turned on and so one of the family there makes sure that she has the game on and can enjoy it.  Jan got Mom all set up to watch the NC game and they hung up.  About 10 minutes later, Mom called Jan and asked her which team she should be rooting for. 

If anything ever showed Mom’s mental decline, this incident certainly did.  I don’t know………..she can forget the names of her grandchildren and great-grands, which she does all the time now, or not be exactly sure who she’s talking to on the phone or get mixed up about what day or time it is……….but something about not knowing to root for NC just solidified to me how much things have changed.  I kept myself in check emotionally while I dropped Aaron off to his group and then stopped for a few groceries, but on the way home the tears flowed as I thought of the pieces of Mom’s mind that are forever slipping away.  She was the most competent and industrious woman I have ever known, and now she can’t remember what team to pull for. 

Life is full of changes, I know that, but it’s still hard sometimes to see it in the ones that we love so much.  Heaven seems sweeter all the time, where we’ll be together with our loved ones………to worship and sing and talk and laugh.  

There won’t be Mountaineers or Tarheels or Braves, I don’t imagine, or televisions or stubborn remotes.  But we will have each other forever, whole and strong and always happy…………and all on the same winning team!

The Dentist………And More

Aaron and I had an appointment to go to today, and while this was the real reason for our outing today:

……for Aaron the REAL purpose for him to go along was:

…….and, most definitely:

The dentist was a necessary side trip in order to make it to his real destinations.  And too bad – Aaron has a cavity, which he has rarely had, and so next week we will once again visit the dentist on the side as we take care of the more important matters of shopping and eating out.  I’m thankful that Aaron has always done well at the dentist with his cleanings and other procedures.  He’s one tough guy!  Probably the hardest part for him is that he can’t talk when his mouth is open!!  But he makes up for it as I’m talking to the receptionist and making his next appointment.  He was telling her all about the movie he’s watching now…….King Kong…….and the movie he was watching before that……..The Thing.  I pulled him away before he started talking about the movie before that one, and the one before that, and…………

We left the dentist just before 11:15.  I asked Aaron if he wanted to eat lunch first, and he said, “No.  It’s not 12:00 yet.”  Oh, of course.  Lunch is at 12:00 – not at 11:30.  How ridiculous of me to forget that! 

Off to Wal-Mart we went.  Aaron knew that we were going to get him a new lamp for his nightstand, since his old one got too hot the other night and nearly burned a hole in the plastic shade.  No more plastic shaded desk lamps!  I had a few other purchases to make, with Aaron lumbering beside me, trying to be patient.  He saw no need for Q-tips or dental floss when all he had on his mind was his new lamp…….oh, and a new pair of headphones for when he plays his computer games.  He did very well, though, and I only had to remind him a few times to not clap and to quit making those “passing gas” noises that make people stare at ME!  He finds that fact to be quite funny.  I don’t. 

He was very happy to walk into Applebees for lunch, even though it wasn’t quite 12:00 yet.  Close enough, though, so he agreed.  We were seated in a booth in the bar area, which makes Aaron ask if he can taste some Coors Light……..and then laugh because he knows that he is so funny.  “Well, Mom, I always wondered what beer tastes like.”  Right, Aaron.  Keep wondering.

He decided to get some Strawberry Tea and after asking the waitress what the Fiesta Lime Chicken was, and not really understanding a word of what she said as she described it, he told her that he would order that.  I got a salad, and with our two for $20.00 I got us the onion rings for an appetizer.  Aaron loves onion rings and wanted to know, as always, how they are made.  He wondered how they got the hole cut in that ring and stuffed the onion inside.  So once again I explained about the batter and the hot oil, knowing that we will have this same discussion again one day. 

The onion rings were very crumbly on the outside.  Aaron doesn’t like getting crumbs or oil on his hands, so with every bite he would turn and rub his hands together to remove the crumbs, then wipe them on his napkin.  EVERY SINGLE bite, mind you, would result in the hand rubbing and the hand wiping.  This is quite the process, which means that we didn’t finish the onion rings and the remainder are now in our frig……….waiting for the process to be repeated again.

Aaron’s Fiesta Lime Chicken came.   I was so surprised that Aaron didn’t ask for the Whiskey Sirloin Steak and I didn’t remind him, believe me.  He was intrigued by the little red tortilla strips that the chicken breast was laying on.  “Mom, what are those?  They’re weird looking.”  He proceeded to eat them one by one, by hand, until finally he couldn’t remove any more of them from under the chicken.  Next came the rice, hard for him to eat with a fork and not a spoon, but he managed just fine…….slow but sure………picking up every single grain of rice that dropped on the table with his fingers……..and finally eating every single little grain from his plate. 

He tackled the remaining red tortilla strips again because he had room to move his chicken.  All those funny red strips had to be eaten before he could eat the chicken.  “Mom, it looks like they stripped a red tortilla.  They look like those paper things that people use in parties.  What is that called?  Machetes?”

Machetes?  Uh, no Aaron……..that would be confetti.  Falling machetes would be rather painful, don’t you think?  And again he thought that he was very funny.

He finally managed to get all the hidden tortilla strips out from under the chicken and safely eaten so that he could then eat the chicken……..boneless, the way he likes his chicken.  He didn’t want the lime, he said, because it’s too sweet.  He changed that to sour after I squeezed some on his plate for him to try.

He decided to turn around and stare into the booth behind us to see what that family was eating and why the waitress and manager were laughing so hard.  They were very kind, as was the waitress when Aaron asked her if her job was hard and did she like it.  He bounced to the peppy music, clapped several times, asked if rain tonight might come out, tried to sneak over to the bar for a toothpick, and made sure that every weird red tortilla strip and grain of rice was eaten.  He polished off his second glass of Strawberry Tea, and then asked what was for supper.

Chicken, Aaron………we’re having chicken. 

“Is it boneless?”  he asked. 

No, Aaron, it does have bones.  But no weird red stripped tortilla or sweet lime. 

And definitely no falling machetes!!

Lessons From the Long Root

I spent many hours outside last summer as I struggled to keep our flowers, bushes, and vegetables alive in our severe heat and drought. With no sprinkler system, I would spend lots of time standing and spraying our plants with water – or propping the hose up while I busied myself with something else and then would hurry back in order to rearrange the hose once more. During these times of watering was when I noticed the little weed in the flower bed that surrounds the light pole in our front yard. This small area was where I usually began my morning watering. I would prop the hose up just so and then I would take that time to pull more of the hose out of the hose box, get the pruning shears out of the cabinet in the garage, or put on my garden shoes before moving the hose to another flower bed.

I saw the little weed and thought that I really should pull it, but then would forget about it as I began to take care of other matters. It was nestled along the edge of my pretty yellow Coreopsis and wasn’t very noticeable. Its leaves even blended in with the Coreopsis leaves and so it wasn’t offensive or annoying. Day after day went by. Some days I didn’t even think about the little intruding weed. On other days, when it would once again grab my attention, I was usually busy with something else. I told myself that I would pull it later, or that tomorrow I would get to it. Besides, it wasn’t doing any harm there. It actually added some nice green color to our flower beds that were becoming increasingly brown in the oppressive heat. There was always an excuse for not pulling the seemingly harmless weed.

One hot day as I worked among my flowers, I looked down and saw that this little weed had grown significantly. Still, it wasn’t huge but it sure was larger than I had noticed before. Silly me, I thought. Why have I been waiting to pull this once-little weed? I just need to get rid of it now, I reasoned. I reached down and gave the weed a pull………and nothing happened. I pulled a bit harder, and still the weed didn’t budge. I gripped harder on the small growth, gave a firmer yank, and still it sat firm in its place in the dirt. This small, harmless weed was certainly being stubborn! It wasn’t letting go of its foothold very easily at all! I was so deceived by the small growth that I could see, that I was in turn shocked by its apparently deep growth in the soil. I once again got a firmer hold, jiggled the weed back and forth, pulled with all my might…………..and finally out came the root. What a surprise! The root was very long – much longer in proportion to the rest of the plant. While I had procrastinated about getting rid of the little weed or argued with myself about how harmless the little weed was, this little weed was growing a deep root system that could have damaged or killed my pretty Coreopsis. There was no excuse for my neglect – a wise gardener knows better.

I get very busy in my everyday life. Much of what I do is valuable and important. No matter the season of life I am in, my days seem to stay full and active. I may prop one hose up here while I’m running around over there taking care of other matters. How easy it is for some sin to begin taking root in my life, but I’m too busy to hardly notice. Or maybe I notice an attitude or a thought or an action, but I disregard it as being small and insignificant. When I recognize it again, I say that I’ll handle it later. I have so much of importance to accomplish today. Soon my little sin is taking root in my heart. It’s becoming such a part of me that I don’t feel nearly as bothered by it as I used to. On the outside my sin looks small and shallow, but inside there is a long root. And when the day comes that I am convicted or that my sin begins to affect me or others, and I want to uproot it – I may have a harder time doing that than I ever expected. God, my Master Gardener, will uproot my sin if I let Him…………but the damage in my life and heart may be there to stay. How much better it would have been if I had paid attention to the warning signs…….if I had noticed the growth of that sin in my heart……….and had uprooted it at the beginning.

God warned Israel in Deuteronomy 29 to not associate with the heathen tribes that lived all around them – to not adopt their wicked ways or worship their false gods. In verse 18 God warned Israel: “…so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; that there will not be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit or wormwood.” What pointed and practical advice this is for me today! Wherever I am in life, I know that I need to carefully nurture the good and the spiritual………….and weed out the wrong and the ungodly from my heart. To weed it out quickly before it grows a long root! Give me wisdom and discipline, Lord, to keep the unwanted weeds from rooting in my life.

Random Conversation

There is rarely ever a dull moment with Aaron………at least not when he’s talking.  And he hardly ever DOESN’T talk so therefore there is hardly ever a dull moment.  We have funny moments……frustrating moments………repetitive moments………..loud moments………..puzzling moments………..angry moments……..sad moments………but never dull. 

I thought that I would share with you a few of his conversations tonight as he and I watched American Idol.  Yes, I like American Idol…………not the name, I have to admit, but I love the singing and the competition.  Aaron enjoys it, too – or maybe just enjoys having me as his captive audience so he can……………talk.

As soon as he came downstairs he started telling me about his day in the mall.  No matter that we had talked about it earlier……….he had more to say.  He’s always been fascinated by the oriental massage in the mall and would LOVE to have one – pretty much up there with how much he wants a manicure or pedicure.  He said, “Mom, I turned around and that oriental guy asked me if I wanted a massage.”  Aaron laughed and laughed after he told me about this incident, as if this was just all too funny.

I asked him if he wanted a massage and he told me that he thinks it’s too expensive.  He was having a hard time remembering the prices and then said, “It’s different prices because of the minutes added to the dollars.” 

What a neat way of describing the pricing!  I just shake my head at his descriptions.

He had told me earlier that he got a grape slushie at Sonic today.  So after the massage discussion, he took his glasses off and said, “Mom, the watery part of the smoothie got on my glasses!  Can you clean them?”  The watery part of the smoothie?  Hmmmm………OK.

He then transitioned right into talking about one of his former staff who has a baby, and that she came to visit today with the baby.  Aaron has a very hard time describing babies by their ages.  And so he said, “Mom, that baby was a little toddler kind of thing.”  Maybe some sensitivity training would be in order?

He talked about the singers and how they sang and why some of them cried and what kind of clothes they wore and what their hair looked like and why they were sad when they didn’t make the top 24 and that they were cry babies then. 

He talked about the latest movie he’s watching and what movie he watched before that and what the plot was or is and when it was made and do I want to watch the monster one and why don’t I want to watch the monster one and the movie they talked about on TV looks like it’s for kids and that other movie looked good and maybe Paradigm will go see it some day and would that be OK. 

He talked about a phrase that a client at Paradigm said and could he say that phrase and why couldn’t he say that phrase and did that guy say it because he didn’t live at home and have a family to help him and why can’t he say that phrase anyway?

He explained why he pulled the lamp over closer to him while he ate his Skittles and told me that it was because he had both red and purple in his hand and that because he’s color blind he can’t tell the red from the purple and that he can’t eat a red one with a purple one and don’t I eat them that way, too? 

When he started in on global warming and what is global warming and do I think global warming is true and why do “they” want us to believe it is and what do “they” say it will do to the weather and…………..

I was pretty well comatose and I think I agreed to something about global warming but I’m not sure what it was.  At least I didn’t agree that the baby was a “toddler kind of thing” and I did clean the “watery part of the smoothie” off of his glasses and I told him that no, he did not need a massage. 

But I could use one.

Arby’s Meal #5

Aaron, who loves numbers and numerical order, is all too happy that fast food restaurants number their meal combos.  I’ve written before about how he comes home from his day group and tells me about the meal number he’s eaten for lunch at a particular restaurant.  Or how he talks about the #52 slushie at Quik Trip………….that would be 52 ounces!  The largest, I’m sure, knowing Aaron!

Saturday night I was up in McPherson with Andrea, so Gary took Aaron to Arby’s for supper.  Aaron recounted his Arby’s visit with me yesterday.

“Mom, Dad and I went to Arby’s for supper when you were gone.”

Really, Aaron?  I love Arby’s!

“Well, I don’t really like Arby’s a lot.  But I didn’t want to disappoint what Dad wanted to do.”

Oh, that was nice of you, Aaron.  But what’s not to like about Arby’s?

He then described his sandwich…………”It had this yellow melted cheese on it.  That’s not my favorite.”

And he added, “It was a meal #5.”

As if this would more fully describe this sandwich to me…………….a meal #5 tells it all!

So I asked, “Is that what Dad got, too?”

He flatly replied, “Yeah.  All two of us got a meal #5.”

Well, Aaron, maybe the next time all two of you go, all two of you can try a meal #4?

1/2 and 1/2

Aaron often talks about things being “half” – like when he said he was “half-way losing weight” – or that he’s “half tired” and so forth.  Today he walked in the kitchen and said, “Mom, this morning I went outside, but it was half cold and half warm, so I came back inside.”  I asked him why he came inside.

He looked at me like I was more than a little dense and answered, “Because I couldn’t stand being half cold and half warm!” 

So I just had to ask him, “Well, which were you?  Half cold or half warm?”

And of course his response was, “I was half cold AND half warm!”

I then urged him to go back outside.  I told him that it was 53 degrees outside…………and I resisted the urge to tell him that 53 is half cold and half warm.  I thought about it, though!

So outside he went, with his mulch trashcan, and stayed for awhile.  I snuck a picture out the window as he busily “worked” in the mulch and relaxed in the sunshine.

When he came inside, I asked, “So Aaron, how was it outside just now?”

He dryly answered, “It was still half cold and half warm.” 

I thought it was warm, Aaron.

“No, it was half cold and half warm.” 

Later tonight I had to ask one more time if he had a good time going outside today. 

“Yeah, but it was still half cold and half warm.” 

Well, nothing is going to change Aaron’s mind on the half cold/half warm weather today.  I think we need to tell the weather forecasters about this. 

At least their forecasts could be right half the time!