As a person with Asperger’s, Aaron often demonstrates the social impairments that accompany this form of autism. The social protocols that most of us possess are foreign to Aaron, no matter how many hundreds of times Gary and I have tried to drill these niceties into his brain. When these social impairments are combined with his interest in the unusual, it can be a sure recipe for embarrassment…………not his…………but mine and Gary’s, or Andrea and Andrew’s.
When we made our many military moves, we would visit churches as we tried to find the “home” church that God would want us to join and be a part of during our stay in that area. We visited a church one Sunday morning when Aaron was a teenager. Arriving a little later than we had planned to, we found that all the back rows were already full. Trust me, a back row for us with Aaron was most definitely preferred! However, on this particular Sunday we had to choose a pew near the front of the church. This situation made us very uncomfortable as we spent a good portion of the services making sure that Aaron was happily occupied, was being quiet, didn’t make multiple bathroom trips, etc.
We already felt conspicuous as visitors…………..Aaron only added to that feeling for us. Oh well……..we just smiled and went to the front, sitting down and hoping for the best. Things were progressing smoothly as the worship service continued. Suddenly, during one of the songs, there was a commotion near the back of the church – on the side where we sat. An older woman had collapsed and her family gathered around her to help. We all sat down and soon an ambulance was called. The congregation was led in prayer for her as everyone waited for the ambulance and EMTs to arrive.
Aaron thought that all of this was very exciting indeed. In fact, this was the most interesting church service he had attended in a long time……….probably ever! Gary and I realized that he was becoming a little too exhilerated over this unusual turn of events, so we went into “Calm Aaron” mode. We tried to redirect him from straining to look behind him at the action in the rear pews. We rubbed his back, which he loved and which always calmed him. We whispered an explanation to him of what was occurring as he kept asking…….loudly…….”WHAT? What’s going on? What happened?”
Realizing that no one in this church knew us or knew Aaron made us even more aware of how odd Aaron must have looked to everyone around us. We reached a point where I do believe we would have just gotten up and left if we were near an exit, but this wasn’t an option to us at that point without being very disruptive. Aaron, as usual, wasn’t displaying the proper responses to this tense situation. He didn’t care about the poor woman who had collapsed. He didn’t care about her very worried family members. He definitely didn’t care about his very embarrassed parents or sister or brother. He was excited! Here was a situation that grabbed his attention and peaked his interest!
Aaron’s eyes were darting here and there as he anticipated the arrival of the ambulance crew. When they finally came, they seemed to fill the front of that small church as they entered a side door. Naturally, they ended up walking right in front of and then beside our pew. Now Aaron had moved beyond excitement to being absolutely thrilled. When Aaron is beside himself with excitement, he bends over at the waist and rubs his hands together. And so there in the pew, as all eyes were on the EMTs pushing the stretcher right beside US, Aaron bent over at the waist………….rubbed his hands together rapidly…………..and said………….loudly, of course…………”COOL!!!!!”
Cool? Did Aaron really just say, loudly, that this was cool? Now Gary and I were in “Shut Aaron Up” mode. We were beyond embarrassed……….more like horrified………and felt that we should stand and offer a public apology before slinking out the nearest exit. I’m surprised that one of us didn’t have a stroke and have to be hauled out on a stretcher, too.
Well, we all survived. The dear woman who passed out was fine after a brief hospital stay. Gary and I recovered as well, as did Andrea and Andrew………….though it took the siblings a little longer. As for Aaron……..he never did see the problem with his reaction, so he had absolutely nothing to recover from. He rehashed and rehashed the entire story many, many times……….complete with bending over at the waist and rubbing his hands together. This was, to him, a church service worth remembering! It was for us, too, but for very different reasons than for Aaron.
And for once, we had no problem the following week with getting Aaron out the door to church. He couldn’t wait to go back to that church to see what would happen next!