I want to share something that happened yesterday morning with Aaron. This incident gave a glimpse into several aspects of his autism, and also taught me yet another valuable life lesson. Aaron does have a way of teaching me things that stay with me for a long time……..and sometimes hopefully forever.
I had an obligation at church on Monday and Tuesday that prevented me from taking Aaron to meet his day group. I arranged for his driver to pick him up at our house. But on Monday I realized that I could drive Aaron to meet his group, and so that night I told Aaron that I would be driving him the next morning. He likes that arrangement better and so he was very happy.
As I got ready yesterday morning……Tuesday……I decided that I would just go over to the church a little early. I hadn’t contacted Aaron’s driver concerning the changes yet, so I decided to just leave things the way they were and have Craig come to our house like we had planned. Knowing how Aaron sometimes reacts to changes, I realized that he might not like this idea very well. First the driver was coming to the house……then I said that I would take him…….and now I was back to the driver coming here. Up and down………..changes, changes………….and I know better. Aaron’s rigid thinking doesn’t allow for change very easily. I was soon to see this reality in full display.
I walked into Aaron’s room, where he was watching a video, and I chirped happily to him that I was going to go on to church early and that Craig would just come to the house to pick him up. And in his low, monotone voice, Aaron said, “You’re a liar.”
This flat proclamation was a forerunner of trouble, and I knew it. What made me think that somehow Aaron would be accepting of this idea? Did I suppose that his rigid way of thinking would somehow disappear this time? Silly me! But I responded with more cheer than I felt as I told him that sometimes things change and that this would work out just fine. Right, Aaron? And his voice went up a notch as he answered, “But you lied!”
Now no amount of reasoning with Aaron would dissuade him from his notion that I had lied to him. I told him that I would take him to meet his group, and then I said I was not taking him to meet his group. Aaron’s dots don’t connect, disconnect, and reconnect the way that mine do. I can’t jerk him along with all these changes of plans and expect him to comply the way that others would. Nope. Not gonna do it.
We walked downstairs, where Aaron took his pills and where I had poured his coffee. Happy Mom was quickly becoming frustrated Mom as Aaron slowly escalated from calling me a liar to declaring his feelings for his lying mother. There was no mistaking those feelings, either, as he declared, “I hate you!” Now this isn’t something I am proud to admit that Aaron said, but this is Aaron being totally blunt and unfiltered.
He truly doesn’t hate me, but it’s all he knows to say in order to show me that he is very frustrated. Aaron won’t sit down and look me in the eye as he shares his heart with me in a level, kind voice. He isn’t able to express his feelings properly, so he resorts to what his heart is telling him. Mom said this, then she said that, and then she went back to this. I am so confused and disappointed and mad! Mom is a liar! I hate Mom!
This one-sided verbal assault went on for several minutes. I interjected a calming word here and there, but Aaron would have none of it. And I realized that I had actually created this situation by disregarding what I know about Aaron, and by not following the special Aaron rules that I normally follow. I had failed, and I was paying the price. So I told Aaron that I would take him to meet Craig, but I also told him that I was hurt by his words. He also could tell that I was hurt by the look on my face and the sound of my voice. He does know how to read those clues after living with me for all these years.
I went into my bathroom and shut the door. I heard Aaron walking up the hall, and then soon walking back to my room. Then he said, “Here Mom. This is for you.” I looked down as I heard a noise outside the bathroom door, and there under the door Aaron slid a pack of his special Big Red gum. I knew instantly that this was a peace offering……….Aaron’s way of saying that he was sorry. And he actually said, “I”m sorry, Mom.”
I opened the door, and there he stood……relaxed and hopeful. His anger was gone. Was it because he got his way, I wondered? So I started to hand him back the gum, but he said, “No. I want you to keep it. I’m sorry, Mom.” And I knew that no matter what his motive was, Aaron had given me an apology that I needed to accept. There are some things I must do because Aaron is my son……..there are things I must do because they are right………..and there are things I must do because God says to do them. Sometimes it’s all of the above.
Later yesterday afternoon, my heart was hurt over another incident. Tears filled my eyes and rolled down my cheeks. As I reached in my purse to get my keys, I saw the pack of Big Red gum. I could even smell the strong cinnamon flavor coming out of my purse. I thought about forgiveness at that moment…….of how important it is to ask for forgiveness and likewise how important it is to extend forgiveness, even if true motives aren’t totally clear. And of how our obedience to God, regardless of the circumstances, is said in scripture to be a sweet smell to Him……..a sweet savor of sacrifice.
I may not ever chew that Big Red gum. I may keep it as a reminder of my Aaron who sought forgiveness and showed his sorrow by sliding Big Red gum under my bathroom door. And as a reminder of the forgiving that I was allowed to extend today to that person from yesterday who asked for my forgiveness.
There’s some more sweet smelling savor going up to heaven. I wonder if it smells like Big Red gum?