This past Sunday was a pretty stressful day around here. I’m not talking about the huge storm that moved into Wichita…….or the tornadoes that were just to the south of us…….or the hail…..or the sideways rain……….or the fierce winds. I’m talking about spending this delightful day with Aaron – and no electricity for about 7 hours. When his precious weekend schedule is disrupted, no matter the reason, then regimented Aaron can……and did……become most unhappy.
Gary and I were watching the weather. We knew that there was rotation in the huge clouds that were all around us. When the tornado sirens started blaring, I went up to Aaron’s room and told him that it was time for us to head all the way downstairs to the basement. Aaron resisted this at first because he was playing a computer game, but he finally walked into the kitchen carrying his supplies for our stay in the basement. He was carrying his soft, black, fuzzy pillow; his favorite blanket; his two current favorite DVDs; and his watch, dangling from his fingers and for some reason not on his arm. He was wearing his shoes and socks, so that was good. Just before we headed down the stairs, the electricity went off. This was the real storm threat to us in the long run, but we thought that surely the power would be back on soon and so we were not alarmed.
Our basement is finished, with carpeting and couches – and lights and a nice television that we couldn’t use because of the lack of electricity. Gary and I ventured upstairs a few times to check on how the storm was progressing, but Aaron stayed where he was. He pet Jackson for awhile, and listened to the hail and the wind…….and talked a lot, of course. Finally he put his fuzzy pillow on the couch, laid down and placed his blanket on himself, and went fast asleep. Everything was going nicely, I thought. Silly me.
The storm had calmed down and was nearly over when Gary and I went upstairs to look out once again. I soon woke Aaron up, and he gathered all of his belongings together before thumping up the stairs. It only took him a few seconds to realize that the electricity was still off. He put his pillow and blanket and DVDs back up in his room, and checked the time on his watch that was now on his arm. Then he asked when the electricity would be turned back on…….and of course we didn’t know for sure.
For awhile, everything was fine and happy. We looked out the windows as we surveyed for possible damage. The sun came out, and we walked out on the driveway to look around. Then I decided to do a few things that I could do without electricity. Aaron followed me around as I folded some sheets, got Andrew’s bed ready for his arrival in a couple days, put away some laundry, and worked on a grocery list. Aaron was talking and talking as usual, but soon his voice took on a different tone. Electricity deprivation was setting in. We were in trouble.
Aaron has just a set way of doing things. His world functions the way that Aaron wants it to function, day after day. We suggested that Aaron sit down and read a book. But no……..Aaron will ONLY read his Handy Answer Books at night before bed. At no other time will he read a book. Believe me, we have tried to encourage reading at other times of the day or night. But in Aaron’s world, reading is for just before bed……….propped up in his bed with his pillows around him in just the right order, along with his faithful back scratcher placed just so-so……and maybe a snack hidden from Mom under his covers. Reading is not for the daytime with the sun shining and while sitting on a couch. That’s crazy! And Mom and Dad are crazy for even suggesting such a thing!
We also knew that Aaron would not go out to “do the mulch,” as he says. He likes to sit out in or by some of our flower beds, or under our trees, and then break little pieces of mulch into his special mulch trash can. But when the mulch is wet, as it was on this day, it won’t break like he wants it to and so he will NOT “do the mulch.” Aaron realized that mulch was not an option on this increasingly boring day. And he had already cut out the Sunday coupons. His options were narrowing………and his frustration was rising.
Gary and I could see another storm coming……….a storm called Angry Aaron………..and there wasn’t much we could do to prevent it. These times are when we parents of autistic children………..or adults, as Aaron is………..try to balance those issues of using this time as a teachable moment or a time of discipline, as compared to feeling like we give in or enable poor behavior in our children. Yet all of our years with Aaron have taught us that once he starts down a track of great frustration it is nearly impossible to turn him around in the same way that we could another of our children. The disconnect, if you will, in Aaron’s brain just won’t allow him to see things any other way but the way that he sees it. There are times when we have to see Aaron’s world through Aaron’s eyes, and then seek to re-route that train that’s headed down the track to a sure collision.
Aaron began to blame Gary and I for the lack of electricity. No amount of explaining kept him from blaming us. And if it wasn’t exactly our fault that the power was out, it was certainly our fault that we didn’t know when it was coming back on. And if it wasn’t our fault that we didn’t know when it would come back on, it was most definitely our fault that we didn’t have a plan of action that would give him something to do. Never mind that nothing we suggested was acceptable to him. It was still our fault!!
Aaron’s anger was escalating. When Aaron gets really angry, he will break something – and it’s usually something that he likes. So strange, but true. Therefore, I was very thankful when Gary suggested that we go for a drive to see if we could find out where the power problem was. I fully expected Aaron to demand that if we did find the problem, then Gary should climb up the pole and fix it……….since after all, it was HIS fault!
The drive was nice. Of course, Aaron had to have on his favorite music and he had to talk the whole time, but at least he was happier. We finished by going to Taco Bell, where Aaron had to examine every single item on the drive-through menu………and I told Gary to just order Nachos Bell Grande for him……….and right after that was done, Aaron said he wanted tacos. Sorry, Aaron. He ate his Nachos at our kitchen table, in the dusky light, with his TWO spoons and his TWO forks that he got from the silverware drawer, and the napkin caddy, and his water with a straw – always.
Gary grilled turkey burgers and turkey hot dogs on the grill, and Aaron ate a couple hot dogs while trying to sneak some to Jackson – always. Then he and I played Skip-Bo by lantern light, and he was very happy about that……even when I won! And just as we finished our game, the power came back on!! Before I could hardly blink, Aaron had vanished. He was in his room in record time, turning his computer on and treasuring at least a short time to play his game. He wasn’t even angry when it was time to get off and get ready for bed. The storm had truly passed, at least for that day.
When I went in to his room to say good-night, he told me to wait a minute. He sat on his bed and reached for his digital clock on his night stand, then told me to tell him what time it was so that he could set his clock. I told him that it was 11:12. Click, click, click. He set the correct time, then stood up and looked at his satellite digital clock by his desk. His eyes became large and almost wild as he said, “It’s 11:13!!” Back to his bed he went, and quickly changed his night stand clock to 11:13.
Another crisis averted! Dear Aaron. He wants his life to run like clockwork, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen. Yet trying to explain that to Aaron is NOT easy. Sometimes it’s not at all possible. Therefore, Gary and I are the ones that have to constantly adjust. We have to reset our way of thinking and our way of disciplining and our way of living on those days and in those moments. We do get frustrated and tired, and sometimes we feel guilty for getting frustrated and tired.
But God is faithful in these storms…….in the tornadoes and in the Aaron issues, God is there. Whether it’s 11:12 or 11:13, God is with us. And there is much He can teach us through this Aaron of ours.
Like today……….Wednesday……..Aaron’s least favorite day to go to his day group. But that storm story is for another day.