Last week was a wonderful week. Andrea got to come home as she had a break between summer school that had just ended and the beginning of her fall semester in grad school. She drove in from Fort Worth on Monday. Aaron had been excited for days about her arrival. He wondered what day she would get here, what time she would arrive, how long was she staying, was she bringing her dogs, etc., etc. He loves his sister……….and even though Aaron is the oldest of our children, he seems to be the youngest because of his childlike ways.
Andrew also was able to come in on Tuesday from Missouri. He had a break from traveling with Scott Palmer Racing, so the timing was perfect for all of us to have this rare time together. Aaron has, for many years, been rather jealous of Andrew. We don’t know if it’s a “boy” thing or just what, but where Aaron sees Andrea more as a mother figure – he sees Andrew more as competition. He views Andrew as competing with him for our time and attention. We always tell Aaron that this isn’t true……..that we love them both equally, but that we don’t see Andrew very often and so we do want to spend time with him while he’s here. Aaron will say, “When Andrew’s here you just want to talk to him and not to me.” But he doesn’t say the same about our time with Andrea.
I wondered how the days together would go and how Aaron would treat Andrew. When we all sat down to eat supper on Tuesday evening, though, it went very well. Aaron didn’t say anything rude or mean to Andrew. Of course, Aaron doesn’t ever walk up and say, “Hi, Andrew (or Andrea)! It’s so good to see you!” We would probably fall over in a dead faint if he did that. Instead he just barrels into the room and basically ignores the “new” person as he launches into some topic about a movie or a game or an event or just whatever will keep him talking……..and will help him avoid the uncomfortable reality of actually saying hello. On Monday, when Aaron returned from his group, he barged in the door as always and there was Andrea. Aaron never said hello or acted at all excited to see her……..but he was. He just started talking about some random something, and then would refer to her as if she was always there. I finally asked him if he was going to say hello and he laughed awkwardly. Then if you listened very carefully, you would have heard him mutter his hello, very fast and very softly. There! That was done! Andrea laughed, and then gave him a special giraffe ball point pen that she had bought just for him. I had to urge him to say thanks, again uncomfortably, but he was truly delighted with his new pen………and with the fact that his sister knows how much he loves ball point pens!
Aaron wanted to stay home from his day group while Andrea and Andrew were here. My first inclination was to insist that he go to his group, but then I mentally stepped back and realized that he desired to be as much a part of the family togetherness as the rest of us. Yes, he also had the ulterior motive of just wanting to stay home, but I knew that his decision was rooted in the urge to be a part of what we were doing. It can be more hectic with Aaron around……more frustrating………louder……….less adult-like on certain levels……….but Aaron is a part of our family and so I decided to let him stay home.
On Wednesday we all went to Tanganyika Wildlife Park, just a couple miles from our house. I wondered how Aaron would do in the heat of this summer day. Would he be impatient to go from display to display? Would he be grouchy in the heat? Would he demand all of my attention? However, we were all pleasantly surprised at how well he did. He truly enjoyed the day despite the heat. He fed many of the animals, including the rhino. He pet the kangaroos and he rode the camel. He wasn’t pushy or intrusive, and he didn’t make us hurry along because he was unhappy. Can you tell how other trips in the past have been? This day was truly a delight to us……….and a surprise. It was a gift in so many ways.
We ended the afternoon with a stroll through the gift shop, where Aaron was very happy that I bought him a shirt. As we walked out the door and headed toward the van, I noticed that Aaron picked up his pace and was walking ahead of Andrew, Andrea, and me. I knew exactly what he was doing. “Look,” I told Andrew and Andrea. “Aaron is hurrying because he wants to get to the van first and grab the front seat again.” We all laughed quietly and then Andrew told us to watch. He walked up beside Aaron and then with his long legs he began to pick up the pace. Not to be outdone, Aaron kept right up with Andrew. Then Andrew kicked it up another notch, his long legs easily outpacing Aaron’s short legs. But Aaron was not to be outdone, so with his arms pumping he kept up with Andrew’s stride. And as they walked side by side, Aaron was saying, “Um. Um. Um.” This was his way of trying to look like he was keeping up with Andrew because he wanted to talk…………but we all knew better. Aaron wanted that front seat for sure!!
Instead of the frustration that would have been present 10 or 15 years ago, though, there were smiles and knowing glances between the three of us as we watched Aaron win the race……….thanks to Andrew’s kindness. It really was very funny. There was Aaron, stuck in his childhood………..determined to ride shotgun like he did years ago. Striving for the best seat…….wanting to be ahead. And there were my other two adult children, not making fun of Aaron but enjoying the moment and enjoying this unique person that is their brother. Able to laugh at his funny ways and appreciate who he is.
|Andrew, Aaron, and Andrea|
Aaron doesn’t realize how much things have changed over the years. When we’re all together, he’s still in childhood mode with the competition for his place and for our attention. If he only knew, or cared, about what I see. I see our other two children, now adults, who have grown in their love and understanding of their brother. Oh, they still roll their eyes and sigh deep sighs and grit their teeth and say, “Aaron!!” plenty of times. But in their hearts, they realize more than ever who Aaron is. It’s as if the dust has settled and they can step back and see life more clearly……..Aaron’s life. Time and maturity sure do make a huge difference. There were times that I wondered if I would ever see this level of love and understanding from them. Living with a special needs child can be very taxing for the siblings, especially when disruptive behaviors are a large part of the picture. Sometimes it takes years for all of it to make sense and for acceptance to occur.
Aaron doesn’t need to try to stay ahead, but he doesn’t know that. So he’ll still grab the front seat and feel like he’s gained a victory over his brother and sister. And we’ll still smile and wink at each other, and tell the story behind his back of how he rushed ahead to be the first.
And we’ll still love Aaron, even when he’s pushing to be ahead and not thinking of anyone but himself. I’ve said it a lot, but some things will never change.