Yesterday – A Part of Today and Tomorrow

I opened my desk drawer not long ago, pulling it way out and getting a rare glimpse into that dark corner that rarely gets my attention.  I saw the stack of old calendar planners that I had saved.  You know how it is.  I saved them just in case I ever need a piece of information that they might contain.  Maybe the date of a doctor visit or a surgery or a test of some sort.  The ones that I eventually pulled out of two separate drawers went back to 2002.  Seriously?  I had no idea how much time had passed.  Did I really need to keep my planners from 12 years ago? 

 
I gathered the ones together that I had no intention of keeping and decided to take them downstairs to throw them in the kitchen trash can.  But before I did that, as I sat at my desk chair, I opened one of the oldest planners.  I was quickly pulled back in time as I flipped through its pages.  So many memories came rushing in.  I reached for another planner, and another, as I sat there lost in memories. 

We were in the midst of life with busy kids, that’s for sure.  I was homeschooling all three of them, with our friend Amy helping to tutor Aaron.  Then I saw the transitions that we were going through with Aaron as we had him tested, enrolled him in the local high school here, and had him then admitted to a Wichita school for special needs life skill training.  All the appointments that I had written down brought back so many recollections of that time.

 
There were football practices and football games for Andrew.  I remembered all the times that Gary took him to practices, or I did when Gary was at work……as well as the year that Gary helped coach Andrew’s team and the hours they spent together that year.  Then later came the wrestling practices and many wrestling meets.  And after that came track for Andrew.     

With Andrea, it was largely her music that kept us on the road.  Piano and violin lessons, recitals, and special events related to her music.  Then there was the season that she and a friend tried volleyball.  Oh yes, how well we remember that experience! 

All the doctor appointments for each of them, much less for me, were meticulously recorded.  Dentist visits, physicals, wisdom teeth surgery, orthodontist visits for Andrew…………and so many more.   For Aaron, there were the specialists, of course.  The EEGs, the MRIs, the VNS surgery, the five day video EEG in the hospital……..all of it.  I smiled at the ER visit for him when he picked up a snake and it bit his hand.  I remembered that I wasn’t smiling that day.  And his broken wrist surgery was there as well, of course. 

We spent countless hours in the car as I drove them all to their activities, especially Andrea and Andrew.  I drove them to practices……….I drove them to jobs……..I drove Andrea to college in the early days before she got a car.  I drove Andrew to and from our local high school when he went there to finish school, before we got him his truck.  It seems so long ago! 

I saw records of so many church activities for all of us.  Ministry and growth and friendships were all over those pages, for each of us.  And there were other treasures as well, such as the visits from friends or family over the years.  These people arriving on this day and leaving on that day.  Or our trips back home, for many happy visits and then as time passed, the trips that were ruled by sad and hard times. 

I saw the date on which I had written that my dad was starting yet another round of chemo.  Just three little words – Dad starts chemo.  Then a year later, all the blank pages during the month that I stayed in West Virginia with him and mom the month before he died.  The same blank pages were there from the year before when Gary’s mother died……and a year later when Gary’s dad died, two months before I lost my dad.  So many long trips home………so many blank pages when our normal schedule didn’t matter.

These planners that I held in my hands held far more than dates and times and schedules.  They held precious memories of a life that is now in the past for us.  The words in black and white…….the scribbled times and the jotted notes………were full of meaning for me.  But they didn’t hold emotion or feeling.  The feelings are in my heart, stirred alive as I read the facts of our busy life being lived during those active days. 

And I would not take back one second of it!  No written words in a planner can convey the bonding that was occurring during all those endless hours of time spent together………….whether it was in our van, or in a waiting room, or sitting on bleachers, or nursing one back to health after surgery.

Behind all those sterile words on those lined pages, there was sharing.  Talking about relationships as we drove along, or what God would want one of them to think or to do, or what their dreams were.  There was laughter…..so much laughter.  We still laugh about some of those moments today.  If I said to Andrea, “You sophomore or junior?”……she would laugh and laugh about that moment.  Or to Andrew, if I said, “I laugh in the face of G-forces.  HaHaHaHa!!!”……he would laugh, or at least give me a patient smile while he rolled his eyes. 

There was plenty of embarrassment as well, trust me.  Andrew’s embarrassment at having his mother drive him to and from school for several months is the stuff of legend……….but there was a lesson to learn.  The same for Andrea during her first few months of college. 

I wondered, as I read, where I got the energy for those extremely busy days.  I was younger and it was just life, how we did it, and I didn’t think a thing about it.  Now it would be daunting.  Then, it was normal.

While that life is in the past for us now, I know that the time spent together put down roots in their hearts that are still growing today.  What occurred in the past is still a part of their present……our yesterdays are a part of their today’s.  It’s helped them be who they are, and who they are yet to become.  So our yesterdays are also still to be a part of their tomorrows.

To young parents who are now where I was all those years ago, I would say:  Look at your children with fresh eyes.  See and know that one day, in what will seem like the blink of an eye, your little ones will be driving away to begin their own lives.  The time spent with them now can never be reclaimed or lived again.  We can never re-live today.  Each day, each moment, each event, each conversation, will make them into the adult that they are yet to become.

And so many of these moments and these conversations happen in the dailiness of our lives…….the routine that can become too routine and tiring on some days.  Treasure the moments………claim each opportunity to learn and to laugh together. 

Some day you might open up your old planners, if you have them and keep them, and smile at the memories.  Maybe shed a tear or two.  But hopefully you will be mostly thankful for days well spent in the lives of your children and your families. 

You Voted For the Wrong Team

Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday, a day which does not impress Aaron in the least.  He doesn’t care one bit about sports on most days, and certainly he does not see anything at all super about the Super Bowl.  Even the food I made didn’t greatly impress him.  Gary made some awesome special hamburgers on the grill, but Aaron just ate one of the regular burgers with a little ketchup smeared on it.  He didn’t care at all about the cake I made but instead munched on some Rice Krispie treats from the day before. 

He was pretty grouchy just before supper because he felt like Gary didn’t want to look at yet another clip from the War of the Worlds movie.  He was right.  Gary, nor I, had any desire at all to look at anything else related to War of the Worlds, but Aaron was very upset by that.  So after supper, dear Gary went up to Aaron’s room and watched another short clip………and Aaron was happy.

Gary and I settled in to watch the game.  It wasn’t too long before Aaron bounded into the room, asking his usual questions.  What teams are playing?  Which one are you voting for?  What color are they wearing?  It looks red to me, not orange, he said.  So are you voting for the team that has a zero for their score?

That’s about enough, Aaron.

I offered to tickle Aaron’s back, so he got the back scratcher tickler………and his animal print blanket that must always go over his legs……….and his bag of peanuts……….and his bowl for the peanut shells.  He sat on the ottoman near me and I began tickling his back, which he loves, as he watched the Super Bowl, which he doesn’t love. 

I kept having to remind Aaron that this tickling of his back was not another opportunity for him to talk incessantly about War of the Worlds.  This was our time to watch football and to listen to all the commercials, neither of which interested Aaron in the least.  Yet he was watching the game.  Aaron is always observing, whether he particularly enjoys the said activity or not.

His first astute observation didn’t take too long in coming.  “Mom, I think you and Dad should vote for Seattle.”

Yes, we knew that he was watching the game and that he was keeping track of the score. 

He wondered why the players were yelling, and what were they yelling, and were they mad.

He observed that lots of football players have long hair.

But the best question by far:  “How come football players look like they’re wearing a pacifier?”

At least he gave Gary and me something to laugh about as we watched the team we were voting for miserably lose.  Aaron thought that it was pretty funny that the team we voted for lost the game.  He has no team loyalty and no interest in that fact that we do.  It’s black and white to him.  We voted for the Broncos.  The Broncos lost.  We voted for the wrong team.  Period.

I would say that this Super Bowl business has given us a slight reprieve from all the War of the Worlds talk.  Very slight, but still a small break nonetheless. 

Shortly after he came down to the kitchen this morning, I heard his low chuckle.  I asked him what was funny, and he answered, “I’m laughing at your Super Bowl because your team only got eight points.”

See what I mean?  He has no sensitivity concerning team loyalty and team disappointment.  It’s a good thing that Gary and I don’t take all this football Super Bowl stuff very seriously.

And Aaron continued.  “You should have obeyed me and voted for that other team.”

Whatever.

But Aaron wasn’t quite done for the day.  At supper, Aaron once again laughed and then told us about one of the staff at his day group.  “Andrew voted for Seattle and they won.  I told him that my mom and dad voted for the Broncos.  You all should have voted for Seattle!”

OK, Aaron.  Well, let’s talk about something else. 

Have you seen any good alien movies lately?

 

I Survived…….WOW!!!

I am reporting in to all of you who might be wondering how I am doing today.  Many of you read my last blog and you know that I was committed to having a WOW day yesterday. That’s War of the Worlds to those of you who may have missed that bit of info.  All day long, Aaron asked many questions.  Are we watching War of the Worlds?  What time are we watching War of the Worlds?  Are we watching Wheel of Fortune?  Then after Wheel of Fortune are we watching War of the Worlds?  What time will that be?    Did you know that War of the Worlds is one hour and fifty-seven minutes long?  Are you sure that one hour and fifty-seven minutes is not too long?  Can I eat my peanuts while we watch War of the Worlds? 

I was exhausted before our one hour and fifty-seven minute movie even started.

And one hour and fifty-seven minutes was looming over my head, seeming very, very long indeed.

I had told Aaron that we would watch the movie after Wheel of Fortune, which would be 7:00.  But in order to cover all my bases and to prevent a total meltdown from Aaron, I made sure he understood that IF something came up that required my attention, then we would watch the movie as soon as that something was taken care of by me.  I know that I must always give myself an out with Aaron so that he……hopefully……..will cooperate in the event of a change to our plans. 

Sure enough, we had a change in our plans.  Andrew called, so I told Aaron that as soon as Dad and I talked to Andrew, then he and I would begin our WOW evening.   Just as I expected, Aaron was soon hovering around us as we sat on the couches downstairs and talked to Andrew.  I waved my hand and shooed him off, but soon he came back……….and left the room………and came back again………several times.  Aaron thought that this phone call was taking entirely too long.  Before the call was over, Aaron was sitting cross-legged on the floor………sighing and rolling his eyes…….and making comments about how he didn’t care about Andrew calling and that he knew Mom wasn’t going to watch War of the Worlds after all.  Even my evil eye was having little effect at this point.  The zapping power of the WOW aliens was more and more appealing to me, to be honest. 

 
We started the movie a little after 8:00.  Aaron had his animal print blanket all spread out and his bag of peanuts ready and his bowl there for all the peanut shells.  Oh, and his back scratcher that he uses to whack the arm of the couch when he gets really excited……which was often on this WOW evening.   He was beside himself with excitement as the narrator began talking about those that were watching our world from outer space………watching with cruel and unsympathetic eyes. 

“See Mom?!” Aaron exclaimed.  “Now we know they’re unsympathetic!”

Yes, Aaron, they are.

“So what does that mean?” he asked.  And I tried to explain this emotion to him for the umpteenth time, as well as the concept of cruel eyes.  But he was already off on something else, rubbing his hands together in excitement.

“Mom, that’s Ray!”      “That’s Ray’s son!”    “That’s Ray’s house!”   “That’s Ray’s daughter!”

I know, Aaron.  Just be quiet and let’s listen.

“Mom!!!   That’s my favorite part!”  he yelled as the lightning started.

CLAP!!!!!!!!!!

As if the movie isn’t loud enough, Aaron.  QUIT CLAPPING!!!!

“Watch this, Mom!   That’s my favorite part!”  he yelled again as the ground cracked open.

“MOM!!!!   The alien ship is coming out of the ground!!  Now that’s my favorite part!!!”

Good grief, Aaron, how many favorite parts do you have?

“I have other favorite parts!” he declared as he rubbed his hands together again in great excitement.

“Oh, Mom!!  Look at this!  They’re going to zap everyone!”

And yes, the zapping began in earnest.

“This is my ALSO favorite part!!  Get it??!!”  he nearly yelled.

Oh my word.  How many minutes are left?  Is this just the famous chapter six out of how many chapters?!

But I did survive, along with Tom Cruise and his two children, of course.  The lightning and the aliens and the overturned ferry and the near drowning and the fires were not a big deal.  Aaron’s incessant talking and his very loud clapping and rubbing his hands together, however, nearly did me in.    My WOW evening was nearing an end when Aaron said, “Now do we understand this movie now?  They were unsympathetic and cruel!”   Aaron loves that phrase for some reason.  And I knew that I would be explaining it over and over before his fascination with this movie was over.

Earlier, he had decided to quit his rapid eating of all those peanuts.  His bowl was full of peanut shells as he set it to the side and said, “Are you glad I got off the peanuts?” 

I wish it was as easy for him to get off this WOW movie.  This morning he was at it again, asking tons of questions and clarifying all the points that I thought we had already clarified and re-hashing their unsympathetic and cruel eyes. 

He would make a statement and then say, “Is that how you would put it?” 

Oh, Aaron.  I am so ready to put it away.  Let’s talk about something else.  We had our WOW evening.  Can that be enough?

We got home from church and I heard a sound coming from Aaron’s room.  I peeked in, and sure enough, he was watching a scene from WOW. 

Wow!

When will it end?  When will he have had enough? 

Not as soon as me, I can tell you that.  We never know with Aaron.

He wanted me to come and look at this scene again with him, the one he was watching right then.

Do I tell him that at this point, I have cruel and unsympathetic eyes?   So tempting………

WOW!!

Autism 101:  Individuals with autism, particularly Asperger’s Syndrome, tend to have “eccentric preoccupations or odd, intense fixations.  They tend to lecture on areas of interest; ask repetitive questions about interests; have trouble letting go of ideas…..”   (Karen Williams)

WOW!   Not wow in the sense of……..well, wow………but WOW in the sense of today is War of the Worlds day.  Therefore, I have labeled our day WOW day.  In more ways than one.

I must watch War of the Worlds with Aaron if I am to have any peace in my life.  His intense fixation with this movie must end, and the only way to head toward that goal is for me to honor my word and to watch this movie with him.  Perhaps then, after seeing WOW, he will let go of all the WOW talk and all the WOW questions and all the WOW lectures.  Of course, he will eventually move on to a new focus.  It may be a new movie………it may be a news headline…….it may be a game………..it may be ANYTHING.   Sigh.

It is funny, if I can just remember to keep my sense of humor intact during the endless WOW talk.  This morning he joined me at the kitchen table, early.  He didn’t sit down but he stood there peering at me.  I greeted him with a good morning, and he smiled……….and then said, “Mom, in chapter six…………”  War of the Worlds, first thing on a Saturday morning.  It must end.  I hope.
 

“In chapter six there were lights.  Why were there lights?”

“What was that screeching noise?”

“Why did that screeching noise bother people?”

“Why was that guy taking pictures?”

Coffee helps.  I got up to make a fresh pot.  I had already poured a cup for Aaron, but seeing the fresh pot starting to perk made him want more. 

“Mom, I’ll get it when it’s over.”  Seeing my clueless expression, he continued. 

“You understand?”  And it hit me that he was talking about the coffee.  When it was over……when the new coffee was brewed…….he would get another cup. 

Yes, there is much to understand about Aaron.  He was soon back at the table where I was sipping my own coffee.  “Mom, if you want to watch War of the Worlds, come and get me.  OK?”

OK, Aaron.

“Come to my room and get me.”

All right, Aaron.

“Will you come to my room?”

YES, Aaron!!!!

 
Understanding Aaron is key to living with Aaron.  It doesn’t always make it easy, but it does help to understand how his complex and amazing mind works.  His connections are not like yours and not like mine.  They are Aaron’s.  For whatever reason, War of the Worlds is the focus of his life right now.  Therefore, it has become the focus of mine as well. 

I redirect his thinking when I can.  I talk about other things……….I tell him that we will discuss this movie at another set time………..and other “tricks of the autism trade.”

But nothing will erase Aaron’s fixation on this movie at this point in his life.

Wow!

And WOW!!  So today is WOW day and one way or the other, I will watch WOW, and I will listen to Aaron’s yelling, and to all of his comments, and his questions, and to the LOUD clapping that is sure to come. 

And I WILL sneak the remote away from his sight.  There will be no pausing of this movie in order to inspect every remote element of every scene.  Especially in chapter six. 

I am a survivor.  I will survive this day and this movie.

WOW!!!!