I’ve written in the past about how much Aaron likes to sit in our mulch around our trees or in our flower beds, breaking the small wood chips into very small pieces and watching them fall into his special trash can………his mulch trash can, we call it. This is Aaron’s way of relaxing. He often makes up stories in his head during his time in the mulch. It’s a harmless way of decompressing and dealing with life that he began when he was very young.
Neighbors or people who pass by have often wondered what on earth Aaron is doing sitting for long periods of time in the mulch or out under a tree near our garden where there are plenty of old leaves and twigs on the ground that also suit his purposes. Just this past week our Tru-Green worker came to spray our yard. He and I were talking on the front porch when out bounded Aaron to see who Mom was talking to and to interrupt if he possibly could. This nice young man smiled and told me that he had met Aaron. I could read the meaning behind that smile. Aaron is unforgettable on several levels. Then he said that on the day he met him, Aaron was sitting in the mulch pulling weeds. I did not correct him in front of Aaron. He isn’t the first person who has thought that Aaron is pulling weeds.
One day a woman walked past our house as Aaron was in the mulch under one of our trees. She smiled broadly at Aaron, her pony tail swinging as she briskly walked. He, of course, ignored her. So she happily said something to Aaron about all the weeds there are to pull. He looked at her strangely, and the only thing he said to her was, “What?” So she perkily repeated what she said about weeds……….and he just stared at her as if she had just landed from Mars. I wonder what she wondered as she walked away.
Gary and I have recently discovered that Aaron has developed an indoor way of relaxing that is similar to his mulch. Peanuts. Aaron loves the peanuts at various restaurants, so I started buying him his own peanuts to have at home. He loves the huge bags of peanuts from Sam’s. There is comfort for him in knowing that he has a huge stash of peanuts on hand. He eats them when he watches television in the family room. On his lap or on the ottoman in front of him he places a bowl in which he drops the peanut shells and the inner peanut hulls…….peanut wrappings, as he calls them.
One evening I watched him as he ate and I realized that he was hunched over that bowl, looking down into it just as he does his mulch trash can. I watched him out of the corner of my eye and saw that he was breaking the shells as best he could, just like he does the mulch. There’s a certain way that he moved his hands and dropped the small pieces into the bowl that was just like he does out in the mulch……and I knew that his indoor peanuts had become just like his outdoor mulch. How interesting! Now Aaron has an indoor way of relaxing, so to speak, although slightly fattening.
It’s another piece of the puzzle that makes up Aaron. We continue to find that there are still pieces of his puzzle to add. It’s like Aaron is never totally finished as we discover more and more about him. I know that others, especially, find him hard to understand….such as the woman who walked by the yard and said something to him about pulling weeds. Yesterday morning I had an experience with a woman who was confronted with Aaron in all his glory……and she didn’t keep her wondering to herself.
Aaron has had an up and down week. I think he needs some major mulch time in order to relax! Even peanuts aren’t quite doing the trick. Anyway, he and I ran into Dillon’s yesterday morning on our way to meet his group. He got a drink and I picked up something for our elderly neighbors. The attendant at the self check-out lane is familiar with me and so we struck up a conversation. She was asking about our neighbors whom she also knows, and so we stood there talking………and Aaron began pacing. This is a sure sign that he is frustrated.
“Mom!” he finally said. “Mom! We need to go!”
I acknowledged him, but kept talking.
A few seconds passed. “Mom! Come on!”
Again I told Aaron that we would leave in a minute.
It wasn’t enough. “Mom! We’re going to be late!”
Aaron, I’m almost done.
“Mom! You tell me to hurry!”
I turned to look at him and saw that his eyes were big and his face was red.
And the woman that I was talking to, whose eyes had been darting to look at Aaron the whole time we were talking, said to me: “So, what’s wrong with him?”
Her comment took me off guard. I didn’t expect such bluntness, especially in front of Aaron. He does see and hear, you know. In her defense, Aaron was being very unusual and very bold…….especially when you don’t understand him. I will give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she was just asking a generic question about him…….not asking about his disability.
But really, can you not look at Aaron and know that he is special? I could tell that she was irritated with Aaron……and I also saw that the two women near us were also looking at him, as were the bank clerks behind the counter there.
It was one of those “Just slap me in the face” moments. I quietly told her that Aaron has autism and that he gets very focused on keeping his schedule. I could have said much more, but I didn’t. Not in front of Aaron….and in front of all the other people staring at us. I just hope that she will learn to be understanding in these situations. The last thing I needed was to have my nose rubbed in the reality of my son’s behavior.
I have a way of shrugging those things off and of understanding the other party. And I need to often remind myself to extend that same grace and understanding to Aaron……who sure can get under my skin at times like that. Understanding him is key to living with him or working with him in any setting. Not excusing……..but understanding, even when the puzzle pieces aren’t coming together the way we think they should.
Maybe I should have just driven Aaron and I both home, grabbed his trash can, and BOTH of us sat out under the tree, picking in the mulch and unwinding.
Or at least grabbed the bag of peanuts and a bowl!