The Case of the Missing Trampoline

I took a little detour after dropping Aaron off this morning to drive around our neighborhood circle.  Actually, I had a purpose.  I was looking for our grill cover.  We had terrible winds yesterday and last night, strong even by Kansas standards.  The winds must have whipped our grill cover right off and blown it who-knows-where, because it’s gone.  It’s heavy and large, but it wasn’t too heavy for those strong winds.  I never did see it this morning.  Maybe it blew in the lake.  Who knows?

All of this reminded me of a funny story that happened when we were stationed at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.  We lived in military quarters on post, in a really beautiful setting.  We were surrounded by the Huachuca Mountains and had a stunning view from our large back yard.  We loved sitting on our little patio and soaking in the view, with gorgeous sunsets and brilliant storms. 
 

We bought a trampoline and put it in our fenced back yard.  The kids spent countless hours out there with each other and with friends, jumping to their heart’s content.  They even talked Gary and me into jumping on it.  And none of us will ever forget the night we all camped out on the trampoline.  OK, OK……..they all slept on it.  I waited until everyone was fast asleep and snuck back in the house to our comfy bed!

 
Because of the mountains, we got some very powerful winds there.  One night we thought that surely the house would blow away.  When it was daylight, one of the kids ran to me with the news that our trampoline was gone.  “Gone?” I asked.  “What do you mean, gone?”  So I walked to the window to take a look and sure enough, no trampoline.  The kids, the dog, and I all went outside to take a better look.  Where was our trampoline?  We looked some more, but still there was no sight of it. 

Surely it couldn’t have blown over the fence, I thought.  Or could it?  So after pondering what to do, I followed proper procedure for those of us living on a military base.  I called the Military Police.  Feeling a little silly as a person on the other end answered, I said, “Well, I’m not sure if I need to be doing this, but I’d like to report a missing trampoline.” 

“A missing trampoline?” the man asked.  So I explained that the night before, our trampoline was there as usual, but this morning it was gone.  I just thought that maybe I should report it in case someone turned in a report of an unwanted trampoline in their yard……or on one of the flat roofs………or smashed against their car.  Or could it have been stolen?  Not likely, but what if?  Could we have a trampoline thief on the loose?

The MP on the line took my report and we hung up.  Before long, our doorbell rang and when I opened the door, there stood a man.  He told me that he was a military police investigator and was there in response to our report of a missing trampoline.  There he stood, very serious, and wearing a trench coat.  A trench coat.  Really? 

He then informed me that two MPs were, at that moment, searching our back yard and the surrounding area for any sign of our trampoline.   So I thanked him, feeling rather foolish for all this bother, and I prepared to close the door.  “Ma’am,” he continued.  “I need to come in and take a statement.”

“A statement?” I asked.   “Yes ma’am,” he answered.  “I need a statement about your missing trampoline.”  Now I really did feel foolish, but he was so very officially stern and so I agreed.  We sat at the kitchen table while he opened his briefcase and while the two MPs were looking around our back yard as if it was a real crime scene.  The kids were taking this all in, thinking it was quite a fun adventure.  I remember being very worried about Aaron, who saw “Policeymen,” as he called them, as being mean men…………so therefore he would say unkind things about them when we would pass one in the car. 

“Please, Aaron,” I silently begged.  “Don’t say a word.  Not one word about your opinion of this very young and very serious military police investigator.”  And it hit me again…….an investigator for a trampoline?  Really?

This trench-coat clad investigator very solemnly wrote down every word that I said about the circumstances surrounding our missing trampoline.  Every word.  Written by hand, in duplicate.  Now those of you who know me know that I find humor in most situations………and I was certainly beginning to find humor in this one.  The kids were excited, and Aaron was being unpredictable, and the outside MPs were being unproductive in their search, and this very stern investigator was thoroughly writing down my every word…….and I was finding it all quite funny. 

But it got even better.  As I finished my testimony, the somber investigator looked up and asked me if I was sure I had given all the details.  I told him that I was sure I was sure.  He didn’t crack a smile.  I was having a hard time holding mine inside.  Then he very officially said, “Mrs. Moore, raise your right hand and swear that what you have said here is true.” 

That was it.  I burst out laughing.  I mean, I really thought that he was kidding me.  He was not.  His mouth did not move as he stared at me………which made it even funnier to me.  I knew I needed to hush but not before I said, “You mean you’re serious?  You really want me to raise my right hand and swear that what I’ve said is true?”  He did.

So up went my right hand as he asked me if I swore that what I said was true.  And I swore that what I said was true, and I also swore inside that if he didn’t soon leave then I would be laughing loudly and being a bad example to my children.  Where was Aaron anyway? 

Finally, the grim, young trench-coat-clad investigator left along with the two even younger MPs………who, by the way, had found no hide nor hair of our missing trampoline.   I closed the door, and at last was able to laugh without being arrested. 

When Gary returned from the air field that evening, he and the kids went on their own trampoline search.  It wasn’t long before Gary found some springs and some hooks on the ground.  He followed their trail to the nearby hospital, where he found our trampoline wedged up against the back side of the building.  For crying out loud!  Gary didn’t even have on a trench coat and he was able to solve the crime!

I figured I should call the MP station and call off the search.  Gary and the kids had driven down to the hospital to load the bent trampoline into the van, so I called the police.  I told the man who answered the phone who I was and what had transpired, and then I said, “So I need to now unswear that what I swore earlier is true.”

I thought that was funny.  He didn’t. 

Oh well, the trampoline was found and was soon put back together.  We should have invited the investigator over to see it for himself.  Why didn’t I think of that?

I swear!

 

We Go AHEAD One Hour?

Aaron is very particular about time.  He keeps a running list of the time he goes to bed and the time he gets up.  He is rarely without his wristwatch, worn halfway up his arm.  He is very precise when he states the time that he does something, such as, “Mom, I quit reading at 10:43 and went to bed at 10:44.”  If I say, “So, you went to bed around 10:45,” he looks at me as if I am rather dense and then says, “No!  I went to bed at 10:44!”

Notice where Aaron wears his watch
 
If he is tired of wearing his wristwatch and he comes out of his room to do something, he will often carry his watch with him.  This is what he did one night recently when we were playing Skip-Bo.  He very carefully set his watch up so that he could see it, and then he would give me a time update.  “Mom, it’s 9:36.”   “Mom, now it’s 9:43.”  “Mom, it’s 9:52.” 

“So it’s almost 10:00?” I asked.  And true to form, Aaron answered, “No!  It’s 9:52!”

Sheesh, Mom!!!

 
At the theater, Aaron will sit with his popcorn perched on his lap……..but not eating any.  He then gives a rundown of the time as he often glances at the lighted clock on the wall of the theater.  “Mom, what time did you say the movie starts?” he asks.  I tell him the time and he watches that clock, mentally ticking down the minutes.  I will be happily munching my popcorn, but not Aaron.  That’s because Aaron will not start eating his popcorn until the lights are dimmed and the movie actually starts.  This is his unwritten popcorn rule, and the reason that he is so concerned with time at the theater. 

So it’s no wonder that our time change this weekend was slightly stressful for Aaron, and more than slightly stressful for me.  I told him on Saturday afternoon that we would be changing our clocks ahead one hour that night.  This is nothing new to Aaron, of course, but it always throws him.

“So we go AHEAD one hour?” he questions.   I told him yes, and he stood there pondering this change. 

“So when I go to bed at 10:00 it will really be 11:00?” he asked.  I said yes again, trying to be very low key as I watched him mentally processing this disturbing information.

Later that evening, as we played a game of Skip-Bo, he was getting nervous.  He knew that 8:15 was really 9:15, so each ticking minute was causing him some stress.  He was glad when we were finished and he could zip up to his room to take care of a couple things on his computer.  Soon, though, he was thumping back down the stairs.

“Mom, it’s 9:46,” he said to me.  He stood there waiting for my response.  I knew what he was thinking, but I didn’t react. 

“Well,” he continued, “that means it’s really 10:46.  I need to go to bed!”  I have rarely seen him so eager to take his pills, brush his teeth, and get in bed.  He hardly even read his Handy Answer Science book because his clock that was now set to the correct time was reminding him that the previous 9:53 was actually now 10:53.  For crying out loud, it was time to turn off his light and go to sleep!!

The next morning he didn’t get up until 7:41, to be precise……as Aaron always is.  He came downstairs to find me looking at the Sunday paper………and he was not in a good mood.  All this time change and then sleeping later did not sit well with Aaron.  He asked about coupons in the paper, which he always clips for me, but he asked in an impatient manner.  I told him that I wanted to look at the coupons first to see if I wanted a second set.  This is our standard routine, but Aaron’s routine had messed up and so he was messed up as well.

He got angry as he stood there waiting on me to look through the coupons.  He wouldn’t go shower, he wouldn’t get his coupon trash cans, he wouldn’t get his scissors, he wouldn’t get his sitting pillow out.  Nope.  He stood there waiting on me and fuming.  He ended up being very mad at me and calling me a name.  All because of a change in the time and a change in his set routine.

It seems like such a small thing to us, but to a person with autism these changes are very difficult.  It doesn’t really excuse Aaron’s behavior but it does explain it.  Words don’t speak to Aaron at a time like this.  They only make him angrier.  So from Mom he got a cold shoulder, and by the afternoon he was wanting to put his arm around my shoulders and talk my ear off.  He was sorry, though he never said the words. 

He happily came in the kitchen that evening with the clothes pins that we use on chip bags pinned on his ears.  Things were back to normal, if you would call that normal.  We do.  But one thing wasn’t right.  Aaron’s weather station clock beside his desk had not changed to the new time.  He asked me if I would set it for him, but I told him that I didn’t know how to set that clock.  I had not learned yet how to do that, I told him.
 

Soon he was coming back down to the kitchen with a further report on the clock.   Up he went to his room, only to return a few minutes later.  “Mom, do you want to learn now?” he hopefully asked me.  I gingerly told him that it could wait, and he accepted that…….only to come down soon after that.

“Mom, it’s 6:58,” he informed me, knowing that it was really 7:58.   Soon the next update came.

“Mom, it’s 7:02,” he said. 

Oh, Aaron.  He listened, though, as we told him to not get in a tizzy.  And later he was able to go to bed with great relief after Gary corrected the time on the clock.   Aaron’s world was finally in order, all the clocks and his wrist watch were in agreement, and this crazy changing time business was over!

Until this fall, when we will go through it all again.

I bet if some of these lawmakers had to live with Aaron, they’d stop all this silliness right away.  Now there’s an idea!

 

My Smiling Red Face

I’ve had a gamut of emotions with Aaron over the past few days.  On Sunday, he just wanted to sleep all day.  He started running a fever, so I worried about his recent root canal, although when awake he told us that his tooth and jaw had no pain at all.  He complained, though, of a stomach ache and had no appetite.  Then he had a couple seizures while sleeping that afternoon, plus another shortly after midnight that night.  All of these things push my worry button.

Yesterday, Monday, he got up briefly but then went right back to sleep on the couch until I was finally able to lure him up around 12:30 with the promise of food…….which he ended up not eating anyway.  But a trip to Dillon’s interested him, so after he showered we headed off to the store.  He enjoyed getting out and especially enjoyed getting a snack along with some sparkly water that he likes.  He then asked if he could get his hair cut at the Great Clips nearby, and I agreed.

Any of you who have read about Aaron for awhile know that going to Great Clips is usually an adventure, and this time was no exception.  Aaron knows that if the wait is too long then we probably won’t stay, so he often will bound in the front door and loudly ask, “Can I get a haircut?”  The startled looks on the faces of the hairdressers is actually funny, but I don’t need to see it every time we go there………so I always tell Aaron to wait on me.  Somehow yesterday he slipped in right behind the people entering before us and he quickly found his way to the front counter.  It didn’t bother him one bit that there was a line and that he had forged ahead, and that he was being stared at.  Nope, it didn’t bother Aaron nearly as much as it bothered me.  He also totally ignored me standing at the back of the line saying, “Aaron.  Aaron.  Aaron.”  He interrupted the mom who was paying for her kid’s haircuts, too.

“Can I get a haircut today?” he asked.   The nice girl behind the counter was trying to decide how to handle this intrusion.  I was almost enjoying the show, but decided it was time to intervene.  Since Aaron was playing deaf and seemingly couldn’t hear me calling his name, I had to walk up beside him and usher him to the back of the line where he belonged anyway.  Big Aaron had managed, in less than 60 seconds, to become the center of attention.  The girls working there who know Aaron were smiling, and the customers were staring………at least as far as I could tell.  I don’t always make direct eye contact because if I sense rudeness I just stare right back, and I wasn’t in a staring mood yesterday.  I know that some of them were glaring, though.  I can sense these things, trust me.

When it was our turn to check in, we found out that the wait would possibly be 20 or more minutes.  “Can we stay, MOM?!” Aaron urgently and loudly asked.  So we stayed, of course.  I sat Aaron in an end chair with me right beside him, hopefully out of the limelight.  But Aaron is never totally out of the limelight……because he is observing everything………EVERYTHING………and he rarely, rarely whispers. 

Aaron watched the mother and son who were in front of us go to the counter and talk to the hairdresser about how to cut the boy’s hair.   Aaron watched them carefully and didn’t miss the fact that this boy had on retro type glasses with darker frames.  As they decided how to cut his hair and turned to sit back down, Aaron said……..and remember, this is not in a whisper…….

“Clark Kent!”

I silently told myself to stay calm while I patted Aaron’s leg and reminded him to whisper…….or better yet, to just not talk at all.  Aaron was totally unaffected as he leaned forward for a better look at Clark Kent.

Soon Aaron’s attention was drawn to the hairdresser that was seating another patron.  “Hi,” she cheerily said.  “My name is ——–.”  Aaron pondered this for a few seconds and then asked……again, rather loudly…….”Why do the ladies who cut hair tell their names?”  And I………quietly, hoping that Aaron would follow my lead………whispered to him about being polite and how sharing your name is courteous.  Aaron asks this same question about our servers in restaurants.  He doesn’t understand why these people must share their names.  Of course, Aaron cares little about anyone’s name or about sharing his own name.  I remember asking him one day how he got someone’s attention at his day group when he had never bothered to learn her name.  His answer – “I just say HEY!” 

At least it wasn’t “Hey, weirdo!”  Or “Hey, stupid!”  I know that at times he does choose to call someone a name, but it’s not always their given name, believe me. 

Soon the door of the salon opened and in walked a very nice looking young man.  He walked to the front counter and checked in.  He really stood out because he was wearing a long wool coat, very dressy in appearance, and it was a rich burnt gold color.  I’m sure that all of the other jeans clad, bundled up folks were aware of this man who didn’t seem to fit in there at Great Clips.  Aaron certainly was.  Aaron was studying this finely dressed man, especially his coat, and as the man turned to find a seat, Aaron said……….again, not exactly in a true whisper………

“Weird coat!”

Oh my.  I wanted to move my patting hand up from Aaron’s knee to join my other hand as I put them around Aaron’s neck.

“Aaron!” I said……not exactly in a true whisper, but close.  “Do NOT say that!” 

“Well, it IS a weird coat,” he calmly replied………still not in a true whisper.

The man sat down near me, with just one seat separating us.  I have no idea if he heard Aaron and I certainly did not look at him.  I was very, very relieved when it was then Aaron’s turn to get his hair cut.  The hairdresser happily called his name and as he walked to the chair she said, “Hi, Aaron!  My name is ———.”   And Aaron gave his usual grunt, kept his eyes down, and plopped in the chair.  So much for being courteous. 

Later, as we stood in front of everyone at the counter, I could tell that Aaron beside me was putting his coat on………but something didn’t seem to be working right.  He stopped to sign the receipt, his coat dangling part-way on the floor, and then I finished the process as he once again tackled his coat.  I turned then when I was finished to find that Aaron had put his left arm in the right coat sleeve, so as he attempted to put his right arm in a sleeve there was nothing there.  His left arm was in the right sleeve and the left sleeve was on the floor……..well, it was a mess.  I laughed as I helped him, and Aaron loudly said, “Oh, I thought I had my arm in the right sleeve, Mom.  That was stupid!” 

And the man in the beautiful golden coat was sitting there observing all this coat business.  I wondered if he wanted to say, “Weird coat!” to Aaron.   I saw his eyes dart to Aaron’s face as we headed for the door.  He was wondering about Aaron.  Little did he know………..or maybe he did………..that Aaron was also wondering about him.

So I went from worry about Aaron to relief when he felt better to some embarrassment at his blunt un-whispered comments to laughter as we walked to the van.  Then it was back to worry as the evening saw Aaron feeling poorly again and throwing up all of his soup he ate at supper.  Our day had ended as it began, with some worry about Aaron’s health. 

Today, though, he went to Paradigm……..and today saw me with some tears.  That’s for another story.  Another day.

There’s always another day and another story with Aaron. 

And often another red face for Mom.  It’s OK.  I’ve learned to smile, red face or not.

 

 

Connecting the Dots

A year ago, Gary and I were in midst of making a very difficult decision……a decision that meant we would leave a place and a people that we loved because reconciliation had been denied to us.  It was a painful time for us, as well as for some dear friends that were left behind.  One day one of those friends called and asked if she and her husband could come over that evening to talk to us.  Gary and I were happy to have them come, but we didn’t think we should talk too much about the situation.  We really didn’t know what the visit would entail………or what a huge blessing awaited us.

Mike and Beth sat on the love seat in our living room that night, while Gary and I sat on the couch.  We exchanged small talk, and then one thing led to another as Mike and Beth started telling us about their youth.  They told us how they came to know the Lord; about how they met; about their dating days and their engagement, and then their marriage.  Through laughter and shaking of heads, they shared with us some stories of their early rocky experiences but also of how gracious God was to them in so many ways.  Their differing backgrounds and their stubbornness and their immaturity all melded together over the months and years as God worked on them, and exhibited to them His continuing grace.  They grew in their love for the Lord and their love for each other.  God blessed them with three wonderful children who love and serve the Lord today. 

Gary and I sat there, listening and laughing as they told their story.  Yet I must admit that I wondered why they were telling us all of this.  We thought that Mike and Beth had come to encourage us in this painful time, and while our visit was very enjoyable it just wasn’t exactly what I expected.  Until Mike reached a point in their story where he sat up on the edge of that love seat and excitedly said, “You see, God had a plan for Beth and me.  All along, He was connecting the dots in our lives and bringing us to where we needed to be…….and He still is doing that today.”  Mike continued, “I don’t know what all has happened with you guys, and I don’t need to know.  But I do know that God is connecting the dots in your lives, too.”

So simple.  So amazing.  God pried open my heart with those words and the tears rolled down my cheeks.  I didn’t have to say a word or share a word about our situation.  The Holy Spirit was there, directing the conversation and using it to soothe our hurting hearts. 

I’ve given that night and Mike’s words a lot of thought over the months since.  God connecting the dots………orchestrating the events in our lives in such a way that the end result is a beautiful picture, full of His handiwork and love. 

It reminds me of the pictures I used to work on in my coloring books, those dot-to-dot pictures.  I used to love doing those.  Sometimes it was fairly easy to see what the finished picture was going to be, but as I got older I enjoyed the harder pictures.  Those were the ones that were more difficult to figure out before they were fully finished.  There was just a mass of numbered dots but no order.  Yet as I carefully followed the numbers……1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and so on, the picture eventually took shape. 
 

 
In Psalm 37:3, David said that a man’s steps are established…….are directed……by the Lord.  Each step of ours God directs, even bringing us back into order when we mess up.  It’s easy to look back now and see how step 1 led to step 2 and so forth.  But I’m still stepping and still following, often unsure of where the next dot is or the next number, but knowing that God has promised to direct each step that I take.  Just as I can look back at some of the connected dots and see the picture taking shape, I can also look ahead with full trust that God is connecting the dots, guiding my way.

 
And there’s another beautiful truth connected to all this business of connecting the dots.  It’s something that Peter wrote about in I Peter 2:21.  He said that Jesus left us an example to follow.  That word for example means an outline of a sketch that is waiting to be filled in with details.  Jesus designs the sketch of our lives and then carefully fills in the details that are designed for each of us.  My unique details will not be your unique details.  Or my husband’s or my children’s, even. 

 
God is leading me, step by step.  And as each step is taken, each dot is connecting and forming a sketch……a design made just for me……..in which God then carefully colors in the most beautiful details that I can ever imagine. 

 
Some of the dots may be full of pain…..others with laughter…..some with doubts and questions…….many with hurt…….and a few with carefree ease.  Parts of my sketch may already be completed, other parts are partially done, and still some haven’t even been started.  But one day, I’ll be able to look and see a wonderful picture, whether simple or complex, completed with God’s direction and with His brush strokes of sovereign love.

 
There sure is a lot I don’t understand about so many things.  I still have questions that roll around in my mind during the dark hours of the night…….pain in my heart at some of the hurt we’ve experienced……..wondering why and how things happened the way they did.  But I love thinking about those dots that are connecting into what will someday be a complete and fully understood picture, thanks to God’s grace.

 
When I last talked to Mike and Beth about that night, and asked if I could write about it, both of them laughed and said they couldn’t even remember what all they said.  Oh, but Gary and I remember, because God wanted us to hear those words and to have that lesson penetrate our hearts. 

Connecting the dots. 

And seeing a sketch filled in with God’s perfect details.