What Wasn’t and What Was and What Should Have Been

We’ve had a few interesting days with Aaron.  I think the older that Aaron becomes, the more evident his autism behaviors are.  And boy, we’ve seen some good ones recently!  I’m using “good” in a loose sense.   I’ve never been the kind of mom that tries to blame my child’s poor behavior on anything other than his willful disobedience.  “Yes, I know my child destroyed your flower bed, but he’s just tired.  He didn’t have his nap today.”  Nope, that was not me.  But with Aaron, we see more clearly with each year that his behaviors are indeed the result of something that we sometimes barely understand and can rarely control.  Of course, some things he does are very funny or amazing…..but not always.  
Take the fishing trip that wasn’t.  Rosie’s mom had told me about Fishing Without Boundaries several weeks ago, but I dismissed it as something that Aaron wouldn’t want to do.  He doesn’t like to fish…..he doesn’t like being out in the heat all day…..he doesn’t like crowds for long periods…..he doesn’t like his routine messed up.  I’m not being negative.  I just know Aaron.  But there’s one thing I didn’t take into account…..Rosie.
I was in the garden a couple weeks ago when Aaron came home from his day group.  I looked up when I heard the back door open and heard Aaron’s unmistakable, “Mom!!”  I looked up to see him marching resolutely across the yard toward the garden….and me.  “Mom!!” he repeated.  “I’m going fishing!!!”  He was so excited, and I was so surprised.  It took me awhile to figure it out, but I eventually learned that Aaron wanted to go to the Fishing Without Boundaries event at El Dorado Lake.  
Over the next couple days I talked to Aaron about the logistics of that day, including the very early morning.  I was positive and upbeat, and Aaron was determined to go on this fishing outing……..not because of his love of fishing or the lake or the great outdoors, but because Rosie would be there.  He wanted to spend this day with Rosie, doing what Rosie enjoyed.  So we filled out the form, ordered his tee shirt, and sent in the money for his big weekend.  
I saw a little crack in his armor when, a couple days before the big day, he began to worry about the very early time to meet his ride.  So I told him that we would take him to the lake and could go later in the morning with no problem.  All seemed well.  But on Friday, the day before the fishing trip, he woke up rather worried.  He told me that he wasn’t sure about the fishing…..he wasn’t sure about being gone all day……he wasn’t sure about not being home doing what he enjoys.  In other words, he had decided not to go.  I knew it for sure, but I didn’t want to give in too easily.  Yet as we talked, and I saw him getting tense, I knew I had to give him an out….or we would all pay.  So I told him that he didn’t HAVE to go fishing.  Everyone would understand.  
But the only person that Aaron worried about disappointing was Rosie.  I felt badly for him as I saw the struggle that he was having.  He wanted to be with her, but he didn’t want to leave his weekend routine.  He came so close to going, and it was really disappointing that he didn’t quite make it…..but maybe next time, although we have said that same thing for years about various trips and events to which he says a definite, “No!”
On Saturday, Aaron said, “Do you think that Rosie misses me?”  And I felt sad for him.  Then later, “Was it my fault that I didn’t go?”  I knew he was struggling with his decision.  And finally, in the evening, he said, “I feel like I betrayed Rosie.”  That one made me really feel sad, but we talked about it and I could only hope that he felt some peace about his decision.   His routine and his way of doing life is the most important thing in the world to him…..but when he has a reason, a big reason like Rosie, to interrupt his routine….it’s so tempting and he wants so much to be able to make himself comply.  Then he struggles when he just can’t do it.  And we can’t force him to go…..or take away the guilt he had about not going.
So that’s the fishing trip that wasn’t.  And then we had the friends that were…..as in, were here for a visit or to join us for supper.  But Aaron wished that they were also friends that weren’t…..as in, weren’t here for a visit or to join us for supper.  This is when his autism becomes frustrating……humbling (to Gary and me)……and oh, so embarrassing!
First came Kristi, our sweet friend that we have known for 20 years.  Kristi’s dad was our pastor when we lived in Leavenworth, and our families became good friends.  She is now a missionary in France, and is here in the states for five months of furlough.  She is in the Wichita area for awhile, and so she spent Thursday night with us.  Aaron greeted her at the car when she arrived, even carrying her heaviest suitcase upstairs to the bedroom where she stayed…..as he complained all the while that he was not her servant.
He was up and down emotionally with her for the rest of the evening.  He wanted us to watch Wheel of Fortune with him, which we did…..though we turned it on a little late.  He wanted us all to take Jackson on a walk, even handing Kristi the leash to hold.  And he walked a second time around the circle with just me and Kristi, minus the dog.  He would pop up at various times to talk to me and to Kristi, usually about a movie.  But in the midst of it all, he was also rude several times.  He informed Kristi that she was not his boss…..though she wasn’t being bossy…..or she was not his mom.  It’s like he needs to be in charge, controlling his world at home when someone else is there.  A visitor becomes an interloper…..an annoyance…..when Aaron’s schedule is disrupted.  One minute he can be chattering happily and the next he just might puff up and be very rude.  Kristi took it in stride, as our friends always do.  Gary and I are the ones who are the most affected.  Kristi understood and we talked the next day about it after Aaron was gone.  Still, it’s frustrating.  Explainable, but embarrassing.
And then there was Saturday, when I asked our elderly neighbor, Nora, to come over and have supper with us.  Nora is recently widowed, and on Saturday she found out that an assisted living apartment will be opening in one month.  She is overwhelmed with moving.  I felt like she needed company that evening…..some food and talking and laughter.  But there was Aaron, who for some reason has decided that he doesn’t like little Nora.  And he especially decided that he didn’t like Nora coming to our house for supper on this Saturday evening.
Thankfully, Nora can’t hear very well so she didn’t comprehend all of Aaron’s muttered comments.  But she heard enough to know that he was displeased with her being there.  One thing led to another, and by the time we sat down to watch Wheel of Fortune (of course!), Aaron had had enough.  It was not a pleasant scene as he fought over keeping the remote, paced the floor like a wild animal, and was very verbal.  Finally, he yelled at Nora with all his might and stormed outside…..where he sat in the mulch to wind down.  He sat under the pecan tree, where he never sits, but where he was more hidden and farther from the house…..and from his problems. 
Again, our friend understood…..but I knew she was hurt.  We were hurt…..and terribly embarrassed.  It was the worst display of anger toward a visitor that we had ever seen.  Aaron came in and out of the house, even watching the last few minutes of Wheel of Fortune from the kitchen, standing there gazing at the television but not talking to us.  When I walked Nora home, Aaron sat under the pecan tree still breaking mulch…..and glaring silently at me when I walked past him to go home.  Later that night, we were able to talk to Aaron about friendships…..about how to treat our friends…..about how we treat his friends.  I think we made some headway as we compared our friends to his special Rosie, and the importance of being polite and kind.  What if we were mean to Rosie, we asked?  That thought seemed to register with him.
But who knows what will happen when Aaron is once again pulled from his routine?  We might see when Kristi comes back this Thursday night, brave soul that she is.  Aaron wants everything to stay the same in his world, and he will react strongly to whatever disrupts that sameness…..whether it be an event or a person.  Aaron doesn’t care if he hurts with his words.  He just wants his life to be the way he likes it.  I can say that he is selfish, rude, inappropriate…..lots of undesirable traits…..but I can also say with confidence that he is autistic and that we see it more clearly with every passing year.  What registers with our brains does not register with his.  What we can control, he cannot.  If he fell down into a seizure, we would be so empathetic.  But when he falls into an emotional meltdown, empathy becomes anger and embarrassment.  Yet both scenarios are an evidence of his disability……and a struggle for us to always understand and handle correctly.
And I realize that I will always be that mom……THAT mom……who tries to explain his behaviors while wondering if I’m sounding like I’m trying to excuse them.  There’s a huge difference there in the two.  Explaining means we grasp at understanding.  Excusing means we dismiss with no repercussions.  But in explaining I feel that we sound like we we’re excusing.  It gets complicated.
So this morning Aaron got up very early for him.  He came up the hall and into the room where I was having my quiet time.  He just stood there behind my chair, looking at me, so I said, “Aaron, you need to go back to bed.  It’s just 6:00.”
“6:11,” he said with no emotion.
And another day with Aaron has begun, as I smile…..and see what the day will hold.

Lessons From the Fire Ants

We just returned from a trip to Houston to see our daughter, Andrea, with a side trip to Dallas to see our son, Andrew, in an NHRA race there.   Oh, and I mustn’t forget to mention that we also enjoyed seeing our Granddogs, Darcy and Oakley.  Hey, it’s the closest I have to grandkids right now, so humor me.  In fact, the story I’m about to share involves these cute little doggies, in a way.

On our first evening there we headed right away to the dog park with Andrea so that Darcy and Oakley could have some outdoor play time before the park closed for the night.  Darcy and Oakley ran and jumped and rolled, and spent lots of time romping and splashing in the water.  They were so much fun to watch.  Soon we meandered off the gravel path and stood in the cool thick grass, talking to another dog owner and enjoying the happy dogs.  I had worn sandals instead of tennis shoes, and the grass felt damp and pleasant on my feet in the humid air.


As we stood there talking, I noticed a faint stinging on my feet……especially my left foot.  I moved my foot a little, but the stinging persisted.  I thought that this grass must be pricklier than it seemed at first.  Before long, the stinging was increasing.  I again wondered why, but couldn’t see a reason as I looked down at my foot buried in the thick grass.  Finally, I was uncomfortable enough to raise my left foot up out of the grass……..and to my surprise, I saw tiny little ants crawling all over my foot.  The same was true of my right foot, though not as many ants had found their way to that side.
Fire ants!  The stinging wasn’t coming from irritating grass, but from tiny fire ants.  I shook as many off as I could, and then went to the path, where I took my sandals off and continued to brush little ants off as quickly as I could.  They were between my toes, going up my legs, and caught in the folds and crevices of my sandals, as well.  Yuck!!!  When I was convinced that I had rid my feet and sandals of these attackers, I put my sandals back on and we continued to walk around the park.  Yet every now and then I would feel another sting, and would look down to find one miniature ant still on my foot.
It was hard to believe that those sharp stings could come from such little creatures, but those tiny guys can pack a wallop.  I hadn’t been stung by fire ants since we lived in southern Alabama, when Gary was in flight school at Fort Rucker, over 30 years ago.   It was a memory I was wishing not to re-live.  However, soon the stinging sensation was gone, and other than a very few little dots on my feet, I was none the worse for the experience.
Or so I thought……and hoped.  Over the next few days, my foot has increasingly shown the effects of those small prickly bites.  The little dots on my feet have turned into larger and larger bumps.  They sometimes itch.  They sometimes sting.  And they look very large and ugly today…….like pimples on my feet and even between my toes.  I just thought I was escaping that experience largely unscathed, but not so.  I am reminded of those fire ants and their damage, both in the discomfort I feel and the unpleasant sight I see every time I look down at my feet.
Isn’t this just how sin is in our lives?  We set out on a path that is safe and protected as we follow God and obey His commands.  Soon, though, it’s so easy to veer off that path into a life that isn’t what He desires.  It feels good, though, just like that cool grass felt good to my feet.  What could be so wrong about this little diversion?  Isn’t everyone else doing this?  Come on!  Lighten up!  Don’t be so serious and intolerant.
Then we feel the first little sting, but we ignore it.  A few more stings…..and maybe we look around a little to see what’s causing that feeling, but we choose to disregard it.  Nothing appears very alarming, anyway.  Over time, though, the little stings become increasingly painful and more of our life is affected by the discomfort caused by our decisions.  And hopefully, we run……we run away as fast as we can from our sin.  We change our direction, we confess to the Lord our wrong, and we set out on the right path once more.
Yet sadly, even though we are forgiven, we often will bear the consequences of our sin……sometimes for the rest of our lives.  At first it may not seem like our sin is any big deal, but it is.  Like Moses told the people of Israel in Numbers 32:23, “Be sure your sin will find you out.”  In other words, you will suffer for your sin.  Sorry.  I didn’t say that.  God did.  The longer we stand in that grass and let the ants crawl on us, the more we will bear the results of our choices.  Days, months, even years later, the choices we made yesterday can……and often do……greatly affect us and those we love.
Thank God for His grace, and His redemption, and His forgiveness.  Thank God that He doesn’t hold our sin over our heads and beat us up with it every day.  Thank God for His love, and for His patience in directing us back to the right path.
Yet what if I hadn’t gone off into the grass in the beginning?  What if I had worn the right shoes?  What if I had run away quickly when I felt the first sting?  Then today I wouldn’t be looking down at these painful, ugly bumps on my feet.  My story today would have been very different……much less harmful to me, for sure.
Don’t veer off God’s path for your life by walking into what feels good and looks great.  Don’t be wearing the wrong shoes.  Flee temptation, as Paul said to do.  Put on your running shoes!  Don’t linger in sin, enjoying the moment until they become many moments.  Don’t ignore God’s conviction in your heart.  Don’t let the stings of long-term sin leave you with irreparable damage.  God will forgive, but He won’t necessarily take away the natural consequences of our willful actions.
Painful lessons.  May we all use wisdom in where we walk.

What I Would Have Missed

I was busy last night.  How many days could I start a story with that same simple sentence?  Gary and I are leaving tomorrow for Houston.  We get to spend the weekend with Andrea…..YAY!!!……and she is going with us to see Andrew in a race on Sunday…….double YAY!!!  You know how it is before a trip.  So much to do….so much to remember…..and since we have a caregiver coming in to stay with Aaron and Jackson, it seems to double my busy load.  
I was checking items off my to-do list while thinking of others that I had neglected to write down.  Scurry here, scurry there…….and I heard a loud THUMP!  I looked out of the bedroom door and saw Aaron standing there at the head of the stairs, looking in my direction…..his animal print blanket slung over his shoulder and his back-scratcher in his hand.  He had hit the wooden door of the linen cabinets there in the hall.  We had a little “staring at each other” session before I asked him why he had hit the door.  I knew he wanted my attention, but I wanted to hear his version.  He then told me that he was bored……and I then told him a few things about not hitting the door, etc., etc.
He lumbered down the stairs while I continued my packing and organizing……my scratching off the to-do list and adding to the to-do list.  Finally, I was nearly finished with what I had wanted to accomplish for the evening.  I thought about slipping down to my computer to catch up on emails and Facebook.  Important stuff, you know.  But I thought of Aaron.  I thought of the real reason that he had hit the linen cabinet door.  He wasn’t just bored.  He wanted some time with me.  That loud bang on the cabinet door conveyed much more to me that he was able…..or willing….to say.
By this time he had gone back to his room.  I found him sitting there at his desk, headphones on and movie playing.  Godzilla…..the old version…..1998.  I knew what I was getting into as I leaned over and asked Aaron if he wanted to play a game of Skip-Bo.  I was going to hear all about Godzilla……every detail.  What kind of monster….where did he come from…..how he breathed fire……what his feet looked like……and his tail……and his ugly face…..
Aaron was so happy when I asked him if he wanted to play Skip-Bo.  There we were, him talking rapidly……about Godzilla……while I shuffled the cards.  We soon were playing our first game and I was feeling relaxed.  I ignored my tablet nearby and my phone close at hand. I simply focused on Aaron.  He talked and talked about a variety of things, happily and freely, as we played cards.  
And then he stopped and he looked at me, making direct eye contact and lowering his voice while he said, “Mom, do you know what Rosie is to me?”  Rosie is Aaron’s special friend.  So I just stopped and I looked back into his blue eyes…..and asked him to tell me what Rosie is to him.  
“She talks to me and she agrees with me,” he began.  He proceeded to tell me that he and Rosie say things to each other, like when they went to Burger King, he said…..and Rosie pointed something out to him as they were leaving the restaurant.  He told me that his other friend, Shauna, doesn’t do that.  She doesn’t point things out to him like Rosie does, and she doesn’t ask for Aaron’s opinion like Rosie does.  Shauna is sweet and wonderful, but Rosie is……well, Rosie. 
Aaron continued trying to describe Rosie.  “She makes me feel great,” he said.  He spoke from his heart, not full of excitement but full of softness.  This whole thing was so unlike Aaron.  He wasn’t being loud or silly or using words he thinks are funny but aren’t.  He was sincere, and he was so normal.  Please don’t take that the wrong way, but Aaron rarely speaks like this.  I was just treasuring this moment and sitting there in amazement, hoping it would last awhile longer.
“Rosie and I,” he said, “we have a bond.”  There I sat, wondering what my face conveyed.  Then Aaron said, “Mom, what’s a bond?”  And then my face conveyed amusement as I laughed.  He was repeating what he had heard, but immediately showed that he didn’t really understand what on earth a bond is anyway.  He just knows that he and Rosie have one.  So once again I talked to him about special friendships, how sometimes we just click with someone, and that special bond is formed. 
“You know what?” he asked.  “I’m older than her and she still likes me!”  We laughed together this time and soon the moment was over.  Aaron had found my little plastic rooster that Mary Beth gave me.  It has special meaning and I keep it on my kitchen window sill above the sink.  Aaron had picked it up and was comparing the rooster’s feet to Godzilla’s feet……and soon was trying to sneak the rooster into his pocket so he could take it to his room, never to be seen again.
I told him no…..that the rooster was mine.  “That rooster is dumb for you but it’s cool for me, Mom!” he laughingly replied.  Yep, old Aaron is back.  Sincere, heartfelt conversation was over.  But I was still relishing that time, and enjoying the remainder of our game.
And you know what else I would have missed if I had not stopped for this time with Aaron?  I would have missed this.
See how Aaron arranges his cards in his discard piles?  Isn’t that so cool?  He laughed when I wanted to take a picture, and he was also quite proud that I thought this was important enough for me to want to photograph.  
Important enough to photograph…..and important enough to take the time to really see and to really listen.  I get tired, especially at night.  I want “me time” as much as anybody…..and I get plenty of that, trust me.  But last night I was once again reminded that it’s so worth it to stop……to focus on Aaron…..to listen and to absorb what this special son of mine is saying and thinking.
He teaches me……he delights me……he challenges me.  I need to accept it all……not to brush it off in the midst of my busy schedule or in my tiredness or frustration.  And when I do take the time, usually when it’s least convenient, is so often when I get those special blessings…..those glimpses into his heart, where he is real and sincere…..beyond all the gruff and the loudness.
God teaches me so much through Aaron….if I but take the time to listen.

Tennis Elbow?

I think the word that would describe our weekend with Aaron would be “fixated.”  In other words, “stuck.”  By bedtime last night, Gary and I were full to the brim internally and our ears were exhausted from all of Aaron’s talking.  How could he possibly have so much to say over and over about the Predator/Alien movie he’s watching?  And about his elbow?  
He woke up yesterday with a sore elbow.  “Mom, my elbow is sore,” he told me when he came downstairs after getting out of bed.  “I think I hurt it in my sleep.”  We discussed all the possibilities……or some of them…..as to why his elbow might be sore.  He was sure that he had slept funny, but it seemed more than that, so I told him about how it might be inflamed from repetitive motions……as he stood there bent over, rapidly rubbing his hands together in excitement because we were talking about HIM……and he asked, “What’s repetitive motion?”   So I pointed out the obvious one he was doing at that moment, and he grinned as he rubbed his hands together even more.
And then I made a mistake.  I told him that sometimes this condition is called Tennis Elbow.  I knew that I had just added a heap of confusion to Aaron’s literal brain as I lamely sat there trying to explain Tennis Elbow.  Of course, the first thing Aaron said after my expert explanation, was:  “I don’t play any games!”  Meaning games of tennis, of course, and so I had to back pedal and explain my explanation…….and finally I just told him that his elbow was sore and we didn’t know why, but we did know that it wasn’t from tennis……so just forget Tennis Elbow.  
I poured myself another cup of coffee.
He spied the Sunday coupons and he hovered over me as I looked through them, checking to see if I wanted to buy another Sunday paper.  He wasn’t thrilled about the number of coupons he had to cut, reminding me of his sore elbow, so  I asked him if he wanted me to remove the ones that I knew I wouldn’t use.  
“No!” he replied.  “I want to cut them!”  I knew that’s what he would say.  I hadn’t been able to secretly remove them before he came downstairs, so now he had more to cut than usual……but cut them he would, sore elbow or not.   I asked him if he wanted me to cut them today as he mentioned his elbow again, but he told me that I don’t cut them right and so he would do them…..even with his sore elbow.  And I knew that his elbow was going to be one of his fixations on this day.
Another cup of coffee was in order.
The morning and the rest of the day was also consumed with his Alien vs. Predator movie that he was watching.  Gary and I have watched clips, listened to endless explanations of scenes, tried to answer questions, told him why we don’t care for that movie, explained that we don’t plan to watch that movie with him……and wondered why we let him have those movies.  I’ll admit that it’s hard to find good movies that he enjoys, and movies that don’t have some language are next to impossible to find.  
“Mom, they shouldn’t use cuss words.  They should just use WORDS!” he said.  He’s so right, and I question again the wisdom of some of our choices for him.  He enjoys some really good movies, but he also likes the alien ones.  On Friday, his group went to see Dolphin Tale at the theater.  Sadly, he was not impressed with this good movie for some reason.  He thought it was a “young child’s movie.”
He told me that some of the clients were crying after the movie was over.  I don’t know about that, but he was also not impressed with those “cry babies,” as he calls them.  But I told him that sometimes this is a sign of a really good movie.  He immediately connected to what I was trying to say.  
“But Alien vs. Predator is not like that?  It’s not a cry movie?” he asked.  I agreed, but he was still not convinced that Dolphin Tale was better.  And he continued with his alien fixation for the remainder of the day.  Exhausting.  No amount of coffee could compensate for that.
Aaron relaxing in the mulch    
I took him out to a couple stores in the afternoon.  At each place he greeted the staff with this:  “I have a sore elbow!”  And then he stood there waiting for their response as they just looked at him in discomfort, unsure of what to say, and I tried to fill in the blanks.  But nothing stops Aaron, and he continued to tell them about his elbow and why he thought it was sore and repetitive motion and sleeping wrong and if he holds it like this it doesn’t hurt and if he holds it like this it does hurt…..
It’s one of those situations where I just look at Aaron in both amusement and embarrassment, honestly……and I am once again reminded, with great confirmation, that my son has autism and has no filters.  DUH!  Don’t I know that by now?  Well, yes, I do……but seeing it in full force like this never ceases to amaze me.  It amazes those poor store clerks as well.  
And laughter…..oh my goodness, does he make me laugh!  “Mom!” he said on the way home.  “Today I sneezed in the bathroom.  I got that sneeze thing on the mirror!”  
Gross.  I need to get my nerve up today to go in there and clean it.
Aaron relaxing while watching a little football
He laughed as he watched a court scene on television and as always, was amused as the lawyers yelled, “Objection!!”  And the judge responded with, “Sustained!”   “Mom?” he asked.  “Do they use scientific words in the courtroom?”
Speaking of using words……which Aaron does with great expertise…..sometimes…..I was reminded of how blunt he can be.  Again, no filters on that boy.  Like the day he got frustrated with me and then responded with, “Mom, did you notice how I stopped myself from saying ‘jerk’?”  In some strange way, that required praise from me.
So last night before bed, Aaron said, “Mom, Barb had some Jolly Rogers candy at Paradigm!”  
“Jolly Ranchers?” I asked with a smile.
“Yeah!” he affirmed.  “Jolly Ranchers!  She gave me some.  She said her children don’t like them.  I told her that her kids are weird.”
Thankfully, Barb understands Aaron…..and if he did indeed say this, then I know that she took it in stride.  But I still explained to Aaron why he shouldn’t say that Barb’s children are weird.   I didn’t say it was the pot calling the kettle black.  I wouldn’t want to hurt Aaron’s feelings.
Besides, he would just say that he doesn’t have a pot or a kettle.


Singing With Our Mother

My mother was raised in the little coal mining town of Welch, West Virginia.  Born in 1926, she was the last of six children born to Guy and Lillian Hollandsworth.  Grandpa was the principal of the school in Welch.  He and Grandma worked hard to raise their six children deep in those West Virginia mountains.  They instilled in them a love for God; a love for family; a love of culture; and a love of good music.  
Mom, fourth from the right on the front row
I loved hearing our mother talk about how she met my dad.  They met when Mom’s brother, Luther, married Dad’s sister, Mary.  Beth saw in Jack the sort of man she had never come across.  He was kind and thoughtful, a man of quality to whom she was drawn.  And as they became acquainted, they each learned something that helped seal their interest even further……they both loved classical music.  Dad was just a farm boy from Oakvale, West Virginia, who worked for the Norfolk and Western Railroad………and Mom, from a coal town deep in the mountains, was teaching Home Economics.  But quality music was important to them, so their mutual love for the same music was important as well.
Our home was full of music as we were being raised in Princeton, West Virginia.  It seemed that music was always playing on the old record player, and later the newer huge stereo cabinet in the living room.  Most of what we heard was classical, but Mom and Dad also loved the hit musicals.  I bet all five of us kids still know the words to the songs from Sound of Music, Carousel, South Pacific, and Oklahoma.  Christmas was full of beautiful and fun Christmas music.  I remember children’s records full of fun songs, too. 
Mom, on the far right, as part of the Laidley Hall Trio, 1946-47
Mom, fourth from the right on the front row
Mom didn’t just love to listen to music.  She also had a beautiful voice, and sang in choirs and madrigal groups during her high school and college years.  She was an accomplished soloist and sang in many area churches for revival services and other occasions.  A favorite song of hers…….her signature song, really……was “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”  This is the song she was singing in a little church during a revival service one night in the early 1950’s.  Jimmie Jones was preaching that night.  Mom stood up to sing, and God used the words of that song to pierce her heart.
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand
Than to be the king of a vast domain,
Or be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.
As Mom sang those words, she knew in her heart that she had never asked this Jesus into her heart to be her Savior.  She knew that she was standing before those people singing a lie with her beautiful voice.  She walked down the aisle that night during the invitation, and Preacher Jimmie led her to the Lord.  Dad had accepted Christ months earlier but hadn’t said much to Mom about it for fear of angering her.  Now they were united not only in marriage, and children, and their love of music…….but they were spiritually united in their love for the Lord that grew and grew over the following years.
Now our family had the completed element of being raised around God’s Word, and being active at Johnston Chapel Baptist Church where Preacher Jimmie was our pastor for all of our growing up years.  Now, too, were added beautiful hymns to the music that graced our home every day.  
All of us sang and soon we children were singing together for church.  I remember one Saturday that we even sang…..live!…….on our small town radio station.  We sang and Preacher Jimmie preached, and I have no idea how we sounded way back then.  We continued to sing as we got older, and were known as the King Sisters when John left.  And during all this time, Mom was still singing solos and blessing many with her pretty voice.
Many years have gone by since those days of early marriage and raising five children.  Dad went to heaven in December of 2008, during the season of Christmas carols and Christmas joy that Mom and Dad loved the most.  And now our mother has Alzheimer’s, lives in assisted living, and doesn’t know any of us five children or our spouses……or her grandchildren or great-grandchildren……or even her Jack, her husband…..Dad.  We can’t ask her for advice or ask her to tell us a familiar family story or ask her for a favorite family recipe.  All of that is gone.
Gary and I went home a few months ago.  Everyone was there except for Jimmy and Kathryn.  As we gathered at Jan’s house, near the end of our day with everyone, I suggested that we sing to Mom.  A friend of mine, Bev, had told me about singing to her mother who had Alzheimer’s and how her mother remembered the words……and it was their last real connection.
So we stood around Mom that evening at Jan’s and we sang “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”  To our surprise and delight, Mom joined in.  She knew most of the words, and then to our complete surprise, she sang the descant at the end…….her voice still beautiful and sweet.  You can click on the link below to see the video of her singing that song.
We sang a few other hymns as well, and then we decided to see if we could make it through our family song…….Dad’s favorite song……”Tis So Sweet To Trust in Jesus.”  Again, Mom sang most of the words in her sweet voice.  And at the end, as you can hear in the below link, she tried to describe how special that song was.  She couldn’t put her finger on why it was special……she couldn’t remember exactly……and she couldn’t find the words……but she knew.  Deep inside she knew that this song was a very dear part of our family, and a dear part of her Jack……of Dad.
I’m so thankful that we sang with Mom that evening.  We were all blessed beyond measure for that time with her.  Her heart was happy as she sang.  What memories those songs stirred in all of us, including Mom. 
Memories of wonderful parents who taught us about the Lord…..who filled our hearts and our home with music……but more importantly, filled us all with love.  And over the years, as we’ve all experienced both joys and sorrows, we can fall back on the love they gave us and the Lord they made sure that we knew personally.  Many parts of our early life are gone…..and now the Mom we’ve always known is gone……but the hope we have in Christ will never be gone.  The certainty of heaven will never be gone, where we can sing together forever! 
Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday.  She will be 88 years old……and she won’t know that it’s her birthday…..or how old she is.  But as friends and family gather around her, I hope that she knows how much she is loved.  And I hope that she joins in as everyone sings “Happy Birthday!”  
I bet she will, with a smile on her happy face and a twinkle in those beautiful eyes. 
We love you, Mom!  Happy Birthday!
And thanks for showing us over the years that you really meant it when you sang, “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”  And that we needed to mean it, too.   

The Funny and The Sad

It’s been a mixture of funny and sad with Aaron over the past two days…..well, over the past 27 hours and 22 minutes, to be exact.  But who’s counting, right?  Oh……well, yes, Aaron does.  Count, that is.  So he would appreciate it if I would as well, thank you.  
Aaron burst in the door from the garage yesterday when he came home from his day group.  He saw me right there in the half bath/laundry room as he shot through the door.  Of course, he didn’t say hello or hi Mom or anything close to resembling a greeting.  Instead, just as he slammed the door and saw me folding laundry, he loudly said, “Mom!!  King Tut is a real person, right?!”
And so began our late afternoon and much of our evening, as well as this morning.  King Tut this and King Tut that.  Can you tell that he’s watching a movie called The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb?  I don’t recommend it.  It’s beyond lame……but it suits Aaron just fine, because King Tut comes alive and saves everyone from the monster.  The monster with wings. 
Which prompted Aaron to also ask, “You mean King Tut is a humaning being?  He’s not a monster with wings?” 
And this morning I had to watch a YouTube clip of this beyond lame movie.  I had to type Google Videos and then type The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb…..just right, because Aaron was standing over my shoulder, observing my every move.  As we scrolled down to find the right clip, Aaron saw it.  “YES!!!!  That’s it!!!!  It’s the 1:41!!!!”
Good grief, Aaron…..remember my ears close by.  And the 1:41, for you who don’t know or remember……..how could you NOT??!!…….is the length of the video.  Aaron remembers the length of video clips even better than he remembers the names.  Anyway, I endured the video clip for 1:41.  It’s pretty awful.  In fact, I think it’s under awful movie clips on YouTube, but Aaron would strongly disagree with that.
Tonight, he told Andrea on the phone about this classic movie and she told him that she would watch it with him the next time that she “comes over,” as Aaron says.  But then she added that we should make it a FAMILY movie night and all watch it together.  I may suggest that she find a new family.  Really, the movie is that awful.  That girl is in so much trouble.
Back to Aaron’s return home yesterday…. he also told me about teasing Ashley at his day group.  He seems to get great delight from teasing her, which isn’t usually a good thing with Aaron, as his teasing can be annoying and even a little mean.  The more fun HE is having, the less fun YOU are probably having.  I’ve been trying to determine if Ashley is the same Ashley he knew at a school here years ago.  I asked him yesterday what color hair Ashley has.
“She has the color of Goldilocks and the Three Bears!!” he happily said.  Of course, he can’t just say blond. 
On his way to bed later, as I fixed the percolator for the next morning, Aaron said he was going up to his room to get ready for bed.  He walked part-way through the family room and I heard him stop.   “Mom, is it going to rain tonight?” he asked.  This before-bed information is very important to Aaron. 
I told him that I wasn’t sure, but maybe later it would rain.  He took a couple more steps, out of my sight, and then I heard him stop again.  Pause.
“When is later?” he inquired. 
 Oh dear Aaron, you who must have an exact time for everything…..
I told him that I wasn’t sure of an exact time when later would occur, but that it just might rain…..sometime…..later.
“Midnight?” he questioned.
When you’re in Rome…..and when you’re in Aaron’s world, do as Aaron does.  And thankfully, since I had recently looked at the radar, I could safely tell Aaron that it would not rain at midnight…..that it would rain sometime after midnight, if it rained at all……but I very carefully did not use the word “LATER” again.  Sigh.
And he was satisfied.
It was only a short time later, just after he had fallen asleep, that I heard him having a seizure in his sleep.  I stayed with him until it was over, and I prayed when I laid back down that he would not have a night full of seizures.  And he didn’t have another one……and I was so thankful……even as that little cloud of sadness hovered over my head.
We had more funny times this morning.  Aaron talked and talked about the The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb again, and of course we watched the YouTube clip.  He followed me out to the garden, where he talked more while I snipped okra off the stalks and picked a few tomatoes.  And where he breathlessly told me about Rosie eating some of the tomatoes I sent to Paradigm yesterday.
“Mom!!  Rosie ate tomatoes RAW!!”
He was so relieved when I told him that this is how we usually eat fresh tomatoes from the garden……and I learned that to him, eating them raw means that she didn’t wash them before eating them.  I already did that, I told him, and he was happy.
Then in the afternoon, while at the theater with his day group, he had another seizure…….a rare afternoon seizure.  He probably fell asleep in his chair in the dark, and then the seizure came.  Poor Aaron.  And worry and that hovering sadness was pushing the funny out of my sight.  
He was able to stay at his day group.  He called me and we talked about his seizure.  He was calm about it.  Later, I heard the door open when he got home, but he didn’t have the gusto of the day before.  He walked slowly across the kitchen and came downstairs to find me.  He was much more somber than yesterday as he walked over to me and told me that he didn’t feel very good because of his seizure.
“I guess I didn’t have much fun time in the theater because of that,” he flatly said.  
He made my heart hurt.  I agreed that it wasn’t much of a fun time for him, but that I was glad he was better now.  I was trying to soothe my own pain more than his.
“Yeah,” he said.  “I guess watching a movie today wasn’t very much fun.”
Poor Aaron, indeed.  He loves going to the movies but today he didn’t have much fun time there, for sure.  Yet it’s amazing how quickly he can bounce back…..how soon he was happy again, bending over and rubbing his hands together when I was talking to Andrea and he was trying to tell me what to tell her until I finally just let them talk……and the two of them talked the whole time Gary and I ate supper.  
Aaron is amazing in many different ways, but his ability to keep on going even when his day wasn’t much fun is a lesson for me every time.  And even more amazing is that even though he is the reason for my sadness at times, he can also turn right around and be the reason for my joy.  He can be so much fun!  
The funny and the sad, all wrapped up in Aaron.
A lot sure can happen in 27 hours and 22 minutes.

We Eat Lunch at 12:00

Gary has been visiting with Andrew in Indianapolis for nearly a week.  He got to go to the NHRA Summer Nationals and watch Andrew work, see all the fun races, and spend some quality time with Andrew.  I stayed home with Aaron.  He went to his day group for three of those days. Then over the holiday weekend, we went on walks at home and at Swanson Park; we went shopping a little; we watched Wheel of Fortune and played Skip-Bo; we took Jackson on walks; we went out to eat twice; and I got to listen to Aaron talk……a lot, as usual.
Yesterday and today I watched several hours of racing on ESPN.  I did things with Aaron in between races and at the end of both days.  I always feel guilty if I spend too much time telling him that we’ll do something later as I sit there doing my own thing, but he was happy with his games and his movies, and also sitting out in the mulch relaxing.  He stayed outside quite a long time today, consumed with his thoughts as he broke mulch in the unique way that he does.
Yesterday there was a two hour break in the middle of the day, from 2:00 until 4:00, when there was no racing being broadcast.   I had walked into Aaron’s room the night before and found him finishing one of his Lord of the Rings movies.  He was watching the credits……he always watches the credits to the very end…..because credits ARE a part of the movie.  I asked him if he wanted to go out to eat the next day during that break, and he happily said yes.
The next morning, I let him choose the restaurant and he immediately asked if we could eat at Chili’s.  I said yes, and then told him that we would leave a little after 2:00.  He just stood there thinking about that fact. 
It wasn’t long before he found me in my bedroom.  “So if we go to Chili’s,” he asked, “what time would it be?”  I repeated that we would leave shortly after 2:00.  He was pondering my response as he walked away.
Soon he was back.  “Mom, I wondered if you’d want to go sometime after 12:00.”
“Why?” I asked…….although I was pretty sure I knew the answer.
“Cause that’s when we do lunch here at the house,” he answered.
So I explained once again the fact that I had a two hour break in the racing schedule, but it was from 2:00 to 4:00. 
12:00 was not a good time for me to go eat lunch, I told him.
And once again he solemnly pondered my answer, then turned and walked away.
But not for long!  I was fixing my hair in the bathroom when he walked in, his face serious.
“How ‘bout we go at 12:00?” he asked hopefully.  “That’s lunchtime.”
I reminded him that I could only go after 2:00, and I also assured him that lunch after 2:00 would work out just fine.  I could tell he wasn’t convinced, but the thought of eating at Chili’s was too good to pass up……even if it WAS at the weird time of 2:00 and not 12:00, like lunch should be.
And Aaron, with his rigid sense of schedules, did go with me to eat at Chili’s just after 2:00……and he survived quite well.  He seemed to forget all about the time as he chowed down on his salad and his chicken enchiladas, and bemoaned the fact that I said no to chips and salsa.  
This picture was from our dinner today at Chili’s, where I DID let him get chips and salsa.  
And Aaron, with his rigid sense of schedules, asked me soon after we got home what we were having for supper.
“Supper?!” I asked.  “I’m stuffed, Aaron, and I know you are.”
He agreed……but he said that supper was usually at 5:30 or 6:00, and so he was just wondering. 
Good grief!
Later we were playing Skip-Bo when Aaron asked what day Dad was coming home.  I told him that he would be home on Tuesday evening.
Then it came…..
“Mom, what time will evening be?  10:00?”
And then he asked why I sighed.  Ha!