There is something laying on the floor of our garage right now. It’s a baggie that contains some coins….some coins that Aaron needed to take to his day group today. The bag is on the floor of the garage because Aaron put it there. Well, he didn’t just put it there. He threw the bag down on the floor. He threw the bag down on the floor because he was angry. He was angry because he didn’t want to go to Paradigm today. He didn’t want to go to Paradigm today because of something that happened there on Friday. He didn’t have to go yesterday because of a doctor appointment and then a fun day with me…..so he doesn’t want to go today, either. Are you following me?
It’s how we have to follow Aaron. Living with Aaron means living with autism, and living with autism means that we often follow Aaron as he goes down one trail, switches to another, and back tracks to the first one, but is soon off on a wild tangent, and off we go. Living with Aaron and living with autism means that we must understand, as best we can, the things that Aaron can’t easily or sometimes ever express. At times it’s a fascinating journey. At times it’s a funny journey. And at other times, it’s a very frustrating journey. It’s really wild when all those emotions are mixed up into one ball. Boy, can we bounce from one to the other!
Anyway, back to the bag of coins on our garage floor. Aaron was awake a little after 5:00 this morning. I heard him go to the bathroom, but he never went back to sleep. He was in the kitchen watching me scramble Gary’s eggs well before 6:00. He ate some sausage and I took his coffee to his room. He came several times and stood behind my chair as I had my morning quiet time, sometimes talking and sometimes just staring. He showered and took his pills. And just under the current of his swirling mind, I knew what was there. He didn’t want to go to Paradigm. But when he saw that I was really going forward with our morning routine, like cleaning his glasses and handing him his wallet, he was not happy anymore. On the way to the van, he turned and threw the bag of coins on the floor. He left them there as we got into the van, and I am leaving them there for him to pick up when he comes home. But he went to Paradigm, was met by the manager who rubbed his back and calmed him down (I hope), and hopefully will come home with happy stories. And he will pick up the bag in the garage, because he needs to do that. It’s a small lesson, but a lesson regardless.
Sometimes we don’t necessarily understand what makes Aaron do certain things, but we know that these actions are set in stone. We are fighting a losing battle to try to change them. Like his sausage this morning. Aaron got his own silverware because he knew that Mom wouldn’t do it correctly. I knew what he was thinking as he reached into the drawer and pulled out his fork but also a knife and a spoon. Who needs a spoon for eating sausage? Aaron does. There’s no need to make a big deal about it or try to make him put it back. Why make it an issue?
And the family room lights. I don’t turn them on in the morning because we’re not sitting in there and so we don’t need the lights on, right? But every time Aaron walks through that room, headed for the kitchen, he flips the lights on. I flip them off at the first opportunity. He flips them back on. Lights on. Lights off.
This morning he walked into the kitchen. Lights on.
I soon took his coffee upstairs. Lights off.
He followed behind me. Lights on.
I came back downstairs. Lights off.
He came behind me again. Lights on.
I carried my own things upstairs. Lights off.
He finished taking his pills and then came upstairs. Lights on.
On the days that he is home and wants to eat lunch, he will eat only if it’s 12:00 or shortly after. He will not eat at any time before 12:00. Not 11:48. Not 11:55. Not even 11:59!!!! And if I ask him what time he wants to eat, he replies, “At the time for lunch!” As if Mom is a little thick headed, you know.
One day recently he said, “Mom, I’m sleepy. I think I’ll take a nap at 12:00.”
I said, mistakenly, “Well, it’s almost 12:00 now. You could go ahead and lay down.”
“But it’s 11:53!!!” he exclaimed. “It’s not 12:00!”
Well, of course. Whatever was I thinking?!
Wheel of Fortune is another one. It starts at 6:30, so Aaron has decided that he will turn the television on at 6:28. Again, not at 6:25 or 6:26 or even 6:27. No. Only….ONLY……6:28. He will stand in front of the TV, literally staring at the clock, until it is SIX…TWENTY…..EIGHT!!!!
It actually makes Gary and me smile.
Movie credits. Oh yes, movie credits. When Aaron watches a movie in his room, he watches the entire movie. But to Aaron, the entire movie means from the moment the DVD begins until the moment the DVD is over…..completely over. That means watching the credits…..every single bit of the credits, until there are no more credits to watch. He stares at them intently, too.
So yesterday, after Aaron’s doctor appointment and after eating lunch at Abuelo’s, we went to see San Andreas. He saw it at the theater on Friday, but he really wanted to see it with me. Yesterday worked out perfectly for that. For one reason, the theater wasn’t full at all and so I wasn’t as stressed about Aaron’s noises and rubbing his hands together when he got excited. And this is a VERY exciting movie. We had a good time, and when the movie was over I could tell that Aaron didn’t want to get up. Why?
Really? Surely you know. The credits!! Aaron would have gotten up if I had insisted, but I knew that watching San Andreas in the way that mattered to Aaron meant watching it to the bitter end…..which meant to the very long, last credit. Everyone had left the theater, and the cleaning crew stood in the back waiting on us to be finished, but Aaron and I did it. We watched every single line of every single credit for every single miniscule part of San Andreas. Aaron put his hands on the back of the seat in front of him, enthralled at getting to watch big screen credits all the way to the end.
This is what we often do as parents of Aaron, and as we live with autism. I entered Aaron’s world at that moment. It was actually funny and endearing. We left the theater laughing, and I laughed even more when Aaron bent over as he rubbed his hands together furiously, asking the ticket taker why San Andreas was “fictinous,” as Aaron says. The stiff, unsmiling ticket taker was rather put out at this odd situation and made some curt comment, which totally didn’t faze Aaron. That poor guy missed out on a wonderful opportunity.
I’m learning more and more to enjoy those opportunities to enter Aaron’s mind and to follow him on his paths. I am blessed to partake of Aaron’s world on most days, but there are many times when it’s hard and frustrating. Which brings me back to the bag on the garage floor. Hopefully, as he picks the bag up off the floor, Aaron will talk to me about what was really bothering him. Hopefully, he will learn that he needs to correct his own wrong actions. Until the next time he takes off down that trail of frustration, but we’ll deal with that as well.