I ran into Great Clips this morning, taking Aaron for another haircut, shave, and beard trim, and who greeted us but Erin! Erin has worked there for quite awhile. Erin loves Aaron, if you follow me. She’s a mom, and just a very sweet person who genuinely loves seeing our Aaron. So it’s always nice when Erin cuts Aaron’s hair!
Erin is one of these people who just gets Aaron. She was genuinely happy to see Aaron as we walked through the door. She talks to him while she cuts his hair, asking him questions and interacting so well with him. I just love having people like that in Aaron’s life.
I can tell very quickly if someone gets Aaron or not. You don’t have to totally understand Aaron to get him. Is this making sense? There are just some people who from the first moment they encounter Aaron, are relaxed and accepting of him. And there are others who look at Aaron like he has an alien head or something…..although Aaron would think that having an alien head is pretty cool.
For instance, Friday evening Aaron and I went to Little Caesar’s for pizza. The line at the take-out window was long, so I decided that Aaron and I would go inside to grab our pizzas. As I parked, I gave Aaron the usual directions…..wait for me, don’t barge in the door, if there’s a line then don’t push ahead, please don’t clap, and please talk SOFTLY!! Of course, I was trailing behind him as I finished my instructions and he was barging in the door. Oh well.
Thankfully, there was no line, so Aaron had free rein to walk up to the counter, lean way over and loudly say, “Can I have some breadsticks??!!” I was tugging Aaron back while reminding him to talk softly and also reminding him that I already told him he could have breadsticks…..when I turned and saw the cashier’s face. She was staring a hole through Aaron while she wore totally no expression on her face. There was no emotion at all from her. She looked at Aaron like he was perhaps an alien, but a very boring alien. Like she was thinking, “Who are you and why are you in my store?”
Aaron was very excited and happy, totally oblivious to this girl’s cold stare. He continued to interrupt as he loudly asked if we could get TWO pizzas as well as breadsticks. Her eyes went from me back to Aaron, with her impersonal cold stare once again. At times like that, I’m very thankful that Aaron doesn’t get social cues. This girl didn’t get Aaron, but Aaron didn’t get that she didn’t get him, so in that respect all was well.
But all was not well in my spirit. I wanted to give her nose a little pinch and then deliver a lecture, but of course I didn’t. And I know that maybe she was having a bad day. Yet really, deep down, I just know that some people get Aaron and some people don’t.
Tuesday for lunch, Aaron and I met his case manager at Applebee’s for his yearly PCSP meeting. Barb, from Paradigm, was there as well. Aaron is as comfortable with Barb as he is with me, so she understood Aaron’s whacks on her arm, his too tight squeeze of her hand, and how he helped himself to some of the chicken on her salad. It was our server, though, whom I especially noticed. She made eye contact with Aaron, smiled at him, listened to him, and was genuinely relaxed with him. I even looked at Barb and whispered, “She gets Aaron.” And Barb knew just what I meant.
When someone understands Aaron, it’s as obvious as the nose on their face….like that little girl’s nose that I wanted to pinch. J But it’s very obvious to me when a person understands Aaron, and even accepts him just as he is. Sometimes being in public with Aaron is embarrassing, honestly. He’s large, and loud, and totally blind to the effect he has on others by being “out there” with some of his behaviors. He might point at someone because of their hair or whatever. He might turn around in the restaurant booth to see what the people behind him are eating or saying. He might stop to stare at their plates as we walk out of the restaurant. And if he goes to the bathroom by himself during our meal, it’s very interesting to watch people’s faces as he walks by, his head high and arms swinging, often making funny noises with his mouth.
So when someone gets Aaron, I find myself relaxing some. It’s as if I don’t feel the need to explain, which I usually don’t do anyway. I shouldn’t have to explain Aaron. He is who he is, in all his boldness and uniqueness. But I’m human and I feel my face getting red when Aaron does something a little crazy that draws attention to us. It’s nice to see others understand him even if they don’t really understand…..to accept him…..and especially to enjoy him.
Having Aaron in my life has taught me to try hard to show understanding to other families I see who are probably uncomfortable in public. I remember when Gary and I ate dinner at a local restaurant with some friends. Our table was near a mom and dad who were eating dinner with their special needs son. I noticed their son immediately. He was stimming in his unique way, and I just knew what they were feeling. I could see it on their faces, especially the dad. So I finally made eye contact with the mother, and I smiled at her. I pointed to myself and shook my head yes. She was a little confused, so I just stood up and walked over to their table. I spoke to her and her husband, and told them who I was…..and that I had a son much like their wonderful son. They both visibly softened and relaxed. They were so happy that I understood and that I spoke to their adult son, and that I got it. That’s what meant the most to them….the fact that I got their son.
So when you’re out and about, and you see an Aaron…..or most likely, when you HEAR an Aaron…..just smile at the parents with genuine love. Even when their Aaron might pull one of the lower boxes of cereal out of the huge cereal box display….and mom stands there with fallen cereal boxes all over the aisle….smile and maybe even offer to help pick them up. Yes, that happened to me. And the help of a sweet teenaged boy was such a blessing that day!
There are special people all around us who need us to get them. There are families of special ones who will feel a huge weight lifted off their hearts if you are that person in their lives.
I get it! You can, too.