Aaron was with me all day on Monday because he had a doctor appointment in the morning. Afterwards, we swung by the eye doctor to have his glasses adjusted; went to Taco Bell for lunch, which was the real reason that Aaron was happy to be with me; and then to Wal-Mart, his second real reason for being happy. I experienced quite a few autism moments, too many to remember them all……for after all, Aaron’s whole being is influenced by autism. So is mine.
There was the ride in the van across town, and Aaron’s excitement about listening to the CD he had chosen. Pop Memories of the 60’s was quickly inserted in the player, and then Aaron’s instruction as he held his hand up, palm facing outward: “Don’t talk. I want to listen to the music.”
The number 1 showed on the CD player, so Aaron reached down to quickly pick up the CD holder and announce in his monotone voice, “Stevie Wonder.” He bent over again to place the CD holder back where it had been. The song began and Aaron said, “Mom, do you like Stevie Wonder?”
Notice who’s doing all the talking.
So we listened to “My Cherie Amour” as memories of high school flooded by brain. But I didn’t share that with Aaron because I wasn’t supposed to talk.
Then number 2 came on the player, so Aaron bent back over to pick up the CD holder. “Kenny Rogers and The First Edition,” he again announced. And back down went the CD holder.
Number 3: Pick up holder…….“Tom Jones,” Aaron flatly said…….replace holder.
Number 4: Pick up holder…….. “Mama Cass,” was announced……replace holder.
You get the idea. All across town, and back across town, he never tired. Oh, and there was this one.
Number 10: Pick up holder……. “Lois Armstrong,” he said as sounds of “Hello, Dolly!” filled the van.
“Ummmm, Aaron, that would be Louis. Louis Armstrong.”
“Don’t talk, Mom! I want to listen to the music,” said guess who?
This doctor visit was to the psychiatrist who oversees his autism care. Oh, could I fill her ears full! I refrained somewhat, but Aaron didn’t. He stretched himself out on her small couch right away, uninvited to do so, legs hanging out over the end, and proceeded to talk about Mom’s upcoming trip to Houston……his upcoming trip to NC with Mom and Dad……his new Superman set of movies that we let him have for the NC trip……and Ultraman. Among other things.
Later, at the eye doctor, he was rather impatient as we waited. Doctors and glasses adjustments are such a bother, especially with Taco Bell just around the corner! Then in walked a nun, dressed in her full habit from head to toe. I hoped that if I began tickling Aaron’s back, he would keep looking down and not see her. Aaron is fascinated with nuns and with their unusual clothing, so I wasn’t sure what he would say. Too bad we didn’t have a CD playing so maybe, just maybe, he would be quiet. He did look up and he did see her, of course, standing right there at the front desk. But as she walked into the bathroom, out of earshot, all he said was, “Mom, she’s wearing a hood! She must work for the church.”
I was pretty relieved when she was called back immediately. I had no idea what to expect with both of them sitting in the waiting room together, and it wasn’t her I was worried about.
Aaron loved lunch, of course, even amid my reminders about not whistling as we waited for our food or making various other unusual noises. And then before we ever stood up to leave came my reminder to him about stretching. Aaron makes quite a production of stretching when we get up to leave a restaurant, his back arched and his stomach stuck out and his amazing stretching noise. So I’ve learned to remind him before we even stand up that he is not supposed to stretch, which I did there in Taco Bell. He stood up, though, and did a suppressed stretch……what you might call an abridged stretch……which on Aaron still looked amazing and drew attention, I’m sure. I’ve learned not to look at the people sitting nearby. He just looked a little like he was puffing up and about to implode, right there near the drink machine. Nice.
And then he saw it……the quarter that someone had dropped on the floor directly in front of the register. He has such hawk eyes for things on the ground, unless it’s his dirty clothes in his room or his mounds of books on the floor. I tried to stop him but it was too late. He bent over clumsily and picked up the quarter, while the line watched him and I just stood there. It was quite a sight, Aaron doing the old man bend. The employee told Aaron to keep the quarter, which he gleefully pocketed, oblivious to the scene he had just created.
Dear Aaron! He is so unaware of how funny and unusual he is, or of how he comes across. These autism moments, I call them, come in many various forms. And yesterday at his day group, they weren’t so funny. The not so funny autism moments cause anxiety and frustration for many other reasons. He wasn’t so happy to go to Paradigm yesterday, but he went. He ended up in tears for part of the morning, and then in the afternoon he was almost manic in his fake laughter and his “teasing.” He calls it teasing, even though we all remind him over and over that if he’s the only one laughing……and others are hurt or angry…….it’s not teasing.
Aaron thinks it’s funny to say things to people like, “You’re fat! You’re dumb! You’re old!” Or many other things as well, most of which are not funny at all. He truly can’t seem to permanently connect what is correct to say from what he impulsively wants…..and does…..sometimes say. This is especially true when he is frustrated about something. Instead of addressing the issue of his frustration, he will verbally harass others, and then often regret it later. And he does it under the guise of “teasing.”
He has a special friend who is all bent over in a wheelchair. He has shown so much kindness to her. I wrote once about how he waited on her at the end of the line as they walked to Quik Trip so that he could walk with her. He loves giving her things or helping her eat. But yesterday on the way home from Paradigm he said, “Mom, I told S that she’s ugly. I was just teasing!”
I was so hurt for S and I was so disappointed in Aaron. I told him that S is a young woman who would love to be able to get up from that wheelchair, go shopping for pretty clothes and make-up, and get her hair and nails done. I told him that she would love to go to bed at night thinking about how Aaron had told her that her hair was pretty, or that she had a pretty smile. Instead she would go to bed that night thinking of how Aaron had said she was ugly……and she probably feels ugly every day.
Aaron listened. He talked about it last night at supper with Gary. I have to say that it was hard for me to say the words I said to Aaron. Part of me wanted to just assure him that I was sure S knew he was teasing……that it was OK, but he should do better……or that we all understood what he really meant. But I knew that I needed to let Aaron know of the hurt he had inflicted, while it also hurt me to say the hard words to Aaron without backing down.
Aaron had a small seizure at 5:30 this morning, but it was enough for him to wake up later with a bad headache and with bleary eyes. I let him stay home today. Later in the morning, he went with me to run a few errands. On the drive back home, out of the blue, Aaron remembered.
“Mom?” he asked. “Can we stop at Dillon’s so that I can get S a sorry card?”
My heart was so touched, and so thankful. Aaron does know right from wrong. He does feel bad when he’s been hurtful, even though it’s after the fact.
So I told him that I had some cards at home. Right after we ate lunch, before he took a nap, I got out my card box and found him a card that he liked. It was blank inside, but not for long. Short and sweet, he simply wrote these words, with her name underneath.
I hope that he has learned a lesson, one that will stick and not be forgotten during his next crazy mood swing or unhappy moment.
The last song on the 60’s CD was another one by “Lois” Armstrong – “What a Wonderful World.” I want Aaron’s world to be wonderful, but I want him to also understand that he can quickly ruin the wonderful world of others by his words and actions.
Likewise, he can make it right with things like his “sorry card,” and with an attempt to watch his words and his teasing. Our job is to instruct, to understand, to be patient, to forgive…….and to be thankful for the wonderful world we share with Aaron, even on the rough days, always hoping that the rough days will be fewer and the wonderful days more frequent.
Now, don’t talk! Let’s listen to the music.
Sing it, Lois!