Vacationing With Aaron

A vacation trip means different things to different people.  Aaron was very happy when we told him that we were taking a Fourth of July trip to see family in North Carolina.  He likes seeing Aunt Sandra and others that he knows.  But really, to Aaron a vacation primarily means one thing…….food.  Particularly, restaurant food.  Snack food is right up there, too, on Aaron’s list of favorite vacation activities.  Then there’s Aunt Sandra’s wonderful cooking at her house, which is the best!  Staying in a hotel would be number three, because a hotel usually means dinner in a restaurant before bed.  Rest stops are fun, too, especially if the rest stop is a stop at a filling station……where there is food.  Plus I bring snack food, which is fun, but not as much fun as food that we buy on the road.  So you get the idea.  A vacation for Aaron boils down to one thing:  food in one form or another. 

We left for our Food Fest vacation on Thursday, the 30th.  Aaron wanted to know what time we were leaving, because knowing the precise time for everything in life is vital to Aaron.  So we told him that we would leave around 8:00, hoping that the word “around” would yield us some leeway in Aaron’s mind.  Not likely, but we can always hope that Aaron will be a bit flexible.  As it turned out, Aaron had a very rough night before our 8:00 leaving time.  I heard him having a seizure at 12:30 that morning, with two more strong seizures following during the early morning hours.  It was a long and very tiring night for him and for me, but I was thankful that by morning Aaron was able to get ready for our trip.  I was also thankful that flying had not been an option for us as it’s too expensive, because trying to maneuver Aaron in an airport and on a plane after seizures would have been very difficult. 

We were two hours late to leave, but Aaron was too lethargic to care.  He burrowed around in the back seat as soon as we started driving until he was finally comfortable, laying down and sleeping for quite a while.  He would wake up and look around some, long enough to ask the inevitable:

“Are we getting something to eat?”

“Yes, Aaron,” we would answer.  “We’ll be getting something to eat.”

“When?” he wanted to know.

“Oh, probably later in the afternoon,” we told him.

“So what time?” he asked.

“We’re not totally sure what time,” we answered.

“Oh,” was all he would say.  Until:

“I’m talking about eating in a restaurant,” he clarified.

“Yes,” we said.  “We’ll eat in a restaurant.”

“What time?” he ventured again.

And so back and forth this conversation occurred, over and over again as Gary drove us on our scenic route.  If Aaron was awake, we pointed out the farmer’s fields…..the Mississippi River……the Tennessee River…….the quaint little towns with their interesting sights……the beautiful wildflowers……

But none of it was particularly interesting to Aaron.  Part of it was that he didn’t feel up to par after his seizures.  And part of it is because none of these things held nearly as much interest to Aaron as, say, a Cracker Barrel or Applebee’s sign.  Of course!

Aaron was listening to some music on his headphones when he let us know that he needed to use the bathroom.  We told him that we would stop as soon as we found a place.

“I’m talking about a bathroom in a restaurant,” he informed us. 

HaHaHa!!!  Good try, Aaron.  We knew he must have been feeling better!

We ended that first day happily eating supper at Applebee’s, right beside our hotel in Paducah, Kentucky.  Aaron rolled in his suitcase while he carried his small backpack that held his music CD’s and his CD player with headphones.  And Aaron, who must finish what he has started if at all possible, was very pleased to put on his pajamas and then complete the task of finishing his Ronnie Milsap CD before it was time to turn off the lights and sleep.  Mission accomplished!

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We all slept very well that night.  Aaron was still fairly slow that morning, which is normal after seizures.  But he wasn’t so slow that he didn’t think about food!  He was hoping for breakfast in a restaurant, so we told him that the hotel breakfast was very much like a restaurant.  He didn’t really buy into that, but he was happy to eat again.  And very curious about the bowl of Trix that the woman in front of us had as he leaned over to stare at it, which caused her to stare at Aaron……with a smile, thankfully. 

Aaron really wanted Gary to listen to his Ronnie Milsap CD in the car player, but we told Aaron no, that he needed to use his own player.  Gary told Aaron that he just doesn’t like to listen to music while he drives, which Aaron finds totally mystifying. 

“How come you just like listening to the cars?!” Aaron asked in disbelief.

It was a welcome sight to see more and more mountains as we drove toward our beautiful Smoky Mountains, and to our family.  Aaron wasn’t greatly impressed with the pretty views of mountains and lakes and rolling whitewater rivers.  He just wanted to know what time we were getting to Aunt Sandra’s and what was for supper.

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Aaron quickly set up shop at Aunt Sandra’s, putting his CD and DVD player on the desk in the room where he sleeps.   His Ronnie Milsap CD and his Superman movies were nearby, and he was all set. 

On Saturday, Sandra took us up to see a friend who raises goats and dogs and cows.  The goats were just so cute.  Georgianna let Aaron pet and feed the goats, which he loved doing.  He really loves to feed animals……of course!  It’s food!  We ate lunch at Nabor’s drive-in, which we always must do in Bryson City……and which IS a restaurant, so Aaron was happy!  We drove around and looked at sights and gorgeous views, ending up at the grocery store……..where Aaron ended up finding DVD’s for sale, of course!!

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It was just great to see everyone over the next few days!  There were so many family members there, especially at the barbecue on Sunday.  During the days that we were there, Aaron had lots of new people to talk to about movies or about his day group or about anything else that entered his mind.  He didn’t know many names but he would usually just look at someone and say, “HEY!”  I would often tell Aaron the name of the person to whom he spoke, but names didn’t matter nearly as much to Aaron as the telling of his stories did.  So “HEY!!” it often was.

There were some moments of frustration, as there always are, but generally Aaron did very well.  To be in such a crowded environment with many people he didn’t know, totally out of his routine, is always a stretch for Aaron.  I think the time he got the most bothered, of all things, was the night that he heard Sandra and I making the noise that means something tastes good.  You know…….mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm.  The inflections in that common sound we make without even thinking just drove Aaron nuts.  He told us to stop it!  And we forgot as we stood at her kitchen island that night, sampling a few more little bites of her carrot cake.  “Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm,” we both intoned as we smacked our lips……and there stood Aaron.  He had fire in his eyes as he got very upset, told us we were weird, and then gave me a kick in my leg.  It’s just amazing to see how his brain functions, and to see what makes him totally lose control. 

One of the sweetest moments came when Aaron began to tell his cousin, Andrew, about Ronnie Milsap.  Andrew, bless his heart, got out his phone and tried to look up Ronnie Milsap while Aaron anxiously waited.  Andrew’s phone didn’t get good coverage, so I quickly found the song.  Andrew listened intently with Aaron, while Aaron rubbed his hands together in delight and laughed a lot in total pleasure.  And to top it off, Andrew went up to Sandra’s house so that Aaron could show him some more Ronnie Milsap songs on his CD player.  What a kind thing for Andrew to do!! 

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We visited Aaron’s Nana, Leo, on Monday morning before leaving town.  We also got to see Jonni and JD, and of course, Meshach……who sat in Aaron’s lap the entire visit and even wanted to leave in the car with Aaron. 

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The trip back to Kansas on Monday and Tuesday was uneventful.  Of course, Aaron had the usual food questions and where are we staying questions and when will we get to Kansas questions.  On Tuesday he wanted to know what time we would get home.  Gary told him that we would get home around 4:00 that afternoon.  As we rode, we showed him when we entered Tennessee, when we entered Kentucky, etc. 

“Is 4:00 when we come to the entrance of Kansas?” he later asked. 

Later, we were on the final leg of our trip.  It was 3:09.

“When will we be home?” Aaron asked.

“In about an hour,” I told him.

“No.  You said 4:00,” he replied.

“What time is it?” Gary asked him.

“3:09,” Aaron answered.

“Then it’s about an hour,” Gary said.

“No,” Aaron answered.  “It’s 51 minutes.” 

I don’t think Aaron even notices the quick looks between Gary and me, and the suppressed smiles.  He is so often unaware of how he affects us in a very pleasing, happy, amazing way.  He does usually know when he affects us negatively, however, but I’m thankful that the happy times occur more often than the not-so-happy times.

He went to his day group today with no problem.  That’s a huge big deal for him after being gone for so many days!  He wanted me to come in with him and tell Barb about our trip, but I told him I didn’t have time for a long talk, and Barb probably didn’t either.

“But Mom, you don’t have to tell her for a LONG time!!” he insisted.

Yet I have told all of you for a LONG time about our vacation trip, that’s for sure.  Thanks for bearing with me if you’ve read all of this.  I just love sharing a little about what it’s like to travel with Aaron……to live with Aaron……to experience new things with Aaron……to be in his world and have him in ours in the way that we have this past week. 

It’s just another glimpse into autism and into life with Aaron, which makes our lives full and rich and sometimes rather complicated.

But not boring.  Never boring. 

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