I pulled up to the curb in front of Aaron’s day group yesterday, a little early to pick him up at the end of his day. Soon Aaron walked outside, heading toward the van, followed by Barb. Barb is like Aaron’s second mom. She is also a manager at Paradigm. Sometimes Aaron wants Barb to come out to talk to me so that she can tell me something fun about Aaron’s day. However, fun was not part of our conversation on this day. I realized this right away as I looked at the tears on Aaron’s face when he sat down beside me in the van.
“Mom!” Aaron choked out through his tears. “Natalie got mad at me and called me…….” And on and on he talked, his voice thick with emotion and his hands rubbing together in frustration.
Aaron loves to give his money to his friends, especially to Natalie, and it’s sometimes a real problem. Aaron isn’t supposed to give away his money, and Natalie isn’t supposed to ask him for money, and when they are found out, it can be touchy. Both Aaron and Natalie have trouble controlling their emotions when things get stressful, which certainly happened yesterday. Words spill out…tears are shed…accusations made…
If you close your eyes, and if the voices were far younger, you would think that once again we were on the school playground trying to settle a spat between two kindergartners. But these are two adults, who because of their special needs happen to, at times….many times….still operate as little children.
Aaron was being very dramatic, which showed me how much his giving heart was hurting. He had done wrong and tried to deny it. Natalie had done wrong and got very mad at Aaron. Both were hurt and upset. But Aaron…his heart wants to give everything he has to his friends and when it all messes up, he feels betrayed and lonely and adrift.
“I don’t have any friends,” Aaron sadly declared as his voice broke with emotion. “And I don’t want to come back tomorrow!!” Just then, standing behind Barb, came the voice of Koren. She’s Aaron’s friend, and though at times she’s hard to understand, I clearly understood this.
“I’m your friend, Aaron,” she said. “I’ll give you a hug.”
So Barb stepped aside and Koren gave Aaron a dear, kind hug along with a few pats on his back. It was just the sweetest thing!!
Aaron and I sorted through the story with Barb before finally pulling away from the curb. But soon Aaron said he had left his billfold with Barb, so I quickly turned around and drove back to Paradigm. I went inside, and when I came back out, there was Aaron leaning inside the van that held Natalie. I was concerned! But as I stepped closer, I heard Natalie say, “I’m still your friend, Aaron!”
Aaron backed out of the van, his face a picture of relief…and Natalie’s face alight with a smile.
Later Aaron, as he so often does, asked me if he could give Natalie a card the next day. After saying he didn’t want to go to Paradigm the next day, I knew that wanting to take a card was a good sign that he was softening about going. So I found a card for Aaron and he carefully wrote Natalie a note…a short note with a huge message.
We all need a friend, don’t we? One thing that amazes me at Aaron’s day group is to walk in and see the interactions of these special adults. They love being and having friends, just as much as you and I do. Life is so very hard for them, harder than I can even begin to imagine. Sometimes it would be easy to feel sorry for them, sorry to the point of tears.
But then I see them welcome Aaron when he walks in the door. I see their smiles, their hugs, their concern for each other expressed in various ways. I see Aaron welcomed and loved, even after having a hard day previously.
His friends there are a picture of love and acceptance. I don’t see jealousy or judgment or bullying. Maybe those things happen at times. But there, among all the varying special needs and all the medical conditions…from wheelchairs or braces…with halting speech or deaf ears…curled hands and bent bodies…I see so often the joy and the love of friendship.
That scene has touched my heart more than I can express. I would love to share pictures, but privacy issues won’t allow it. So you must take my word for it, and try to imagine it yourself.
Sometimes the most needy ones are the ones who give to each of us a picture of what we need the most.
Genuine, unconditional friendship.