I walked out into the garage the other day and this caught my eye.
What is this? It certainly looks like a small trash can that contains little pieces of paper. It is that, but it is also much more. So much more, at least to me.
You see, this trash can holds the small pieces of paper that are left when Aaron cuts out a coupon for me. Aaron cuts out the Sunday coupons every Sunday, rain or shine, do or die. He has quite the coupon cutting routine going on as he positions everything just right. His pillow on which he sits, his coffee beside him, a particular pair of scissors that are used ONLY for coupons, the coupon box…it’s all placed just so-so before the cutting process even starts.
Then he methodically cuts each coupon on the dotted lines (more or less), and if there is final perfecting needing to be done…if the dotted line cutting isn’t quite accurate enough…then he will continue to cut around the coupon that he is holding until it is just right. Thus he has small strips of paper that fall to the floor in front of him.
These strips of paper cannot just be scooped up and thrown away. No, no!! He carefully takes each thin strip of paper and cuts it into even smaller pieces as he holds it over his little trash can. For weeks and weeks, these paper strips pile up inside his green trash can until finally, someday…when the can is very full…Aaron, and only Aaron, will decide to throw them away and start all over.
When I glanced at the familiar trash can that day, seeing all the colors and sizes of papers inside, I immediately thought that this is such a true picture of Aaron himself. There are so many parts and pieces of Aaron, just as all of us have parts and pieces, but Aaron’s are truly unique because of his autism. Looking at all the pieces of what makes Aaron…Aaron…gives much understanding of what makes him tick. Maybe it will also give all of us some needed understanding of so many others who are one-of-a-kind special people, yet similar in many ways as well.
Let me give you some examples of our Aaron’s parts and pieces.
I’ll start with coupons. Sometimes I will put a Dillon’s coupon in the red coupon box. If I haven’t had time to sort the coupons by the following Sunday, this is where I will find the Dillon’s coupon.
It’s under the bench beside him. This is because Dillon’s coupons are odd to Aaron and don’t belong with regular coupons.
This way of thinking is also why I found these a few days ago.
These are Skittles, but not just any Skittles. They are misshapen in some way, so Aaron won’t eat them. To the side they go, to be later thrown away.
This same Aaron principle is why I sometimes find pieces of food on a napkin, set aside by Aaron to be thrown away instead of eaten. Usually this part of his food is shunned because it’s too crisp. He can’t just push it aside on his plate. It must be completely removed from the plate.
Aaron must nearly always have a spoon and fork when he eats, even if he’s eating a finger food that requires neither. And multiple napkins, for sure!
Aaron always, always has a salad when we eat in a restaurant. Often the salad is served on a plate, which he never minds at all. But here at home, salad must be in a bowl. One night I suggested that he eat his salad on a plate, to make it easier. He stood by the table, staring at the offending plate, and then told us that he just wouldn’t eat salad that night. He wasn’t angry…just very matter of fact. So I got out his bowl and he ate his salad.
Aaron enjoys watching Wheel of Fortune at 6:30, after supper. One evening I asked him if he was going to watch, and he said yes, so I told him to turn on the TV. He paused. Why? Because it was 6:25…and Aaron will NOT turn on the TV for Wheel of Fortune until 6:28. Yes, you read that correctly. 6:28. On. The. Dot.
6:25 was a ridiculous idea. Aaron stood there, staring at the clock for a few seconds before his eyes riveted back to the television screen, black because it was OFF. Clock. Screen. Clock. Screen.
Finally, he spoke. “Should I turn it on at 6:27?” he cautiously asked.
I took this event as seriously as he did as I told him that I would turn it on, so he ventured out and did just that.
VICTORY!!! At least for that one night.
He wants to only eat lunch at 12:00 on the weekends when he’s home, or maybe after…but NOT before 12:00. I asked him one Saturday if he wanted to eat lunch and he said yes. Then he stopped and looked at the clock. He then said no to lunch. I knew why, but I asked him anyway.
“It’s 11:48,” he replied patiently to his silly mom. “I’ll eat at 12:00.”
I’ve watched him sitting on his bed carefully watching his clock before writing his time-to-bed in the log that he faithfully keeps. As soon as the clock is precisely on the next minute, he will write down the time. Or I’ve seen him write down the time, look at the clock as it suddenly is on the next minute, and then watch as he scribbles through the time he wrote in order to put down the exact minute.
And when Aaron watches a DVD, he watches it from the very beginning to the VERY end…all the credits…EVERY single line and word. He does the same with a book, reading the very first page, the table of contents, and ending with the index in the back.
I’ll never forget how I learned that about Aaron. Years ago, he was reading one of his Handy Answer books and he came to me with a question. “Mom, what does http/www. ,mean?” I asked him to show me what he was talking about, so he showed me the very end of the book with all the references to various web sites. Even after I told him what it was, and that he didn’t have to read that, he continued to read every single one.
Living with Aaron can be so many things because of his many parts and pieces. It can be hilarious, fascinating, entertaining, demanding, frustrating, and maddening. All in one day!!
And just as there are outward displays of his varied parts and pieces, there are many inner examples of Aaron’s unique design. His way of thinking…of processing life…of feeling valued, or not…of feeling important, or not. Those parts of Aaron are sometimes very difficult to predict, to understand, and to handle correctly.
It’s his inward desires that, if unmet, are often understood better by us only after angry eruptions on his part. This is very typical of those with autism. Aaron already has a hard time talking to us about his feelings or desires, but it IS those very feelings and desires that drive him to outbursts of anger and resentment.
So again, we are seen trying to fit together another aspect of Aaron…more parts and pieces, like his coupon pieces, that demand to be seen and understood for what they are.
We have been a party to this inner part of Aaron for some time now as it relates to his sister falling in love. Andrea and Kyle will be married next month, so this occasion has opened a whole new door to us…and especially to Aaron. Matters of the heart actually open all sorts of doors. It’s been a very interesting, and sometimes very sad, process…one that I will write more about later.
One that has plenty of parts and pieces of its own! Stay tuned!