Today is World Autism Day. It’s a day to bring attention around the world to the issue of autism – its causes, its impacts, its uniqueness – and so much more. I can’t speak for others, really, but I certainly can tell you how autism has rocked our world.
I was a young wife but not a mother yet when Gary was in flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama. He was learning to fly helicopters for the army, and I was learning the bare beginnings of how to be a good military wife. I particularly remember a warm Alabama day when I was outside our house on Sharon Lane, planting Zinnias, and wishing with all my heart that there was a baby – our baby – lying in a little crib inside. I thought that life would be complete if we had a baby.
The army moved us to Fort Carson, Colorado, and in another house we did welcome our little Aaron Daniel. He was perfect and tiny and complete, as was my happy heart. A baby! A son!
I thought often of that stunning verse in Psalm 139:14: “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and I know this very well.”
Fourteen years later, I sat in a pediatric neurologist’s office in Tucson, Arizona. I watched him talk to and examine our son…our Aaron…not so little now, but big and complex and confounding to us. Gone were his sweet small innocent ways. He was instead often angry, agitated, loud, embarrassing, and the center of much unwanted attention.
Gary and I at first thought that our unusual and perturbing Aaron was this way because of the effects of seizures he had endured since the age of seven. Then we wondered if his behaviors were due to side effects from all his seizure drugs. Or puberty, perhaps, added to the mix?
But Dr. Gray turned to me and told me that Aaron had Asperger’s Syndrome. I was blank. I had never heard of this, and I had no idea what he was talking about. Only when he defined this syndrome as a form of autism did I have an idea…a small inkling…of what he meant.
But oh, little did any of us know what this REALLY meant. Not until you travel on this unknown path of autism, with its myriad displays affecting every area of life…ours and Aaron’s…can you understand autism’s daily, minute by minute, impact. Impact on Aaron…on Gary and me…and on Andrea and Andrew.
So, what was I to do now with that powerful, affirming verse from Psalms? You know, the one that so eloquently said that God makes each baby…fearfully and wonderfully designs each one. Really?
I choose. I choose to trust God, totally…or not.
And then, even in my trust, I look up the words I don’t understand. Really.
FEARFULLY: means to reverence – so I know that I am to look on God’s design of Aaron and deeply respect what God has created. I am to be in awe of what God has formed. Of WHO God formed in my womb. And trust me, some days I’m totally in awe of who and what I see in this son of ours…and not always in a good way! And even as Gary and I shake our heads, we do know deep in our hearts that Aaron is exactly who God formed him to be.
WONDERFULLY: (This meaning is the BEST!!) This word means to “put a difference; to distinguish; to show marvelous.”
Aaron NAILS this one, people! Oh my goodness, he is so different than the average bear…and he cares not one bit that he is! He distinguishes himself everywhere we go and in everything we do…and he doesn’t mind one bit that he does! AND…he does show himself…sometimes marvelous and sometimes not, at least in our way of defining “marvelous.”
I decided to use some words to illustrate a little of who Aaron is, showing some recent pictures to boot.
Aaron is BLUNT: NO picture to show here! But earlier today I told him he could go to Dillon’s with me, so from that point he was impatient to leave. He walked in the bathroom, where I was fixing my hair. Wanting to leave NOW, he stared at me for a few seconds and then said, “You could just go to Dillon’s on a bad hair day!” 😊
Aaron is PERSISTENT: Aaron talks and talks and talks and talks. The other evening, he followed Gary to the bathroom, standing outside the door as he continued to talk and talk and talk.
Aaron is PRECISE: Look at his notebook in which he logs his times that he goes to bed and the times he wakes up each day.
Aaron is LOVING: He loves to share. If you have junk to get rid of, just let Aaron loose with it, and he’ll give it to anyone that he sees. He’ll also give away things that you prefer to keep. Anyway, he has a big heart. And he especially loves animals!
Aaron is TOUGH: He recently had 8 staples put in his head after a drop seizure on our stairs. Tough hardly describes all he has gone through over the years, physically and in other areas as well. But he was thrilled to get to keep those staples when they were removed…a trophy!!
Aaron is THOROUGH: Here he is yesterday, watching the movie credits with great intensity and delight. After all, movie credits are part of the movie and are to be watched! Totally. To the very, very end.
Aaron is RIGID: We want him to wear a helmet for a couple days when we think his seizure pattern may indicate that he’ll have a dangerous drop seizure. He does NOT want or intend to wear this helmet. His Aunt Sandra struck a bargain with him, saying that she would make and send him a toboggan hat to wear if he would wear his new helmet. So, he wore the helmet for an agonizing maybe three minutes. He DETESTS how it feels!! Tactile issues have never been ones he can overcome, from the time he was a little boy. Here the helmet lays, where it was ungraciously tossed by a very frustrated Aaron.
Aaron is FUNNY: He does make us laugh, some days more than others. He delights in the things that most of us ignore or take for granted…the cows in the field, the horses, things laying on the ground that he finds, funny commercials, store decorations, and on and on.
And I could go on and on about our Aaron. He truly is “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
In many moments, Gary and I don’t grasp that truth. Have no doubt, there are deep tired sighs that you will hear often in our home. We get frustrated, lose our cool, feel guilty, and then repeat the process again.
But also have no doubt that we know…we KNOW…that Aaron has been used by God to make a huge difference in our lives. He has distinguished himself as God has taught us more about Him and about us than we would most likely have learned otherwise. And Aaron has shown us just how marvelous God is in our weakness and in our pain and through our tears.
And God reminds us of how marvelous Aaron is, created with a purpose.
Yes, fearfully and wonderfully made!!