We just finished celebrating Aaron’s 35th birthday. We had three days of birthday events, full of fun and loaded with Aaron’s exuberance. There aren’t many 35 year old’s who would embrace their birthday with as much joy and pure excitement as Aaron did. His birthday is one of those times that we fully see how unencumbered Aaron is with adult responsibilities and burdens. 35 doesn’t seem old or worrisome to him at all. He’s all about HIS day and all the fun it holds! He’s very much like a kid, and everyone around him smiles at his delight.
Aaron begins planning his birthday months before the actual date. I’m not exaggerating. He talks and talks about his plans. Can we go here? Can we do that? And often, he doesn’t ask us before he starts inviting people to come to our house or to eat out. It’s easy to be exhausted long before the birthday celebration even occurs as we try to keep up with him and his grand plans.
His birthday was this past Friday. On Thursday, he stayed home from his day group. He helped me make lots of cupcakes for his day group to share the next day.
We also made lasagna for some of his friends to have on Thursday night. We loaded up the van with lasagna, garlic bread, cupcakes and drinks before driving across town to the residential home of some of his day group friends. All girls, by the way! 😊
On Friday, Aaron carried his cupcakes into his day group…chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing and sprinkles, per Aaron’s wishes. At the end of his day, Barb…dear friend, second mom, and Paradigm manager…brought Aaron to meet Gary and me at Texas Roadhouse for his birthday “eating out” supper – Aaron’s choice once again, of course!
Oh my goodness, his excitement was almost palpable! He could hardly stop laughing and talking, and rubbing his hands together, in complete happiness.
“It’s my birthday today!!” he immediately told our server. “Can you sing to me?!”
Our sweet server laughed as well and said of course. She mentioned the saddle, which we had to explain to Aaron, and which he agreed to our surprise to do…but later he backed out on that saddle business. He wanted the largest sirloin, but we insisted on the next size down. He barely quit talking and eating. He was large and loud and very, very happy!
His gift bags from Barb, and from Casady – Barb’s daughter and another very good friend – were perfect for Aaron because they know him so well. And they love him, which he fully knows.
At home later, he opened more gifts and he talked to family…and he loved the shark cuddle blanket from Andrea and Kyle!
Then on Sunday evening, we met his special friend Rosa for their traditional birthday dinner at Chili’s. Again, Aaron announced his birthday to our server and asked if they would sing to him and bring him ice cream with chocolate syrup. Look at Aaron’s happy face when after dinner several of the staff sang and clapped and made Aaron’s final birthday celebration complete.
Rosa ran to their car as we left, bringing out her doll head that she loves so much, while Louise and I laughed and laughed. We love Aaron and Rosa’s friendship!
My heart was warmed later when Louise told me about how she and Rosa were looking at calendars to buy for Aaron. Aaron loves animal calendars, so Rosa eyed each of the three that Louise showed her. Rosa instantly chose the buddy calendar that shows dog and cat buddies for each month. Isn’t that so sweet?
I’m very thankful for each of Aaron’s friends and family that love him. Every text, Facebook message, phone call, and gift to Aaron was also a very deep gift to me, as well. I loved seeing Aaron so happy, and I love seeing Aaron BE loved by so many precious people in his life.
Sometimes it’s easy to feel alone when you raise a child with special needs, especially when they are fully adults yet, as in Aaron’s case, still so fully dependent on the help he needs from the family and staff that surround him.
Easy to look at others who are Aaron’s age, or much younger, who are finishing school and getting jobs and raising a family.
Those thoughts for me are fleeting, though, because I know the danger they carry. Aaron is Aaron, created by God, and my responsibility is to love and care for him – not to regret that he isn’t someone else.
Barb’s daughter, Casady, a kind soul who loves Aaron to pieces, wrote this in Aaron’s card:
“Happy birthday, buddy! Thanks for making me see all the sides of life. Love you so much.”
Those words seem to just go over Aaron’s head, but not mine. Her words go straight to my heart and come out from my eyes in tears that I don’t let Aaron see…or he would call me a crybaby.
But oh, life really is so much more than our routine and our version of “normal.” Trust me, Aaron shows us sides of life that we never even thought of! And other sides that we would like to forget!
Yet Aaron also shows us how much fun it is to relish routine and special days and music and warm blankets and coffee and cows and horses and bugs and steak and movies and shopping and dogs and cats and milkshakes and sharing and pennies he finds on the ground.
I sometimes stop and look at Aaron when he’s doing an Aaron thing, and my heart swells ‘til it almost hurts. He is so unique, complicated, hilarious, maddening, and upsetting. All the sides of Aaron are also the sides that all of us have, but Aaron doesn’t often have the ability to hide them like we can. They’re out there for all to see…and to hear!
And this morning, I heard a seizure a little after 5:00, and another just before 8:00. Then one that he’s only had once before, back in April – long and strange and scary. This is the side of Aaron’s life I dislike the most, but it’s a side we must handle and manage as best we can. I handle it by being thankful in the many ways that God brings to my mind, and by knowing as well that God is there for us and for Aaron with His sovereign protection and grace.
The sides of Aaron’s life…the good, the bad, and the sad…are all wrapped up like a birthday gift that God gave to us the day that Aaron was born. It’s up to us to relish all of who Aaron is, even the hard sides of Aaron; to thank God for our special gift; and to care for him in all the ways he needs.
Every side of Aaron…every day.
Hey, it was Aaron’s birthday!!
And I’m happy about that!!