Well, we are home from our trip to Gary’s beautiful Smoky Mountain hometown. Days have been busy as we settle in, with Gary and I getting ready for another trip next week…this one without Aaron…so time is short for all the writing I would love to do.
As many of you know, our trek home was to help Gary’s sister, Sandra, when she returned home from having knee replacement surgery. So, in a sense this was a working trip, and one that we are very thankful we could take. A big thanks, as well, to all of you who were praying for us and for Sandra!
We brought Aaron with us, much against his desires…and at times, our better judgment. 😊 But we know that he needs to travel some with us, and that this will occur more now that Gary is retired. Plus, family wants to see Aaron, even if Aaron is less than enthusiastic.
There is so much about traveling that is a struggle for Aaron, but the biggest issue is his autistic need to have his life in just a certain order. Sorting and packing and stuffing things in a car is NOT Aaron’s definition of order. I work hard to have his DVDs in one tote…his music CDs in another…his snacks in a snack bag…his sweater…his Handy Answer Garden Book…his computer that Gary packed in a box… You get the picture.
Aaron does not.
We had already decided to take his stuffed snake and his very most favorite blanket. Yet on the morning we were leaving, downstairs he came carrying a game system that did not even work properly and that he never uses. And two extra Handy Answer books that I knew he would not touch. These became his hill to die on. No amount of persuasion worked to make him relinquish these suddenly all-important items, so in the car they were also crammed and away we drove.
Gary and I were exhausted before we had even left our circle.
Aaron settled in his seat behind us, alternating mostly between watching a movie or listening to music, whooping or clapping way too loudly until we objected loudly and he quietened down until his next burst of excitement. We saw cows and horses and sheep and rivers and lakes and interesting buildings. But the buildings that Aaron loved most were ones where we stopped for gas, for inside those buildings were LOTS of snacks he did not have in his snack bag and slushies and hot dogs and all sorts of other possibilities.
I had packed separate bags for our hotel stay that first night in order not to lug in all our heavy luggage. Of course, Aaron’s arms became full of his two extra Handy Answer books that he did not need in the hotel room and his blanket that MUST go on his bed.
Later, after a frustrating dinner at a REAL restaurant – as Aaron calls it – we were in our hotel room for the night. The two Handy Answer books were on a table not to be touched again until they were carried to the car the next morning.
And Aaron was snug in his bed reading his Handy Answer Garden Book with his blanket on top as it always is and always should be.
This blog would be way too long if I included details of everything. I’ll try to be brief by saying that Aaron really did do amazingly well considering all he had to handle. He was bossy at times, but we knew he was just trying to control his surroundings. It’s actually very interesting to watch but requires us to pull back and observe without our frustrations obscuring our view.
We got to Sandra’s house the night before she came home from the hospital, so we had time to get situated and organized. Gary got Aaron’s computer hooked up on the desk in his bedroom he used. I got all his other things put in place…his star lamp we had packed, his Handy Answer Garden book within reach of his bed, his other two Handy Answer books off to the side to remain untouched, his music and his movies, his monitor on the nightstand, and finally his blanket on his bed just right.
I got my part of the monitor plugged in and like we always do at night, I pushed the talk button and told him good-night one more time. Getting everything all set up and plugged in was a bit of a challenge, so when I told Aaron good night I added:
“We’re up and running, Aaron!”
Aaron: No, I’m not.
Me: You’re not what?
Aaron: I’m not up and running, I’m in bed.
A laugh was a great way to end the day! 😅😅😅
It was a blessing to be there to help Sandra, who is doing very well in her healing and progressing with her walking. We got to spend time with lots of other family, which was wonderful!
Like I said, Aaron had so much change to handle and all of us were proud of how well he did. All of us, too, were recipients of his anger and frustration that at times got the best of him.
One evening Aaron was upset and very out of sorts. Nothing calmed him and no one could reason with him. But the person who helped him the most didn’t even realize that he held the key which set Aaron back on the right track. Gary’s cousin, Bob, let Aaron talk about Star Wars this and Star Wars that. Bob listened and commented and asked questions, and Aaron slipped back into his happy place where he is at home though he was not at home. Aaron needed familiarity and having someone let him talk about a subject that was so out-of-place for all of us but Aaron was exactly the solution to ease his unsettled mind.
The last day and a half were particularly rough. Aaron was done. He was overloaded and spent and just so ready to go home. He didn’t want to come out of his room. He lay in his bed with the covers pulled over his head. When he did emerge, he was defiant and angry.
He focused his anger on Sandra. I felt so badly for her.
Sandra was his target because he knew we had come to help her, so in his mind his misery was her fault. Nothing could dissuade him from that skewed perspective.
My brother and sister-in-law came that night to visit, and somehow their attention…and their gift of a West Virginia Mountaineer cap that Aaron loves!…broke the angry cycle. Jeanie’s great interest in those Handy Answer Books sealed the deal!
The next morning, we re-stuffed the car and said our goodbyes. Aaron was happy as he could be, of course, as you can see in this picture with his Aunt Sandra and Aunt Mary Leah.
We soaked in the beautiful views as we drove away through those gorgeous mountains.
We smiled at Aaron wearing his ever-present sweater at a rest stop, no matter the warm temperature.
Now Aaron is home where he belongs. Home where he is once again finding something else unique in the produce section at Dillon’s.
Home where he can settle in to watch a show with Mom and eat his snacks, with his blanket over him as it should be.
We’ll let the dust settle before we mention a possible Thanksgiving trip!