Aaron recently had a tooth pulled and an implant inserted. He’s really done well with the whole procedure and with healing, as far as we can tell. But as is the case in every single tiny part of Aaron’s life, autism rules.
I mean, come on, this is the guy who won’t get up from a program until he watches the credits. Who, if he has multiple music CD’s from the same artist, will only play them in the order of their production date. Who will not start eating his popcorn at the theater until the movie we came to watch has actually started. Who lays his special greeting cards on the bed at night while he reads, just like this.
Who keeps a log book of the time he goes to bed every night and the time he gets up in the morning.
And who…get this…will only chew on one side of his mouth. And you can probably guess which side that is. The side which had the extraction and implant, OF COURSE!!!
This was a huge reason that my stress level was so high as I thought about his recovery. Gary and I have coached Aaron and encouraged Aaron and demonstrated to Aaron and pled with Aaron to please…just PLEASE…chew on the OTHER side of his mouth.
“I don’t LIKE chewing on that other side,” he asserted over and over.
“So start early and get used to it!” we declared.
“But I can’t TASTE on that other side,” he told us over and over.
Thinking we could even remotely win this battle was as crazy as…well, as expecting Aaron to chew on the other side of his mouth.
For Aaron…for anyone with autism…there is basically no other side to any matter. There is one side…one way…to do and to see everything.
Things came to a head last Wednesday night. I had fixed Chicken Fajita Soup. Aaron had eaten and enjoyed this soup in the past, but that was before he was being tormented with all this tooth business. He was unhappy with the soup. He was unhappy with me for fixing the soup and for insisting that he eat some soup. Aaron’s unhappy led to my unhappy.
That was one side of the matter. The other side is that Aaron was looking forward to going on our Meals on Wheels route the next day and finally getting to eat out. We were going to his favorite Mexican restaurant to see his favorite server and eat some soft enchiladas and of course to scarf down a side salad with no croutons and with TWO ranch dressings!
But instead, he had two seizures in the early morning hours. He stayed home with Gary while I went on our route. I felt sad for Aaron, but honestly, I needed that alone time. The previous night had been rough. I had not gone through Aaron’s normal bedtime routine because I was just so tired on every level. Instead, we simply said a quick goodnight and I sat at my desk reading some Psalms and praying.
Those are the times that I do not feel the joy of being Aaron’s mother but instead feel overwhelmed with the burden of caregiving.
I could feel my burden being lightened as I delivered the meals to my elderly clients that morning. I pulled up to a new client’s house. It was only my second time to take R. a meal. She slowly came to the door with her walker. We talked for a minute and then she began to tell me about her husband who had died a few years earlier. She had been his caregiver for years before his death. I was able to share with her some things about Aaron, whom she remembered from the week before. I felt a bond with her, this new little friend who smiled when I told her that she didn’t look like she was 91 years old. But then she talked about how lonely she was, and how she felt like she had no purpose…that she just existed. And I told her that she did have a purpose in God’s eyes and how she had just encouraged me.
I had to run on and deliver more meals. When I went to C’s house, he immediately asked about Aaron. He had some things to give to Aaron. He handed me a plastic pumpkin that was loaded with stickers and rocks that he had painted with Aaron’s name, along with several other items. I thanked him over and over, and he told me that this was his ministry now since he couldn’t get out like he used to do.
I told him that his words reminded me of my visit with R…of how she felt useless and with no purpose, but how we all have a purpose in God’s eyes.
“What’s her name?” he asked. “I’ll paint her a rock!”
I told him her name and he spelled it to be sure he had it right. Then he said that his aunt had that first name, and how she lived a few blocks over…that she was alone and was 91 years old.
“That sounds like my new client,” I told him.
He gave me his aunt’s last name.
And wouldn’t you know it? His aunt is the new client that I had just talked to, who is so lonely and sad. He said he would call her and visit with her.
This was a sweet gift to me from God, this reaching down and orchestrating the encouragement that our three hearts needed.
For R and C were not the only ones who needed that touch from God on that morning. I needed it, too.
Yes, I could walk and drive and later go out to eat with Aaron. I got to go home to a loving husband and live in the purpose that God has given me at this point in my life.
But sometimes God’s purpose for me is not easy, yet it IS all too easy to chafe under the yoke instead of remembering that God has said His yoke is easy when I wear it for Him.
That’s the other side of God. He teaches us so much under the stresses and burdens of the lives we live.
He equips us for the life He has planned for us.
And He surprises us with sweet blessings when, and how, we least expect it.