Topsy-Turvy Times

I got a phone call last Thursday afternoon, soon after I had gotten home from running errands.  I saw that it was from Barb’s cell phone.  Barb, who works at Aaron’s day group, often lets Aaron use her cell phone to call me.  Or Aaron often uses her cell phone even without permission so that he can call me and tell me something about his day, and then insist that Barb and I need to talk…and we laugh every time about that as we talk for a minute and make Aaron very happy.  So I was sure that this call was just another call from Aaron as I answered the phone.

But it wasn’t Aaron.  On the other end of the line was a staff from Paradigm who was using Barb’s phone to call and tell me that Aaron had fallen during a seizure.  Aaron was standing when he suddenly fell, seizing, and had hit the cement floor.  She said they were sure he would need stitches in his chin.  She was right.

I left for Paradigm as quickly as I could, thankful that our old Great Dane was beyond caring about the groceries left around the kitchen within his easy reach.  I walked in and found Aaron surrounded by Barb and the nurse, sitting in a chair with paper towels being held on his chin.  He was alert, ready to tell me all about his injury and ask if we were going to the doctor.

Which we did.  We went to the hospital nearest our house, out in the country, where the ER wait is next to nothing and the care is good.  The girl at check-in put an ID bracelet on Aaron’s arm…his arm on which he wears his watch, way up high.  There is plenty of room on that arm for both bracelet and watch, but Aaron doesn’t think so.  Immediately when we sat down in the waiting room, Aaron had me take off his watch.  I knew that here, as is true everywhere, Aaron’s way of doing things would be the way that things would be done, if he had any say in it at all.

He would sure enough need stitches, we were told.  No surprise there.  Aaron was taking it all in stride.  He doesn’t panic, thankfully, but he has questions during times like this, wanting to know about the process and the procedure…would he feel it…how many stitches would he need…and could he go home after this was all done.

When things were quieter, as we waited for the doctor and Aaron leaned his head back on the pillow, I looked at him and felt so sorry for all he goes through.  I couldn’t linger long there, though, in those thoughts because I knew I would cry and I knew that my crying would greatly bother Aaron.  He doesn’t have the emotional feelings about life that you and I have.  This is to his benefit, really.  But I do have those emotions, especially as his mother.  Looking at his split chin and his scuffed, swollen cheek just brought home to me the fact that life is hard for Aaron.

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Aaron doesn’t enjoy the pain he experienced.  He doesn’t like his seizures.  But Aaron also doesn’t complain about it or seem to feel at all sorry for himself.  That’s what I mean about the fact that he doesn’t display the emotional feelings about his life that others might do. He’s mostly concerned about the facts.  Will stitches hurt?  How many stitches will I have?  Can I go home afterwards?  What’s for supper?  When can I wear my watch again?

Not – why do I have to be the one with seizures?  Why can’t I drive like others do?  Why do I need so much help all the time?  Why is life unfair to me?

I’m SO thankful that Aaron doesn’t express those feelings…that they don’t even seem to be on his radar.  Once in a long while he’ll say something telling, though, like the time he asked me what went wrong with him.  Or is God mad at him and gave him seizures.  But those thoughts are verbalized very seldom.  Aaron is mostly about the here and now, and about living life in the routines that matter so much to him.  Predictability and sameness in his days are far more important to him than weightier matters such as the fairness of his life.

Gary and I are left with those weightier matters that are heavy on our hearts.  And I was feeling it as I watched Aaron flinch several times as he endured the stitches.  He told his Aunt Sandra about it that night as they talked on the phone.

“That doctor put on the numbing medicine and then he put on the stitches!” Aaron told her.   Somehow he can always make me smile.

But by the end of the evening, as I told my friend Sarah, I just wanted to crawl off in a corner and have a good cry.  That wasn’t to be, though.  As soon as Aaron got in bed later that night, within five seconds after I left his room, he had another seizure.  They happen so quickly!  Thankfully he was laying down in bed for this one, safe from falls.  I was in bed myself as soon as I could after that, very tired…too tired to take time to cry.

The next morning I sat at my quiet time desk, early, wondering what God would show me from His word.  He didn’t disappoint me.  He never does.  I’m reading through II Samuel – again – using a devotional commentary written by Dale Ralph Davis.  In chapter 7, God was explaining to David why he would not be the one to build Him a temple.  And this phrase, read so many times before, jumped out at me as I read it…and then read what Davis had to say.

God was speaking: “In all the places where I have travelled around with all the sons of Israel…”

God lived in a tent among His people as they wandered in the wilderness.  As Davis says, “Do you see what God is saying about Himself?  He is the God Who travels with His people in all their topsy-turvy, here-and-there journeys and wanderings.”

The God of the universe travelled with His people while they spent years in the wilderness…years spent there because of their sin and disobedience.  Davis continued: “That is only a pale glimpse of the condescension of the covenant God, the God Who will not enjoy rest until He gives His people rest , the God Who stoops down to share the hardships of His people, the God Who is not ashamed to say He has been ‘travelling around in a tent’ with them.  See how close He is to you!”

On my tired, sad morning as I hurt for Aaron once again, I was overwhelmed with joy for what God had shown me.  God never lets me down, especially when I need Him the most!  I don’t deserve His kindness to me but I sure did thank Him for His hand on my shoulder that moment…His arm around me and His promise to be with me so fresh in my life as I sat at my desk.

His presence doesn’t necessarily take away all pain or grief.  But He sure does pour comfort over me.  And the certainty that He has a purpose for all that goes on with Aaron fills me with peace.

It’s not a peace based on my feelings.  It’s a peace based on my God.

I felt that same peace as we realized over the weekend that Aaron had probably damaged a back molar during his fall.  I took him to our dentist yesterday, who confirmed that the tooth was broken beyond repair.  Off we went to an oral surgeon, who thankfully was able to extract the tooth right away.  And there I sat once again, watching Aaron sit in another exam room for yet another procedure.  I listened to his questions that he asked the dental staff and that he asked me.  I watched his eyes focus an all the items in the room, processing each one in the way that he always does.  I hurt for his fear that he expressed.

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But I also thought of my travelling God, and how He was right there with us in that room.  I was thankful for that, SO much!  Thankful, too, for the sweet nurse who told me about her young son with seizures, and how we talked about prayer and our faithful God.

When all was done, Aaron was done…ready to lead the way out the door.  Ready for his large chocolate milkshake from Sonic – with NO straw!  Ready for his mashed potatoes and a few deviled eggs for supper.  Very ready to show Dad his tooth and the roots, placed in the little pink tooth box that he can carry around and proudly show to everyone.

Ready to take a walk, in his pajamas, with Gary and Jackson.

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Ready to bring me his treasure that he had found, and that Gary had explained to him.

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Ready to touch my heart with his lopsided, numb grin as he showed me the dandelion seeds.

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Ready to be used by God once again to show me so much, in ways he doesn’t even know.

All Aaron!

I heard Aaron through the baby monitor early this morning.  He wasn’t having a seizure but instead was making the unmistakable sounds of getting out of bed for more than just a trip to the bathroom.  When he turns his lamp on and moves his stuff out of his desk chair…his two back scratchers and his hand towel – always, always in his desk chair…then I know that he is getting up for the day. 

UGH!!!  I knew it was way, way too early for him to be awake for the day because I had just rolled over, unable to sleep myself, and saw that it was 4:00 a.m.  I turned the monitor off, tried to sleep but couldn’t, and later just got up and began my day. 

I was sitting at my quiet time desk, Bible and study book open, when in walked Aaron.  Another UGH!  And I don’t mean to sound mean.  It’s just that Aaron will not leave me alone if he is up and about in the early morning.  Without even looking at him, I said, “Aaron, do NOT come in here right now.  It’s too early.”

Total quietness.

So I turned my chair around and there stood Aaron, some videos in hand, slightly smiling.  He looked very chipper and very fully awake, and very happy.  Much happier than Mom.  But I had to smile, too, at the cute look on his face.

“Mom, I got out of bed…” he began.

“Don’t even go there,” I said.  “I know you were up at 4:00.”

“4:11,” he flatly replied.

I had to belly laugh at that.  His precision is always so funny, even before 6:00 in the morning!

We talked and compromised, Aaron saying that he would go back to bed if I would make sure he was awake at 7:30 so that he could say goodbye to Dad before Gary left for work.  Agreed.

I thought about yesterday when Aaron and I ran into Dillon’s before I took him to his day group.  If possible, whenever we are in Dillon’s, Aaron always loves walking up to the fresh seafood and fish display.  He loudly points out the shrimp, lobster, crab legs, and anything else he finds unusual and therefore very interesting.

But yesterday there was a surprise!  Aaron was beyond excited to see two whole fish, Tilapia, laying there on ice. 

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“MOM!!!  LOOK!!” he exclaimed as he pushed his way in front of a little family also standing there.  “He’s ALL fish!!!” 

How I love the way that Aaron expresses himself…well, most of the time!

Gary and I can truly say…He’s ALL Aaron!

Like taking him to Subway over the weekend for a sub.  Subway and Great Clips are two places where, for some reason, his autism just shines.  There in Subway he told the young girl waiting on us all about Dracula since he’s getting ready to watch the old, old Dracula movie.  He asked her if she had seen the movie, did she know where Dracula lived, and how his voice “sounds like England.” 

I kept re-directing him to think of his sub and not Dracula, so he told the girl that he wanted the bread with the black dots on it.  I had told him the correct name since this bread is new to him, but he couldn’t remember that.  She looked confused, I tried to interpret, but Aaron by then was already asking her if she could show him a picture.  And on we went from there until finally we had the sub with black dots in hand and safely exited. 

Later, as he ate his black dotted sub, I asked him if he liked that new bread.

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“I like it!” he answered.  “It tastes weird.”

That’s Aaron…ALL Aaron!

His take on food is so interesting and funny.  Last night he was eating peanuts.  He is often fascinated, over and over, by the outer skin he sometimes finds. 

“I’m afraid to eat those outering parts of the peanuts,” he told me. 

And orange juice pulp – “This orange juice looks like it has worms in it!”

There he goes…ALL Aaron!

Today describing his observation at Great Clips – “You know what I noticed they do to those women?  They take them to that water place and put their HEAD in it!!” 

YIKES!!

All Aaron again!

I could go on and on sharing many insightful, funny, amazing, and embarrassing comments from Aaron.  I have tons, trust me!  So why do I share?  To make you laugh?  Cry?  Scratch your head…like we often do? 

It’s like this not-too-great picture I took of Aaron awhile back.  We had just gotten home after I picked him up from his day group.  Aaron LOVES to share with his friends, so on our drive home he was already asking about what goodies he could take the next day to share with Natalie, or Simone, or Heather, or….

He didn’t even take his coat off, but just sat down on the floor in front of the cabinet, pulled out the snack drawer, and went to work searching for his next treat to share.

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In much the same way, I want to share with all of you what a unique young man our special Aaron is.  There are so many varied parts to Aaron.  Some parts I love to share, and others I may want to hide, but they all make up who our son is. 

Autism is not the end of the world, honestly. 

Instead, it can be the beginning of another world…a quite amazing journey.

And so I want to say to each of you –

“LOOK!!  He’s ALL Aaron!”

 

What Time Is It??!!

So today I have another Chicago song rumbling around in my brain.  A couple weeks ago it was the song “Color My World” that I wrote about.

But today…today it’s the song, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”

The chorus begins:

Does anybody really know what time it is?

            Does anybody really care?

Stop right there!!

Yes, somebody cares!!!

AARON CARES!!!

For anybody new to my blog, Aaron is our amazing adult son with autism.  And keeping the correct time is of paramount importance to him.  I mean, look at his log book that he keeps with his time to go to bed at night and the time he gets out of bed in the morning.

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And many of you still chuckle with me when I share conversations similar to this:

Aaron:  “Mom!  I woke up early this morning!  Guess what time I got up?”

Me:  “You got up at 7:00.”

Aaron:  “No!!  I got up at 6:58!!”

Aaron loves keeping his eye on the time, the PRECISE time!  Therefore, this change yesterday to Daylight Savings Time caused a huge bump in his road of exact time keeping.

And that’s why I waited until he and I were driving to Sam’s Club in the early afternoon to even casually broach the subject of another time change.  He listened and then didn’t have much response, but I’ve learned not to be fooled by his silence.  He was pondering this unwelcome news with each ticking second of his wristwatch…his wristwatch pushed way up his arm, always, for those of you who may not know that little fact.

His Sam’s food treasures kept him from dwelling too much on the time issue.  Pineapple slices…cheese cubes…dry roasted peanuts with sea salt (Aaron likes using their full description!) (and talking about what dry roasted means until Gary and I are sick of the topic of dry roasted peanuts with sea salt!)…strawberries…orange juice…and dog jerky for our big Great Dane, Jackson.

Once home and all unloaded, Aaron went out with me to the front yard.  He kindly picked up branches that had fallen in our last wind storm.  We praised him for his helpfulness, and how he was allowing Dad more time to work on our bathroom remodel.  Or as Aaron puts it – “tearing the bathroom.”  He was very proud of his job well done.

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And then it hit him.  The afternoon was moving right along.  We were going to watch our West Virginia team play Kansas at 5:00.  Aaron asked about what time the game started, which reminded him of that time issue discussed earlier, and the countdown began.

“Mom?  When do we change the time?”

“We’ll just change the clocks when we go to bed, like we always do,” I told him.

This question was asked in one form or another several times during the evening.  Then it got complicated.

It was 8:30ish when we finished watching a program.  “Maybe I should go on to bed,” Aaron said.  I suggested that we watch one more thing, and then he could call it a night.

“But when does the time change?” he asked again.

“Well, technically it changes during the night when we’re asleep, but we’ll set the clocks ahead when we go to bed,” I replied.

He was satisfied with that.  We watched one more NCIS and then it was definitely time to hit the sack.  Aaron ran down the stairs to say goodnight to Gary, remembering to have Dad change the time on his wristwatch.  We got all the bedtime routine taken care of, with Aaron pushing up his sleeve every minute or two to check the ever important time on his watch.  His eyes were darting, though, to the time on his satellite weather station.  We had told him that the time there would change automatically during the night.

Finally, he pushed up his pajama shirt sleeve, stuck his arm out for me to see, and said, “Mom, look.  It’s this time on me.”

He was struggling with having one time on his watch and another time on his weather station.  Nothing I said was helping much.

Then…THEN…the inevitable happened.  It was time for Aaron to write down his time to bed in his log book…and the time on his weather station did NOT jive with the time on his watch.

What to do??!!!

He wrote down the time displayed on the weather station.  I said goodnight.  I should have known it was not over.

Nine minutes after he went to bed, I heard his heavy footsteps coming up the hallway.  Soon there was a knock on the bathroom door.

“Mom?” he asked.  “Is it really 9:47?”

“Yes, Aaron, but during the night it will change while you’re sleeping.  Now go on to bed and don’t worry about it.”

Off he went.  I think it was 9:48.

I was starting to breathe easy, but I shouldn’t have.

More footsteps.  Another knock.

“Mom?  Is it really 10:03?”

Bless his heart.  These things are so, so urgent and of such great importance to him.  I dare not dismiss them or shrug them off or make him feel like he’s ridiculous to be so tied up in the stress of what time it really is.  Gary and I know to explain over and over, if needed…and it almost always is.  Small price to pay, really, for Aaron’s peace of mind and for ours.

All was well today.  Aaron was super excited to eat lunch at Carlos O’Kelly’s, so it appeared that all the time issues had been laid to rest last night, at the same time that Aaron finally decided to rest.

I think it was 4:43 when we were all walking in from the garage…and Aaron spied the time on the garage door opener.

“Dad!  It says 3:43!!”

And in no more than a couple seconds, maybe three, Gary had gotten that garage door opener in sync with Aaron’s watch, Aaron’s weather station, the microwave that Aaron had just watched me change, the oven, the radio…

So…

Does anybody really know what time it is?

            Does anybody really care?

Silly song!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Notice or To Ignore

The other night, Aaron and I were watching a DVD as he munched happily on his jar of peanuts.

“Mom!!” he suddenly exclaimed.  “What’s this on my dry roasted and salted peanuts?”

That by itself was funny, the way he says the complete name of the peanuts printed on the jar. Of course, Aaron sees nothing unusual about that at all.

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What WAS unusual, to him, was the little thing that he held up for my viewing.

“What’s what?” I asked as he held something miniscule up for me to see.

So Aaron quickly pushed back his blanket, crawled out of his chair, and stood beside me with his open palm carrying the mystery object.

Before I could tell him what “it” was, Aaron decided to first inform me of what he thought “it” was.

“It’s the cover that’s on some of the peanuts,” he told me.

This isn’t the first time that Aaron has called the thin skin on peanuts a “cover.”  It had been awhile since we had carried on this conversation.  I therefore told him once again that the “cover” was actually a thin skin that remained on some of the peanuts after they were processed.

“A skin?” he asked.  “Can I eat it?”

I assured him that he could eat it.  Later, after he had gone to bed, I found several peanut coverings on the table…ones that he had set aside, not to be eaten along with his dry roasted and salted peanuts.

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Yesterday, Aaron and I ran down to Dillon’s to buy him some lunch.  There in the entry were some little Girl Scouts selling their Girl Scout cookies.  Aaron had walked ahead of me, so as I grabbed a cart one of the girls focused on Aaron.

“Would you like to buy some cookies?” she asked him.

But Aaron had spied the salad bar.  At that moment his entire focus was on lettuce and cheese and boiled eggs and lots of ranch dressing…not on little girls with yummy cookies for sale.

Aaron completely ignored the girl’s question as he barreled in the open door and headed for the salad bar.  I was hurrying after him, because Aaron is sometimes a disaster at salad bars.  My job is to keep his fingers out of the tempting toppings, his head out from under the plastic shield, and to minimize spillage as he insists on “doing it myself!!”

But as I rushed by the sweet little scout, I definitely saw the look on her face.  She was confused by Aaron; for many reasons, I’m sure.  One of the big reasons, though, had to have been the way he completely dissed her and her question.  She was totally ignored.

I smiled at her as I scurried by, thanking her and saying no thanks, and wondering what she must have thought.

I survived the salad bar with Aaron, even as he told me I was rude for taking the tongs away from him as he spilled first some lettuce and then some cheese, and as I yanked the ranch dressing bottle from his hand before he squirted half of it on his salad.  A man was awaiting his turn, and as I turned to walk away he just smiled at me.  Aaron does have a way of becoming the center of attention no matter where we are.

I grabbed a few more items and then we went through the self check-out, me reminding Aaron over and over to stand beside me.  No wandering off to inspect other’s purchases, engage a random stranger in conversation, or sit down at a Starbuck’s table up the aisle while he ignored the worker who asked him if he wanted something.  All of the above…and more…he has done, trust me.

It was easier this time, though, because Aaron was keeping his eyes on his salad.  After I had paid for everything, he took his salad and held it in his two hands.  He walked this way out of the store, holding that salad ever so carefully, as if he was carrying a delicate Ming vase that he dared not jostle at all.

Aaron was once again so focused on his salad that when the young man who was overseeing the self check-out spoke to Aaron, Aaron once again totally ignored him.  And once again I saw that look on the employee’s face, the look that mirrored the one on the little Girl Scout.  A moment of confusion at being dismissed in such fashion.

But I also saw the young man’s face relax with understanding as I was sure he was quickly processing the reality that is Aaron.  And as I walked by, I spoke to him as I chuckled, and he broke out into a huge grin.  He got it!

How is it that Aaron can pay attention to a tiny little peanut “cover” while totally ignoring human beings who are speaking to him?

Elementary, my dear…elementary.

Autism.  Pure and not so simple.

Aaron often notices what we don’t notice, and ignores what we do notice.

When it comes to ignoring people, we can be downright embarrassed at times.  And then there are those times that it’s probably better for him to not notice certain people.

Anyway, the complexities of autism take many years and many experiences to understand.  Plus each individual is just that…an individual who is unique in how autism presents itself in their life.

That’s why it’s called a spectrum.  A “broad range of varied but related ideas or objects.”

Except Aaron is not an idea or an object.  He is a unique and varied human being, one who delights and engages and ignores and yells and frustrates and…

Well, you get the picture.  At least I hope you do!  Because then you can smile more as you enjoy the broad and varied view.

 

 

 

 

Other’s Colors

Do you remember that old song, Color My World, sung by Chicago?  I’ve always LOVED that song!  The meaning of those lyrics takes on a different hue when I think of our life with Aaron, and how he most definitely puts his own color on everything that we do. 

For instance, on Sunday after church I took Aaron with me to our local Dillon’s.  The grocery store is one of Aaron’s very favorite places!  Every aisle is full of discovery to him.  And since those discoveries involve his taste buds, he is especially eager to go along if offered the opportunity. 

Sunday was a chilly day, but not a super cold day.  However, Aaron decided that it was super cold, no matter what I said.  So he walked outside to the van with his toboggan perched goofily on his head and wearing his thick winter gloves.  I could have insisted that he take them off, but after suggesting such, he still wanted to wear his arctic garb and so I just let it go.

We went in the store, and as I headed to the pharmacy, Aaron veered off to explore the candy and snack aisle.  No surprise there!  When I veered up the same aisle to join him later, I had to laugh at the sight of him standing there examining the selection of peanuts. 

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He did not think it at all unusual to still be wearing his hat and his gloves.  Nor did he think it at all unusual to talk loudly when he saw me coming toward him. 

“Mom!!”  he bellowed.  “I’m looking at the peanuts!!”

And with that update, he proceeded to bend over to examine the jar that he thought he wanted.

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And then he had to stretch his arm out to retrieve the perfect jar.

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“See, MOM?!” he continued to bellow.  “These are lightly salted!  Is that good?”

I assured him that this jar was a great choice, and off we went to the self check-out…where he proceeded to talk to the attendant there about his lightly salted peanuts, in his commanding voice and his even more commanding presence…hat and gloves still included.

Sometimes it’s easy to be embarrassed by Aaron.  He doesn’t need the funny hat and gloves to be noticed, trust me!  So on this day, as he was even more noticed than usual, I just smiled and tried to see Aaron through fresh eyes…to relish how unusual he is…and to enjoy the moment.

The colors of that moment could have been red from my red face, and maybe my face was slightly red some of the time.  But that’s OK.  A little red doesn’t hurt me one bit! 

Another aspect of my colorful life with Aaron has been the joy of getting to know other moms of special needs children and adults.  The special bond we share is a rare treasure.  It’s very encouraging to walk the same path with others, though none of us would wish our circumstances on them.  But here we are, together on this journey, and our shared experiences make us all stronger. 

One of those friends, Joyce, has a particularly rough path as she mothers two adult sons with very significant special needs.  I truly am in awe of what she must handle on a “normal” day, much less on the kind of days she has had lately.  One of her sons had his wisdom teeth removed.  Then sickness hit the family, including Joyce and both her special sons.  Intestinal…respiratory…fevers…seizures…many, many sleepless nights. 

Her world is most certainly colored right now with the colors of poop and puke and puffy eyes, to be honest.  So on Sunday afternoon, I called her and I asked if she might want to escape for a bit…go somewhere and catch a breath of fresh air.  Change the colors a bit.

“Yes!” she said.  And a short time later, when I pulled into her driveway, she strode out to my van with a big smile on her face.  I was amazed, though knowing Joyce, I shouldn’t have been.

“Look at your smile!” I told her as she climbed in. 

“Well, I know what I want to do!” she happily declared.

I was expecting her to name a restaurant…or a park…or maybe the mall. 

“I would like to go to Dollar Tree,” she continued, “and get five vases.  Then I want to go buy some tulips and take them up to Oxford Villa.” 

And again, this woman amazed me.  Oxford Villa is a senior assisted living center where her mother used to live.  Joyce wanted to take some vases of flowers there for some of the residents who might not have anyone who loves them and brings them flowers.

Wow!! 

Joyce, I thought, needed some color in her life.  But instead, she wanted to GIVE some color to others!  I was so touched by her unselfishness!  So impacted by yet another lesson taught to me by this dear friend!

Instead of sipping a coke or coffee while eating a piece of dessert somewhere, I watched Joyce buy pretty colored vases and then examine the beautiful colors of tulips at another store.  We realized that Sunday was not the best day to deliver the flowers, though, so that job will be completed another day.  I hope I can help make that delivery!

Sometimes the best way to mix up our colors in this all-too-demanding life of parenting special needs children…or any other part of life that is draining you…is to look beyond yourself and see the needs of others.  To reach out and help carry their burden while taking your eyes off your own for awhile.

There was joy for me in watching goofy looking Aaron find just the right jar of peanuts.

There was joy for me in watching Joyce’s delight in finding just the right colorful vases for some unknown, needy seniors. 

Looking beyond ourselves causes us to see so many stunning colors that otherwise would have remained hidden. 

It’s so worth the effort, even with red cheeks or through tired eyes!

Thank you, Joyce, for your wonderful and colorful friendship!

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I’ll Be Your Friend, Part 2

I wanted to quickly share with you another sweet Aaron moment from today.

I wrote yesterday about Aaron’s sad day on Tuesday, but how that episode confirmed to him that he truly does have wonderful friends at his day group.  Here’s the link to that blog – I’ll Be Your Friend

He not only gave Natalie a card yesterday, but he also filled a baggie full of Cheez-Its for her, which he happily carried with him to Paradigm that morning.  I’m sure he was all smiles as he handed that baggie to Natalie. 

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But he also has another friend there, one who is on a very restricted diet.  Aaron has often felt sorry for her and has wished that he could give her some of the snacks that he takes to share with others. 

When Aaron took his baggie stuffed with Cheez-Its yesterday, he asked Barb if he could give some to his friend, H.  But Barb said that he couldn’t due to her strict diet.  But, Barb added, H. could probably have four or five of those crackers. 

And so today, before we left for his day group, this is what Aaron did.

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Five Cheez-Its, just for H. to enjoy all by herself.  To me, this is a picture of simple kindness.  I love that beneath all the complex layers of Aaron’s personality and of his autism, he has a heart that loves to give to others. 

Gary and I have talked occasionally over the years about how, when Aaron was young and we lived in Germany, we met with a professional.  This man talked to us about Aaron.  We were pretty offended by some of the things he said…things about how Aaron would probably never go to college, get a big job, yada yada yada. 

So O.K.  Aaron hasn’t been able to do many of the things that his peers have done.  But today, Aaron put five Cheez-Its in a little baggie for his friend, because she can only have five.  He didn’t find a cure for cancer…or put a man on Mars…or finish his fourth doctorate.

But he made his friend, H., very happy. 

And my mother’s heart is as proud of him as a mother’s heart can be. 

I’ll Be Your Friend

I pulled up to the curb in front of Aaron’s day group yesterday, a little early to pick him up at the end of his day.  Soon Aaron walked outside, heading toward the van, followed by Barb.  Barb is like Aaron’s second mom.  She is also a manager at Paradigm.  Sometimes Aaron wants Barb to come out to talk to me so that she can tell me something fun about Aaron’s day.  However, fun was not part of our conversation on this day.  I realized this right away as I looked at the tears on Aaron’s face when he sat down beside me in the van. 

“Mom!” Aaron choked out through his tears.  “Natalie got mad at me and called me…….”  And on and on he talked, his voice thick with emotion and his hands rubbing together in frustration. 

Aaron loves to give his money to his friends, especially to Natalie, and it’s sometimes a real problem.  Aaron isn’t supposed to give away his money, and Natalie isn’t supposed to ask him for money, and when they are found out, it can be touchy.  Both Aaron and Natalie have trouble controlling their emotions when things get stressful, which certainly happened yesterday.  Words spill out…tears are shed…accusations made… 

If you close your eyes, and if the voices were far younger, you would think that once again we were on the school playground trying to settle a spat between two kindergartners.  But these are two adults, who because of their special needs happen to, at times….many times….still operate as little children. 

Aaron was being very dramatic, which showed me how much his giving heart was hurting.  He had done wrong and tried to deny it.  Natalie had done wrong and got very mad at Aaron.  Both were hurt and upset.  But Aaron…his heart wants to give everything he has to his friends and when it all messes up, he feels betrayed and lonely and adrift.

“I don’t have any friends,” Aaron sadly declared as his voice broke with emotion.  “And I don’t want to come back tomorrow!!”  Just then, standing behind Barb, came the voice of Koren.  She’s Aaron’s friend, and though at times she’s hard to understand, I clearly understood this.

“I’m your friend, Aaron,” she said.  “I’ll give you a hug.”

So Barb stepped aside and Koren gave Aaron a dear, kind hug along with a few pats on his back.  It was just the sweetest thing!!

Aaron and I sorted through the story with Barb before finally pulling away from the curb.  But soon Aaron said he had left his billfold with Barb, so I quickly turned around and drove back to Paradigm.  I went inside, and when I came back out, there was Aaron leaning inside the van that held Natalie.  I was concerned!  But as I stepped closer, I heard Natalie say, “I’m still your friend, Aaron!” 

Aaron backed out of the van, his face a picture of relief…and Natalie’s face alight with a smile. 

Later Aaron, as he so often does, asked me if he could give Natalie a card the next day.  After saying he didn’t want to go to Paradigm the next day, I knew that wanting to take a card was a good sign that he was softening about going.  So I found a card for Aaron and he carefully wrote Natalie a note…a short note with a huge message.

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We all need a friend, don’t we?  One thing that amazes me at Aaron’s day group is to walk in and see the interactions of these special adults.  They love being and having friends, just as much as you and I do.  Life is so very hard for them, harder than I can even begin to imagine.  Sometimes it would be easy to feel sorry for them, sorry to the point of tears. 

But then I see them welcome Aaron when he walks in the door.  I see their smiles, their hugs, their concern for each other expressed in various ways.  I see Aaron welcomed and loved, even after having a hard day previously. 

His friends there are a picture of love and acceptance.  I don’t see jealousy or judgment or bullying.  Maybe those things happen at times.  But there, among all the varying special needs and all the medical conditions…from wheelchairs or braces…with halting speech or deaf ears…curled hands and bent bodies…I see so often the joy and the love of friendship. 

That scene has touched my heart more than I can express.  I would love to share pictures, but privacy issues won’t allow it.  So you must take my word for it, and try to imagine it yourself. 

Sometimes the most needy ones are the ones who give to each of us a picture of what we need the most. 

Genuine, unconditional friendship. 

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