One of Aaron’s favorite things to eat is a Cheddar Pasta Salad from the deli at Dillon’s. The name has actually changed to Cheese Pasta Salad, but to Aaron and to me it’s still Cheddar Pasta Salad. Aaron always gets a large size, watching carefully to see that the container is filled to the brim. We go so often that we’ve gotten to know some of the deli workers, who can always guess what we want when we walk up to the counter.
Yesterday afternoon Aaron asked me if he could have a Cheddar Pasta Salad, so off we went to run an errand before the Chiefs – Titans football game, and then end at the Dillon’s deli. Things were going smoothly, and I was happy that we would make it home in time for the game.
It doesn’t ever seem to matter how carefully I plan our entrance into Dillon’s. Aaron always seems to somehow get ahead of me as we make our way to the deli counter. He is definitely on a mission!
The problem is that he will often push in front of people if there are others standing at the counter. Therefore, he and I are in a foot race as I try to head him off at the draw, before he offends the others who were there before us. Aaron doesn’t care one bit about waiting his turn when it comes to his Cheddar Pasta Salad. He doesn’t notice if people are staring or are angry, if they sigh or if they edge closer to the counter. He only has eyes for the food behind the counter window, looking quickly to see if there is any Cheddar Pasta Salad.
Yesterday there was a mom there with her very cute little girl who was maybe four years old. I made it to the counter just a few steps behind fast Aaron, just in time to touch his arm and remind him that someone was before us in line.
Aaron was very happy to see that there was some Cheddar Pasta Salad in the tray. “Look, Mom,” he said. “They have Cheddar Pasta Salad!”
“That’s what we’re getting, too!” said the friendly mom. “It’s her favorite!” she added as she looked down at her smiling little daughter.
In an instant, I knew that we were in a dilemma.
In an instant, Aaron had figured out that there was NOT enough Cheddar Pasta Salad for both him and the little girl.
And in that instant, Aaron’s face fell.
“Oh boy,” I thought to myself.
The mother was telling me that her little girl just loved the pasta…that she never ate the broccoli…that the mom ate the broccoli…
“There won’t be enough for me!!” Aaron blurted out.
“Yes, Aaron, there will be some for you,” I assured him, while I felt dread creeping up my spine. How far would Aaron go in his disappointment? Would he become angry?
The mother also told Aaron that they weren’t taking all the salad, but Aaron could see that there would not be enough for his large container.
He stared down toward the floor, not making eye contact, as he tried to process the fact that these interlopers were taking HIS Cheddar Pasta Salad!
Their transaction done, the mother told us to have a good day and told Aaron to enjoy his salad.
“Shut up,” Aaron softly replied as he continued looking down at the ground.
I was horrified!!!!
The mother and cute daughter were walking away as I sternly told Aaron to say thank you to them.
I told him through firm lips that he would NOT get his salad if he didn’t say thank you.
The girl behind the counter, new to us, was waiting on my order. I fumbled out that we would take the rest of the Cheddar Pasta Salad.
“She took it all,” Aaron flatly said.
My face was flaming.
The mother and little girl were a short distance from us. The container…the medium size and not the large…was being filled with the last of the Cheddar Pasta Salad.
“THANKS!!!” Aaron suddenly bellowed.
And the mother turned and smiled at us. I wondered if she could see the distress on my face, and on Aaron’s as he processed taking home a medium container.
Not a LARGE!!
Then the mom and her daughter turned and walked right behind us. I touched her arm and whispered to her.
“I don’t know if you heard what he said, but I’m so sorry,” I told her.
She said she didn’t hear anything. I softly told her that Aaron has autism, but I could tell she knew.
“Don’t even worry,” she kindly said. “My older daughter works at Open Doors with autism all the time, so I totally understand.”
Relief washed over me…partly because they hadn’t heard Aaron’s comment and largely because she was so kind.
I thanked her, turned back to Aaron…who was staring dejectedly at his medium container…and then she said to me:
“You’re a very good woman.”
I was so surprised! I thanked her.
And I blinked back tears and swallowed the growing lump in my throat.
I was so happy that now Aaron was holding a jar of Chili Fig Spread, excited about his new find, moving on to the next thing as he always does.
He is so oblivious to other’s emotions. So clueless as to the stress he inadvertently creates.
SO unaware of how embarrassing and wrong it is to tell someone to shut up!
But he did just that.
And he will do it again.
So, we give the lectures and we live the example, but none of that can permanently re-wire his brain.
I picked myself up off the floor, figuratively speaking, as I gathered my wits about me and picked up the pieces of my shattered motherly pride.
Yes, my son is the one who told you to shut up.
But this is our life with Aaron.
Aaron, who wants life to fall into place his way and when it doesn’t, is hardly able to do anything but to tell the offender to shut up.
But he DID say thanks!! I’m so thankful for that!!
I DID give him his Cheddar Pasta Salad. Look at his sad face, though.
His medium…not large…Cheddar Pasta Salad.
“She took it all,” he said over and over as we walked through Dillon’s.
“She did NOT take it all!” I reminded him over and over.
We actually got a lot in return at that deli counter.
A large serving of kindness goes a long way!