Special Aaron

 

No mother can ever forget the birth of their babies, each one so unique and completely amazing.  That first baby, though, holds a very tender place in a mother’s heart.  Our first baby was Aaron.  He wasn’t loved more than our other two children, but that first birthing experience was one of a mixture of fear and uncertainty that culminated in total wonder at the little squalling miracle lying in my arms.

A son!!  I remember a feeling washing over me that I had never experienced before.  Total love.  I knew that certainly no other woman could have ever felt as blessed and…well…as special as I did in those new moments of motherhood.  I know now that this wasn’t true, but you could never have convinced me otherwise during those first fresh days of holding my little son.

I examined him from the top of his fuzzy head to the very bottom of his wrinkled toes.  Every detail was so perfect.  He was so tiny and complete…wispy eyelashes, button nose, tee tiny little fingernails and toenails…just every single part was truly a work of art from God.

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Lots of years have passed since my first introduction to motherhood in that old wooden WWII hospital at Fort Carson, Colorado.  So many details of Aaron’s future, unknown to us back in 1984, have woven themselves into our own future now.  Never, ever did we dream that our Aaron would continue to be defined as “special,” but now in the sense that we often call “Special Needs.”

Sometimes I still shake my head in disbelief at that title.

Yet there is no denying the reality of this path upon which God set our steps.  Aaron’s first seizure in Germany at the age of seven led us to a diagnosis of Epilepsy.  Seizures have never been out of the picture since that time other than for brief periods of reprieve.

Then later, at the age of 14, came the surprising diagnosis of autism…Asperger’s Syndrome.  This wasn’t a common condition at that time.  I didn’t even know what Asperger’s was.  But we’ve all learned along with Aaron just what it means to live with what we call “Special Needs.”

It’s very interesting to look up this word “special.”  It’s a word that we so routinely use that we don’t give it much thought.  So, I did just that…I looked up this special word in the dictionary…and I was touched by just what it means to be special.  Especially what it means to Aaron, and so to us as well.

 

SPECIAL:  Distinguished by some unusual quality.

Our family would laugh at this one, not because we’re cruel but because Aaron has LOTS of unusual qualities.  Many days I wish it was only one.  Some are funny; some are annoying; some he repeats over and over; some are loud; some are very embarrassing….

 

SPECIAL:  Readily distinguishable from others of the same category.

Well, that’s one way to put it.  He’s very readily distinguishable when he stops in the crosswalk at Wal-Mart and holds his arms up just to be sure that traffic knows to stop!  He’s totally distinguishable when I remind him to look UP as we leave the store and enter said crosswalk again so that he looks for traffic and not at his feet…and he stops in the middle of the crosswalk and looks up at the SKY!!

He’s also very likely to hover at the door of the nail salon like a stalker, watching the women getting their manis and pedis…fascinated by the smells and the sounds…but a little alarming as he curiously stares.

He whistles…he claps…he sings.  Or he stands in the little restaurant in the Wal-Mart entrance and delights in the fact that the attendant thinks he wants to order.

 

SPECIAL:  Being other than the usual.

Usual is so boring to Aaron.  Some days I wish for boring.  But Aaron does add a spark to life on most days.  Sometimes a raging fire, honestly.  Like Gary and I envisioned Friday evening in Cracker Barrel when Aaron decided to take the globe off the oil lamp…that was lit…with real fire.  All was well.  Nothing to see here, people at the table beside us.  Move on.

 

But there is also one more meaning to this word…this special word.  And this meaning is by far my very favorite.

 

SPECIAL:  Designed for a particular purpose.

You see, Aaron was indeed designed by God, just as much as all the other babies ever conceived.  He was designed for a particular purpose.  I don’t always live in that reality, especially on the hard days.  But I know deep in my heart that God made no mistakes with Aaron.  God’s sovereign hand made Aaron just the way he is.  It’s up to me to live in that knowledge, especially when I’m tired or upset or discouraged or embarrassed.

Honestly, one of the huge purposes that I’ve seen Aaron have in my life is to remind me of how much I need God.  How much I need His love and forgiveness and patience and strength.  How when I am weak, then God is strong FOR me and IN me.

 

Aaron reminds me to give:

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Aaron reminds me to love:

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Aaron reminds me to laugh:

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Aaron reminds me to enjoy life:

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Aaron reminds me to keep going when things are tough:

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And God reminds me of these truths:

 

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret;

And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;

And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me,

When as yet there was not one of them.    (Psalm 139:13-16)

 

Aaron-mothers day 12May1985

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God’s Work of Art

I love how Gary stops to enjoy the world around him.  Sometimes I may not quite agree with it, like when he found a huge Orb Weaving Spider on the back of our patio chair recently and instead of killing it, he placed it gingerly in our flower bed.  You who know my fear of spiders will also know that I am now avoiding that flower bed, or am stalking around it carefully like an NCIS agent at a crime scene. 

I wasn’t at all surprised this past Sunday afternoon to walk out in our garage and find a Cicada, a poor dead Cicada, laying on Gary’s work bench.  I knew that Gary had placed it there for me and for Aaron to see.  I didn’t even have to ask.  I paused to look at it, which prompted Gary to tell me about the Praying Mantis he had rescued from the ground and placed in the pecan tree.  And then Gary remembered that he had meant to get his magnifying glass so that Aaron could have a closer look at the Cicada. 

I got Aaron while Gary got the glass, and soon Aaron was doing his own examination of the Cicada.  Everything about this common creature…..this sometimes annoying insect…..was super fascinating when enlarged under the magnifying glass.  His sheer, intricate wings……his compound, bulging eyes……his very perfect camouflage design…..the hooks on the end of his legs. 

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As Aaron examined the Cicada, we took the opportunity to point out that all of this design was God’s doing.  Aaron knows that.  But still it’s nice to have the opportunity to again draw Aaron’s attention to the reality that we have a personal Creator Who put lots of thought and planning into the design of an insect. 

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Our Cicada encounter has made me pause, once again, to also examine another fact that I know all too well but sometimes struggle to remember.  Our own Aaron, unique and special, is also one of God’s extraordinary designs.  

Why would I struggle to remember that fact?  Because just as the shrill noise of a Cicada can be irritating, sometimes the daily-ness of Aaron’s behaviors can be irritating as well to me and Gary.  Yet when we stop to examine his intricacies, we do see how amazingly Aaron is wired.

Take his water bottles……his ever and very important, to him…..water bottles.  He must have three water bottles.  Since he has in the past struggled with low sodium and must watch his water intake, his three water bottles are smaller than they used to be.  I somehow snuck that change past him.   Here is the scene over Labor Day when we were on the patio visiting with my cousin, Jim, and his wife Patti:

Aaron came out on the patio…..yet again…..and interrupted our conversation by asking if he could have his three water bottles.  I told him that he should just drink one, considering that it was a little late and he had drunk a big glass of water at dinner.  He would not drink just one of his three water bottles, because the three must always go together as three.  You do NOT drink ONE of the THREE.  You drink THREE of the THREE.  However, he said that he would drink one bottle of water from the frig in the garage where we keep the water bottles.  That’s because the water bottles in the garage are not part of the THREE.  Getting Aaron to veer from this set way of thinking is like treading water…..in the middle of the ocean…..with no rescue ship in sight.  Trust me.

So as Aaron and I talked about this water bottle decision, I was internally examining him and realizing fairly quickly where he was coming from.  So amazing he is! 

Then there are his Star Trek videos that he is now watching:

 We got him the old Star Trek television series from the 60’s as a Christmas gift.  He has been watching them in his bedroom, at his desk, on his computer monitor.  But then he started coming down to the family room to watch any other video that he wanted to see instead of using his own DVD player in his room.  Why, you ask?  Well, at least we asked.  And though Aaron didn’t exactly verbalize his reasoning at first, we soon realized that for now, his DVD player is only for Star Trek…..since it IS a series and since he DID already start that series on his player in his room.  He MUST finish the series on his DVD player before watching anything else, even if it takes months.  Gary and I can go along with it, or we can fight it and suffer the unpleasant consequences. 

It didn’t take Gary and I long to decide how to handle that one.  Welcome to the family room, Aaron. 

Sometimes Aaron is the one who is doing the examination:

Yesterday Aaron had a doctor appointment, which always means that I take him to lunch.  Eating out is his favorite sport!  Yes, sport…..because sometimes I feel that I have run a marathon after running interference during the course of our meal.  Or maybe that’s football.  Anyway, yesterday during our lunch Aaron heard the couple in the booth behind us order Espinaca.  He asked me what that was, so I explained it to him.  He still wasn’t quite sure about it, so when the unsuspecting couple’s Espinaca was brought to their table, Aaron wanted a look.  Before I could say “Espinaca,” Aaron was up out of our booth and halfway to their booth….craning his neck to catch a glimpse of their mysterious dip.  I do hope they were understanding.  I didn’t ask.

This whole incident led to me showing Aaron pictures of Espinaca…..going to Wal-Mart to buy ingredients for Espinaca….putting Espinaca ingredients in the crock pot…..and eating Espinaca while we watched a video last night….in the family room. 

Yesterday evening, Gary and I were in the garden for a few minutes.  Then we sat on the new bench Gary got us, under our old oak tree.  It was so pretty outside, and so nice to sit together for a few minutes.  But then the back door opened and out walked Aaron.  Gary sighed, and I knew what he was thinking.  Our quiet time was about to end. 

“But look at him, Gary,” I said.  “Just look at him.”  And we both looked at Aaron lumbering across the grass, wearing his pajama sports shorts and sleeveless shirt, with his socks and tennis shoes.  And we both just smiled at the sight of him.  Yes, we knew what was coming and we were right.  Godzilla this and Godzilla that, because Aaron just discovered that there will be ANOTHER Godzilla movie in 2018!!!!  And there we sat, we three, scrunched together on the bench…..listening to Godzilla talk.  But Gary and I were smiling, and we were responding, because this is the family that God has made us to be. 

You know, I don’t have a magnifying glass big enough to examine Aaron all at once.  But each little piece of him is very fascinating all alone.  Put together, he is one very complicated…..very astounding….very funny….work of art.   

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Genetics, Goose Feathers, and God

While she was in grad school, we loved talking to our daughter about many of the things she was learning about science…..about genetics, in particular.  The “hidden to our eyes” world of genetics was opening up to her, and somewhat to us, as she learned more and more about the complex codes that make us….us.  We were especially happy to hear her say, more than once, that what she was learning about our DNA pointed her to God and to scripture.  Truly we are “fearfully and wonderfully made!”  (Psalm 139:14)

Made.  Not evolved, but made.  Made by our Creator.  Each of us designed, uniquely designed, by His very creative hand. 

Now working as a geneticist, Andrea designed and now supervises a lab in Texas.  Did you know that each of us processes medicines based on our DNA?  How my body responds to an aspirin is different from how your body responds to an aspirin.  Our response is all tied into that unique strand of DNA that we each possess.  So a geneticist can take your sample sent from a doctor and from that sample can determine how your body will respond to various medicines.

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It’s called Pharmacogenetics.  The definition is:  the branch of pharmacology concerned with the effect of genetic factors on reactions to drugs.

It’s pretty amazing.  Because of this testing, a geneticist can help a doctor determine the best drug for you…..special you…..to take for certain conditions.  And it’s all because God made you….you.  How exciting that He is letting us have a peak, through DNA and genetics, into just how very special YOU are!

This is the testing that Andrea does in her lab.  They are also doing Cancer Pharmacogenomics, meaning that chemo can be personalized for each patient based on their DNA.  Knowing that your body will process certain chemo drugs better than other drugs is a huge step in better cancer treatments and cures. 

Amazing stuff!  Complex stuff!

“Fearfully and wonderfully made!” 

Said another way, we are awesomely and wonderfully made!

None of this was on my mind as I walked out into our back yard one recent evening.  There, out on the lawn, a gaggle of geese was parading past.  They were fun to watch, and funnier to listen to as they squawked when they realized my presence.  Finally one of them took to the air, and the others nervously followed. 

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The next day, while on pooper scooper duty before Gary mowed the yard, I saw there in the grass a long goose feather.  I picked it up so I could look at it more closely, and to also show it to Aaron.

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When I examined it later, I was amazed at how tight each little feather strand was.  Nothing could easily break through that strong feather…..and a goose has hundreds upon hundreds of similar feathers, every one made specifically for each part of his body.   

The fact I loved the most, though, was to see what happened when I put water on this feather.  I loved showing this to Aaron!  The feather was waterproof, which is no surprise, but it was so fascinating to watch.  The water just formed into little balls and rolled right off the feather, no matter how much water was poured onto it. 

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It was fun pointing out to Aaron that God made this goose feather to be just right for a goose.  Our Great Dane doesn’t need goose feathers.  But a goose sure needs goose feathers!  A goose puts his feathers to very good use as insulation against water, and also for protection from the cold. 

A goose is also “fearfully and wonderfully made!”

I randomly laid our goose feather on the server near our kitchen.  I saw it this morning, laying there beside this picture that Andrea gave me one year for Christmas. 

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We have Cow Patty jokes galore in our family.  This picture is the sequencing of the Mitochondrial DNA of a North American Bovine. 

HaHa!  A cow’s DNA! 

But WOW!!  How complex it is!

So my simple, though really complex, goose feather…..and the DNA sequencing of a cow……and my very own individualized DNA…..are all reminders of what a very capable God we have.

And also they are reminders that each of us is created by God.  Every skin color, every hair texture, every eye shape…..all are designed by the God of the universe. 

If anyone hates a person that God has created, then that person hates God Himself.  That person also doesn’t know God.  Period.

Let’s focus on knowing and following this great and good God.  And loving each other as the very special people that He designed us to be.

From genetics to goose feathers, it all points us back to God.