The Best Gifts Aren’t Wrapped!

Aaron had a birthday last week…his #33!!  My goodness, when did THAT happen?!  Of course, you know what that makes me…but since I’m the one choosing the subject of this blog, I choose not to choose to talk about ME, and MY age!!

Aaron unabashedly loves his birthday.  It’s one of the treasures of his way of thinking, that he doesn’t outgrow the pure joy of his special day.  Yet he also shies away from too much attention, too much hilarity, too much of anything that makes him feel like he must do something that he’s not quite sure how to do.  Yet this year, he was more relaxed with all the excitement and well wishes from others.  He showed it in several ways that were out of his norm, and it was wonderful to see. 

Yet the very best part of his birthday were the gifts.  Oh, I’m not talking about his presents and cards from family and friends…though they were great, and Aaron loved every single one. 

The absolute best part of this birthday, as the celebrating carried over for several days, was for me to sit back and watch the priceless gifts from some amazing people in his life.  I’ll try to let my pictures do most of the talking.  And speaking of talking, I did not get pictures of him talking to his sister, Andrea – or his Aunt Sandra.  But the smiles on his face and the conversations were very sweet indeed…even when he interrupted Andrea in the middle of her sentence to give me back the phone.  We got a great laugh out of that one!

His long and special friendship with Rosa continues as each year they make time to share their birthdays with each other at Chili’s.  Rosa’s mother, Louise, has become a dear friend of mine, as well.  They are a gift!

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I think it was Rosa who suggested that the servers sing to Aaron.  And Aaron, who has never wanted that attention, agreed to it.  Their gift to Aaron was fun…our server there in the middle was wonderful…and look at the joy on Aaron’s face.

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What can beat the gift of sharing birthday ice cream with your very special friend?

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On his actual birthday, Aaron agreed to take cupcakes to his day group.  He has NEVER wanted to do that!  I was so happy! 

We stopped at Sam’s on our way to Paradigm. Aaron, in his typical way, grabbed the attention of someone who works there and asked them where the cupcakes were.  That someone was one of the butchers, and as I tried to tell Aaron and the butcher that I knew where the cupcakes were, Aaron excitedly said to him, “TODAY is my birthday!!”  So this very kind young man told Aaron to meet him at the bakery down the aisle, and he gave Aaron two free cookies.  Look at the joy!

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There is the gift of the very patient therapy dog at Aaron’s day group.

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And the gift of our own Jackson that we took on a walk that afternoon.

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There was the look of total delight as he held his sister’s gift to him.

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And laughter as he later opened his brother’s Artsy Fartsy card…complete with fartsy sound effects.

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There was the gift of Barb, from Paradigm…and her daughter, Casady, coming for lasagna.

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And Aaron wanting Casady to help him open a gift.

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One of the most touching pictures on his birthday was this picture, sent to me by Barb…taken at Paradigm…of Aaron and his friend, Koren, with good old Piper.  To me, it sums up how impacting and touching are the friends in Aaron’s life. 

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How much our special one’s desire to have love! 

How many ways that love can be shown in their lives, even by perfect strangers! 

 Aaron may not always give a verbal thank you very easily, but the smiles on his face last week told it all. 

And that is a wonderful gift for me and Gary as well.

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The Beauty IN The Beast

My phone rang this morning, and there on the line was my very dear friend, Wendy.  I knew right away from the sound of her voice that something was wrong.  It was Elijah, Wendy said, her tone flat and exhausted.  He had run away again, on his bicycle, and had almost gotten on highway 24.  Somehow Wendy got him back, although we didn’t go into all the details of that.

Elijah, who turned 20 years old yesterday, suffers from the worst form of Epilepsy there is.  He has horrible seizures that often require oxygen, and sometimes require strong drugs to just stop the awful seizing.  Those drugs may help to save his life, but they also cause his life to be miserable after the seizures stop.  Life saving drugs like that are also life changing drugs because of the terrible behaviors that usually follow their use.

It’s an awful catch 22……a dreadful dilemma for Dan and Wendy, his loving parents.  And for Elijah……and the whole family…….they live between a rock and a very, very hard place.

Seizures cause changes in the brain.  These changes can contribute to behaviors that defy reason.  Drugs to control the seizures often have the very unwelcome side effect of causing even more behaviors.  Add to all this the sometimes necessary brain surgeries that children like Elijah have had…..multiple brain surgeries…..and the mix is indeed toxic when it comes to the brain being able to make the connections that you and I take for granted.

Gary and I face these same dilemmas with Aaron, trying to find the balance between seizure control and quality of life……both Aaron’s and ours.  Yet preventing or lessening seizures is of paramount importance.  It’s literally a life or death situation.

But so are behaviors, sometimes, when those behaviors can be as dangerous as Elijah’s.

And let’s not forget autism.

BLAHHHHHH!!!!!

Sometimes it’s just too much!

No disease or syndrome of ANY kind is easy to bear.  But some are, sadly, easier to explain.

I do believe that explaining……let’s just say it……bad behaviors…..is tremendously embarrassing and frustrating to us parents who find ourselves having to do it over and over and over.

We get “the look.”

We get the questions, spoken or not.

We get “the talk” from teachers or our friend’s parents.

And sometimes we DON’T get…..the party invitations…..the friendships……the understanding…….the listening ear……the sympathy, that we so desperately need.  That our special children desperately need.

It was just last year that someone came up to my car window, and with great exasperation, said, “Can’t you DO something about Aaron?”

I looked at her in disbelief and said, “Do you have ANY idea what all we have been doing with Aaron for over 30 years?!”

Today I gave our Aaron a fun day after his four days in the hospital.  We went to see Beauty and the Beast.  Aaron wasn’t totally sure that this was prime movie material, but the thought of popcorn and time with Mom won him over.

As the movie progressed, I was pretty amazed at Aaron.  He was completely enraptured by this movie.  He was so still and quiet, except for the rubbing of his hands together that is just so Aaron.  He rubbed his hands softly, unless there was a very exciting piece of action.    He ate his popcorn but didn’t even want a second tub.

As I glanced at him during the movie, I saw him smiling.  His eyes were big and focused totally on what was taking place on the screen.  He loved the characters and the drama and most definitely the music.

But the character he loved the most was the Beast.  Aaron was registering in his mind every nuance of the Beast……his anger at the first, his softening as the movie progressed, his smiles, and his joy as he fell in love with Belle.

Aaron at one point simply said, “I love this movie!”

And when he said it again, a little later, Aaron laid his head on my shoulder.  It was pretty incredible.

Aaron wasn’t the only one, though, that was completely taken by parts of this love story.  I was, too, but for reasons that went far beyond Belle and The Beast.

I was looking at what can transpire when a Beast – or a person – is loved.  Is truly loved and valued for who they are under their rough exterior.

Wendy’s sad and tired words played through my mind as the music played on the big screen.  My own sometimes weary burden over our Aaron’s behaviors was heavy on my shoulders.

Elijah and Aaron are so much like the Beast in some ways.  They can evoke a measure of disbelief in how they act and in what they say or do.  They are at times unlikable, impossible to understand, and downright annoying.

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But there is another side to them, and to so very many others with these same issues.  A side that blooms under love and understanding, as much as possible.  And when we, or others, can’t really understand we at least know deep down that many actions are beyond their control.

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All of this was playing in my mind as the movie played today, with Aaron’s gently rubbing hands and big smile beside me.  And it’s why tears rolled down my cheeks as the words of this song, Something There, burned into my heart.

            There’s something sweet

            And almost kind.

            But he was mean and he was course and unrefined.

            And now he’s dear,

            And so I’m sure,

            I wonder why I didn’t see it there before.

            New and a bit alarming,

            Who’d have ever thought that this could be?

            True that he’s no Prince Charming,

            But there’s something in him that I simply didn’t see.

Aaron and Elijah, and many like them, have so much more in them than we often see.  They are wonderful and funny and smart and have so much to offer to the world……and the people…..around them.

They need what the Beast needed.  They need the “something there that wasn’t there before,” as the Beast’s friends sang at the end of this song.

That “something” is love.  Some days the love is harder in coming than on other days, but even when our boys aren’t being Prince Charmings, they still deserve as much love and understanding as possible.

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Aaron and Elijah have lots more awareness than we realize.  Aaron has always known who is real and who is not when it comes to how they react to him and interact with him.

You know what Aaron said tonight?

“Mom, Gaston fake loved Belle.”

Aaron gets it.

He knows very well that the Beast loved Belle for who she was as a person.  That’s real love.

And it’s the love our special kids need……the love for who they are, deep under all the medicines and conditions and labels and diagnoses.

I’ll be the first to say that it’s easier to write the words than it is on some days to live it out in real life.

But our kids will grow under unconditional love, some days more than others.

And all of us giving them real love…..not fake love…..will grow even more.

There truly is beauty in the beast, if we just love and look.

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The Picture We Leave

Today I have found myself, several times, with tears in my eyes.  We all have days where emotions are close to the surface, don’t we?  Maybe it was the very, very touching video I watched today of how some boys reached out to their neighbor who was their age and in a wheelchair.  If Aaron hadn’t been with me, I would have cried much more after watching that clip than I allowed myself to cry.

Maybe I was teary today because of stories I’ve seen of others who are bearing sorrows and pains of this life.  Some hit close to home when the stories are from ones I know and love. 

Maybe I was feeling vulnerable today because Aaron had a small but hard seizure very early Sunday morning.  He was fine all day yesterday, but threw up last night.  A bug?  Or the amount of pizza he ate for lunch?  He stayed home today, not feeling too great yet, and had another seizure this afternoon…..a hard, three minute seizure.  My already raw emotions were knocked around even more during that seizure, which isn’t usual for me. 

I know, though, that the real reason for my unsteady emotions goes back to a picture in my mind…..a snap shot of Aaron on Friday afternoon, in Subway.  Aaron wanted a sub for his special Friday supper.  I always hope that there won’t be anyone in front of us because subs take a while to fix…..and Aaron is usually talkative, loudly, with me never knowing what he will decide to discuss there for everyone to hear. 

As we pulled in and parked, though, I saw that there were several cars in the parking lot.  A young family was walking in just before us.  Dad and Mom were each holding a young daughter.  There were others in front of them.  I asked Aaron if he was sure he didn’t want a pizza instead, but of course Aaron’s heart was set on a sub. 

As we stood behind the young family, the little girl that was being held by the dad caught Aaron’s attention.  I looked over and saw that Aaron was looking at her, and then leaned around him a little to see that he was holding his hand up.  He was showing her his favorite thing……the peace sign.  She wasn’t sure what to make of that, or make of Aaron.  She may have been three or four years old, and so I’m sure that Aaron’s peace sign meant nothing to her. 

It really was funny……Aaron standing there holding the peace sign steady, with a very serious look on his face.  No smile for the little girl……no emotion……no explanation.  Just somber Aaron doing all he knew to do…..spread some peace, thankfully.

The little girl thought that maybe Aaron wanted to play peek-a-boo, but Aaron didn’t cooperate.  He was just a statue, with a peace sign displayed.  So I played peek-a-boo with her as she tried to hide behind her dad’s shoulder.  Aaron was still in peace mode. 

But then, while I was immersed in this cute little girl’s smiles, Aaron quickly unzipped his wallet.  Before I knew what he was doing, he was holding his open palm out for the dad to see.  And in Aaron’s open palm was the rest of his money left over from his day at Paradigm.  Three cents.  Aaron was trying to give this young dad his money…….all three cents……but a fortune to Aaron. 

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Aaron loves to give things to people.  He really loves giving money away to others.  So he had decided to give this dad his money to help him pay for their dinner.  I knew all this in the split second it took me to see what Aaron was doing……and to also see that this young dad was completely uncomfortable with what was happening.

The dad was looking down into Aaron’s palm but he didn’t say a word.  I thought for sure that he would thank Aaron for the offer but then tell him to keep his money.  I thought he would look at Aaron and smile and be kind to special Aaron.  But no, he just looked at Aaron’s three cents and kept looking down, not making eye contact and not saying a single word. 

It was so awkward and so sad……and honestly, pretty hurtful to me.  I doubt that this young man had any idea that it was hurtful.  He was just clueless about what to do.  I find that amazing, though.  A kind word, a look in Aaron’s eyes, a thank you, should not have been that hard to do.  Right after that, this dad moved away from Aaron and then eventually went with his little girls to sit in a booth while his wife ordered.  I don’t know if it was because of Aaron or not.  But he sure did miss a great opportunity to show Aaron some kindness, like Aaron was showing to him. 

But it’s made me also think of another quite opposite experience that we had when we were home in West Virginia for Thanksgiving.  We had recently gotten Aaron a Nintendo 3DS game for his birthday.  We let him play it at our family gathering, which wasn’t the best idea because it was all he wanted to do.

Anyway, when the time together was wrapping up, the sweetest thing happened.  Young Moira……granddaughter of my cousin Jim and his wife, Patti……daughter of Kat and Farman……walked over to Aaron.  She said hi to him and then she asked him about the game he was playing.  She asked what it was called and wondered if it was fun.

I held my breath for a second, hoping that Aaron would be nice in return.  And he was!  He was really happy that someone had asked about his game.  He told her what it was and then he actually asked her if she wanted to see it. 

Moira said yes, and Aaron very proudly opened his game and let her play it for a few minutes.  It was so sweet!  I was glad I captured some pictures.

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Moira is being raised well.  She wanted to engage Aaron, you could tell.  She thought that asking about his game would be a good way to do that…..and it certainly was! 

But more importantly, Moira showed that she has a heart for others……especially others on the outside.  What maturity, way beyond her years!  That simple interchange meant more to me, and to Aaron, than Moira knows.  Or maybe she does know.  Ones with that kind of heart often do.

All of us can take a minute to follow Moira’s example…..to look every day for ways to love and bless someone around us.  And even if it pulls us out of our comfort zone, like the young dad in Subway, a simple smile and a kind word is all anyone needs to see and hear.

So thank you, Moira.  I haven’t forgotten your sweet heart that you showed to Aaron.  And on a day like today, when my heart is tender, I can choose to see your picture that makes me happy instead of the other one that causes me some hurt. 

Remember, we are all leaving a picture in the minds of others that we meet.  Let’s make it a good one. 

 

Be My Valentine

Aaron climbed in the van this afternoon when I picked him up from his day group.  I talked to Katie, his staff, about his day…..which she said was excellent, with Aaron being kind and funny.  What awesome news!!

Aaron was settling into his seat and buckling his seat belt as Katie and I finished talking.  I had noticed that he walked to the van carrying two things in his hand, so before I drove away I looked down at the two items that he had placed between our seats. 

“What are those things?” I asked him.

“Well,” he replied as he held up a cup.  “K asked if I would be her Valentine, so she gave me this.”

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K is a client, one that Aaron doesn’t see a lot, I don’t believe.  But I guess she wants to be Aaron’s Valentine, so she hopefully sealed the deal with this gift.  It made me smile.  But it was the next thing that I saw that had me laughing.

The list.  She wrote a list for her new Valentine.  You know, just to give him a few gift ideas so he could seal his end of the deal.

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This girl has been schooled, let me tell you!!  HaHaHa!!

And good old Aaron, who loves to give and to share, asked if he could give those gifts to K.  I explained, as we drove home, why these gifts were out of the question.  Aaron was disappointed, and surprised, that he couldn’t buy K what she wanted.

At supper, Aaron showed Gary his gift from K, which made him smile.  And then he showed Gary the gift list, which made Gary laugh out loud just as I did.  Aaron was stoic, still disappointed at our reactions. 

“You mean I can’t get her those gifts?” Aaron asked with a straight face.

“No, Aaron,” Gary replied.  “You don’t have that kind of money for all those expensive gifts.  Why, even your mother wouldn’t expect to get those kinds of gifts.”

Wait.

What did Gary say?!!

Why is he laughing?!!

🙂  🙂

New Year, Old Ways

A new year is upon us!!  Welcome, 2017!

A fresh start can be so nice.  New everything.  Out with the old, right?  Well, not always, as I have seen on the past two days.  We all know that to be true.

I ended my old year on a most familiar note…..playing SkipBo with Aaron right before bed.  I guess that’s our version of a party, which suits Aaron perfectly as he really does NOT like parties.  Parties have too much noise and emotion for him, thank you very much.  But SkipBo with Mom is orderly, predictable, with nice piles of sequential numbers, and plenty of opportunity to cheat.  Yes, cheat, of which Aaron is a master if not watched closely.

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The next morning, our New Year morning, saw Aaron blandly staring at me as I very happily wished him a Happy New Year!!  His lack of expression at these moments is often hilarious, but I can’t always laugh because he finds that emotional expression irritating or he thinks I am laughing at him.  Which at times I am, but in a good way that he just wouldn’t understand.

Anyway, Aaron’s main concerns on our New Year morning were:

1)      Can I have FOUR cups of coffee?  (Don’t worry.  The cups are half full).

2)      Are there coupons in the newspaper for me to cut?

3)      What time are we going to Chili’s for lunch?

Aaron had opened a gift during our family Christmas Bingo game.  The gift was a Chili’s gift card that was burning a hole in…..well, in my wallet because I don’t dare give Aaron gift cards to keep.  They won’t keep with him.  They will be lost or given away.

I told Aaron that we would go to Chili’s after church.  He wanted to know the exact time, so I gave him my usual ball park figure and he was happy.  He was not so happy with the coupons in the paper for some reason.  Still slow from his cluster of seizures on Friday night, the coupons did not make him show his usual sense of purpose.  However, he settled in on the floor with his coupon trash cans as he sat on his coupon pillow with his coupon scissors…..and his FOUR cups of coffee on the bench nearby…..and he began to clip the coupons, very slowly.

I was in the bathroom later when Aaron came to the door.  “Mom,” he slowly began.  “I was cutting coupons but there were too much.”

Pause.

“OK,” I responded.

Pause.

“There were too much,” he repeated.

“Yes, there were a lot today,” I replied.

Pause.

“There were too much coupons,” he said again.

Pause.

“There were too much,” he once again asserted when he got no Mom reply.

Pause.  Sigh from me.

“Aaron, just take a break.  You can finish them later,” foolish Mom said.

Pause.

“I ripped them,” Aaron flatly replied.

Pause.  Another sigh from me.

I was following Aaron’s train of thought, one all too familiar.  He didn’t want me to cut those coupons.

“Because you don’t do them right,” he continued.  “You don’t cut them straight on the line like I do.”

He made his exit on that note.  No surprise from me.  It might be a New Year, but we are still living in our old ways…..always, always.

And sure enough, there on the family room floor lay his unfinished little stack of coupons……ripped, just like he said.  Aaron’s thinking has always been this…..that if he can’t cut the coupons, NO ONE will cut the coupons.  Especially Mom, who is a dismal failure at coupon cutting.

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Those ripped coupons were a stark reminder to me that just under the surface with Aaron there is always that issue of how he handles stress in his life.  He reacts, and often his reactions are very inappropriate.  His behaviors are a huge concern to us.  So I stood there being reminded that we were on our first day of a brand New Year, brand new beginnings, brand new opportunities……and here we were, being slapped into our old reality of life with Aaron.

Some things just never change.  We know that.

But there were other reminders of wonderful things that never change, either.  Gary and I finally got to church on time.  Yes, we were one of THOSE people who totally didn’t see the memo on the changed time for church……one of THOSE people who didn’t give New Year’s Day a second thought…..and so on this New Year’s morning we drove to church TWICE.  And we laughed at ourselves.  We’re HOW old?!

Anyway, we walked into church to the hugs and handshakes of sweet friends.  And there was Joyce, who handed me a bag containing a huge bag full of Tootsie Rolls…..for Aaron, because of my recent Tootsie Roll blog.  How unexpected and sweet, in more ways than one!  Later, Aaron was also surprised and full of smiles at this kind gift.

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The care of friends is unchanging in our lives.  Such a blessing!

The worship and the message on our New Year’s morning was encouraging and challenging.  And we sang one of my most favorite songs – Great is Thy Faithfulness.  What a wonderful reminder of God’s unchanging faithfulness in our lives!

And later, as we sat with Aaron at Chili’s, Gary and I watched him ever so slowly eat his enchilada lunch and his salad.  His joy at eating out was very evident.  Never changing, his love of restaurant food!  And seeing that joy is always fun for us, despite our constant reminders to him that he doesn’t need to take 17 toothpicks…..don’t stare at the other people and their food……don’t make noises…..don’t clap…..please don’t loudly stretch when you get out of the booth.

Never changing.

I was able to salvage a few coupons later from the ripped pages.  I didn’t let Aaron see me as I quickly cut them out behind his back.  And I know that we will continue to try to salvage good out of the bad days that Aaron will surely have this year.  It’s our reality with Aaron, New Year or not.

But through it all I know, like that favorite old hymn says, that God will remain the same, too.  Faithful to us, as always.

 

            Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,

            There is no shadow of turning with Thee;

            Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not;

            As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

 

            Great is Thy faithfulness!  Great is Thy faithfulness!

            Morning by morning new mercies I see.

            All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.

            Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

 

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Have a Tootsie Roll!

My writing about life with Aaron has taken a back seat lately.  Actually, more like the back car on a very long train.  Traveling over Thanksgiving and then returning to the mad rush of Christmas preparations have certainly been major factors.  But there’s more to it than that.

I feel overshadowed.  Living under a dark cloud of Aaron issues.  Increased seizures…..medicine decisions……doctor visits.  But even heavier than those concerns are the disruptions caused by his behaviors, which honestly have at times been far from nice.

Autism……family therapist…..psychiatrist……investigating alternative medical helps…….phone calls……meetings.  It can get overwhelming sometimes.  Keeping our cool can also be next to impossible, sometimes as impossible as understanding what makes Aaron tick.  But we must understand that Aaron operates with a very unique mindset, without most of the filters that others have, and that he is constantly bombarded with sounds and ideas and stimuli that you and I never have to handle.  His day group is a perfect breeding ground for noises and irritants and unusual people that can aggravate him quickly.  We rarely see the behaviors at home that they see there.  It can get messy.

Today I saw the side of Aaron that I wish he showed every day.  It’s there…..just sometimes not seen as vividly as I saw today.  Yeah, he got mad at a game this morning before we left for his dentist appointment.  But he and I had a good discussion about it as we drove to the dentist’s office, where he also relished discussing his angry experience with the office staff, and with anyone else who had ears.  He has no shame…..really.

As we left the dentist’s office, he gladly grabbed a cookie that was offered to him by the staff.  And Tootsie Rolls that were in a bowl.  Did he ever take Tootsie Rolls!  I had no idea.

He ate one or two in the car on the way to Pizza Hut for lunch.  The Pizza Hut buffet, heaven on earth for Aaron.  All You Can Eat…..anything…..is heaven on earth to Aaron.

As we left Pizza Hut, paying for our All You Can Eat buffet……where Aaron really didn’t get to eat all he could eat because Mom stopped him way too soon……

Anyway, as we left and were paying at the register, Aaron pulled out yet another Tootsie Roll from his pocket.  “Here,” he said to the smiling lady behind the counter.  She was smiling because Aaron had tried to hide from me while I was in the bathroom.  He was standing near the exit doors, peeking around the edge of the wall, grinning from ear to ear and then laughing loudly when I saw him.  All of this in full sight of a banquet room full of people who were supposed to be listening to a speaker, but who were instead looking at Aaron and me with grins on their faces.  Story of my life.

So Aaron pulled out the Tootsie Roll, handing it to the now laughing employee, and said, “Here.  Because I liked the food today.”

When does he never like the food today?

But she was so happy to get his Tootsie Roll!  She took it and thanked him, telling him that she loved Tootsie Rolls.  Aaron was super pleased at her reaction.

“Look!!” he loudly said.  “See how many I got at the dentist?!”

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Oh dear.  He pulled out a whole fist full of Tootsie Rolls.  All I could think about was the fact that the ladies in the dentist’s office probably saw him take that stash while my back was turned to Aaron.  When will I learn to never turn my back on Aaron when there are cookies or Tootsie Rolls involved?!

I gave him the “Don’t Be a Tootsie Roll Pig” lecture on our way to TJ Maxx, while he unwrapped Tootsie Rolls and enjoyed his free dessert.  He offered me one and I accepted, feeling like a hypocrite.  I stopped the lecture.  Shouldn’t talk with my mouth full.

We walked into TJ Maxx, where I told him that I was looking for a gift for Nora.  Nora is my little elderly friend that I take out once a week.  She was our neighbor for 15 years before moving to assisted living.  Aaron knows Nora.  Sometimes he’s been not so nice to her, but other times he’s tolerable.  Today he surprised me.

“Mom!!  I want to get Nora a Christmas gift!” he exclaimed.  “Here!!  I want to get her……this!!”  And he grabbed the first thing he spied, a Christmas candle holder that I knew Nora wouldn’t need or want.

Aaron’s desire to get Nora a gift just made me very happy, so I told him that we would look for something.  We were browsing in the perfume section when I heard Aaron talking to someone.

“Here!” he was saying.  I looked over to see him offering the employee manning the dressing room……you guessed it……a Tootsie Roll!!

This young lady looked a little uncomfortable as big Aaron held a Tootsie Roll out to her.  At first she declined his offer, but then for some reason she said yes.  She looked at me with a smile and at Aaron with a smile as she accepted the Tootsie Roll.  And Aaron laughed with delight as he bent over and rubbed his hands together, oblivious to shoppers who were looking and this new friend whose mind was full of questions, I’m sure.

It was really very, very sweet.  Sometimes in these moments it’s tempting for me to be too embarrassed to enjoy what just happened.  Today, though, I really relished what Aaron was doing.  I loved it!!  I loved how happy it made him to share with strangers.  And how happy these strangers were to have received such a spontaneous little gift from unusual Aaron.

Aaron had not forgotten that he wanted to buy a gift for Nora.  We looked here and we looked there, and finally I saw a perfect box of chocolates.

“YES!!” Aaron said when I showed him the box.  “Let’s get that!”

Later, at supper, Aaron had a thought.

“Mom?  Can Nora eat that chocolate?”

I told him she could…..that she loves chocolates.

“But does she have fake teeth?!”

I told him she does not have fake teeth as I tried not to laugh.

“Good!” he answered.  “I thought she might have fake teeth and couldn’t eat it.”

Aaron wants to give the gift of chocolates to Nora, in person.  I am quite sure that he will ask her if she has fake teeth.  She still hasn’t forgotten how he once said that she was old.

See what I mean?  No filters…..no shame.

But Aaron has a big heart.

Here.  Have another Tootsie Roll.

I need to give the dentist a bag of Tootsie Rolls at my next visit.

 

 

It Makes Me Think

I wrote earlier about Aaron’s difficult day on Monday, and about his desire to take a “sorry card” to his friend whom he had hurt.  ( Another “Sorry Card”)  Time now for a quick update.

I walked into Aaron’s room on Tuesday morning, carrying his cups of coffee and finding him sitting on the edge of his bed.  He was writing in his log book the precise time that he was getting out of bed, and still trying to fully awaken.  I know not to talk a lot to Aaron first thing in the morning.  He needs time to process his new day, time to drink his coffee, time to shower…..and I need time to evaluate his mood.  So I said a simple good morning as I put his coffee on the bookshelf beside his desk.  He never even looked at me, which is typical.

But he did speak. 

“I don’t want to go today,” he softly said.  “I have a headache.”

I never know if he really has a headache, or if he’s just trying to get fully awake.  I don’t try to talk him OUT of having a headache, and neither do I encourage him to indulge his headache. 

“I’m sorry,” I said as I walked out of his room.  “I’m getting in the shower now.”

“I don’t want to go today,” he repeated.

“But what about the “sorry card” and Burger King coupon for J, and the pillow for S, and the green pepper for Barb?” I asked.

He was silent.

I went on about my morning.  I heard him taking a shower and then later heard him on his computer, yelling happily…..which is always a good sign that his outlook has brightened.

I went to his room for his glasses so that I could clean them before we left for Paradigm.  There lay the pillow for S, and the “sorry card” for J, near his empty coffee cups. 

“I’m going, Mom,” he said.  He even sounded cheery, and I was very relieved.

We walked out the door later, Aaron carrying a bag in which we had placed the pillow and the green pepper.  His “sorry card” for J, along with the Burger King coupon, were in a plain envelope and placed in the bag as well.

Aaron went into Paradigm with no hesitation when I dropped him off at the curb.  I prayed as I drove away, that Aaron would be happy and kind and would actually give his gifts to his friends…..especially the “sorry card” to J, for that was most important.

That afternoon my phone rang.  The caller ID displayed Barb’s name, and my heart dropped a little.  Sometimes Aaron calls me using Barb’s phone, and some of those times it’s because he’s unhappy.  Sometimes Barb calls me, though rarely, but usually it’s because Aaron is having a really rough day.  Sometimes Aaron also calls just to loudly laugh and tell me how much fun he is having.  Sometimes answering that phone is like playing Russian Roulette.  I just don’t know what pressing that answer button will bring.

“MOM!!!!” Aaron yelled into the phone.  And I immediately knew that he sounded like all was well.  “I wanted to tell you something!!”

“OK,” I simply answered, hoping for the best.

“I’ve been having a good day!” he continued.

“That’s wonderful!” I replied.  “Did you give J the “sorry card” and the coupon?”

“YES!!!” he said.  “WAIT, MOM!!!  WAIT!!!!” he eagerly said.

Now this always means that Aaron is getting ready to hand the phone off to someone else.  Often it’s Barb, and I’ll hear Aaron say to her, “My mom wants to tell you something!”  And Barb knows full well that I didn’t say I wanted to tell her something, so she gets on the phone laughing and she hears me laughing, and we talk for a minute while Aaron – I’m quite sure – is standing nearby rubbing his hands together furiously.

So on this day I was prepared to once again hear Barb’s voice, but it wasn’t.  I heard a young man’s voice haltingly saying hello to me.  He was a little hard to understand, but I figured he was J.

“Is this J?” I asked him.  He said yes.

“Thank you for the card and the coupon,” he said.

“You’re very welcome, J,” I told him.  “I’m sorry that Aaron hit you.”

“Oh, it’s OK,” he replied.  And he said something else about the coupon.  I could tell he was very happy with that, and with the “sorry card,” too.

He handed the phone back to Aaron, who told me with great exuberance that he had also given the pillow to S and the green pepper to Barb.  We soon hung up, with me feeling very happy for Aaron.

As we drove home that afternoon from Paradigm, we talked about how much it meant to J to get the card and especially the coupon.  We talked about how S smiled when Aaron gave her the pillow.  We talked about how Barb thanked him for the green pepper. 

And we especially talked about how happy it made Aaron when he was kind to his friends……how much better he felt on this drive home because of being nice.

These are simple, elementary truths that seem so hard for him to retain.  Aaron wants to be nice.  He really does.  But his impulses and his lack of filters sometimes drive his “nice” desires out of his brain quickly as he responds to the moment.

The next morning, Wednesday, Aaron wanted me to go inside Paradigm when I dropped him off.  He wanted me to talk to S about the pillow he had given her.  Sometimes my to-do list makes it hard for me to agree to anything extra, but something told me that I should do this for Aaron.  So I parked the van and we both got out, walking inside his day group together.

Aaron immediately strode over to the wheelchair where S was sitting, and I followed. 

“S!!!!” Aaron said, rubbing his hands together.  “Here’s my mom!!!!”

I felt like I was Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune.  “Here’s Vanna White and Pat Sajak!!!!!” 

I walked around to where S could see me, and I patted her arm as I told her hello and asked how she’s doing.  S always says that she is fine, as she is all bent over in her chair.  She amazes me as she does something else I always see when I am with her……she smiles.  A huge, sweet smile.

“Did you like the pillow that Aaron gave you?” I asked her.  There was that wonderful smile again as she looked up at me and said a simple, “Yes.”  But her smile said it all.  It must mean a lot to her, in her limited world, to have friends.  I know that Aaron understands that.

One day, when talking to me about his friendship with her, Aaron said to me, “S doesn’t have much friends.  Am I her friend?”  I told him that he is indeed her friend…..a good friend.

“It makes me think I don’t know what to think,” he answered after some thought.

How sweet!  How telling! 

Friendships do matter to Aaron, very much.  He just doesn’t always know how to make them…..how to maintain them……how to express his feelings to his friends without being loud and rough. 

But sometimes he does, like with S.  He talks a lot to us about her limitations and he feels empathy for her.  So even if he thinks he doesn’t know what to think, the very fact that he IS thinking about these things is very positive to us.  We’re thankful that this week turned out so well…..that Aaron hopefully learned some important lessons…..and that those lessons will actually STICK in his brain!!

Because trust me, there are many many days that Gary and I look at each other after an Aaron episode and scratch our heads.

Aaron’s words could easily be our words:  It makes us think we don’t know what to think!!!

But I do think that this week has been mostly positive, for me and for Aaron and hopefully for his friends. 

It makes me think that we have a very special son, even when he makes me think I don’t know what to think!

And that’s just how it is around here.

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