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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Does God Like Me?

“Mom?” Aaron asked last night as he was going through his ever-important bedtime routine.  I was ready for yet another question about what the SS means on the side of the Poseidon…or what kind of vision do the aliens on Pacific Rim have…or what is the quick freeze on The Day After Tomorrow movie?  So I just absently responded with my all-too-often reply.

“Hmmm?” I absently answered as he stood beside me in the bathroom, watching me put something away. 

“Do I have seizures because God doesn’t like me?” he continued.

And I stopped…stopped dead in my tracks at this very unexpected question. 

I looked up from what I was doing, into his very serious face. 

“I just wondered if I have seizures because God doesn’t like me,” he continued. 

Wow!

This is like a question Job would ask, and I wanted to give the right answer without being too shallow or too deep.

I told Aaron that God loves him very much, and that sometimes He allows things to happen.  I wanted to go into full theology mode, but I knew that I could easily lose Aaron, so I assured him again of God’s love and that when we have those questions we need to remember what we know about God…that He IS love, even when we don’t understand what He allows.

Aaron went on to bed soon after, but his question lingered in my mind into this morning.  What brought that question into his mind?  What had he been thinking about? 

Gary and I talked last night at supper, just the two of us, about how on some days we feel like it’s Christmas…and on other days, not so much.  What brings on that “Christmas spirit” we sometimes work so hard to achieve?  At times, we don’t set out to create that feeling, but when it’s missing we wonder what we missed.  Are we tired?  Worried?  Overwhelmed?  Broke?  Or broken?

I walked into Aaron’s room this morning, carrying his fresh coffee and finding him soundly asleep.  I spoke to him but he didn’t stir.  Coming back a little later, I pulled back his covers as he grunted…and I was not happy with what I saw.

A wet bed!  A totally soaked bed!

And last night he and I had changed his sheets!  I was happy to mark that off my Christmas To-Do list. 

“Are you kidding me?” I exclaimed. 

“What?” Aaron sleepily asked.

“You wet your bed!” I impatiently answered.  I was pretty certain it wasn’t a seizure, so I added, “No more water before bed!”

And off I huffed, mumbling my frustration.  Of all days!  I was feeling pretty good last night about finishing the gift wrapping and most of the grocery shopping, and saving Friday for house cleaning and the beginning of my cooking. 

Plans set.  The “Christmas spirit” picking up!

And now this…this time consuming, unexpected, yucky mess!

As I showered and got myself ready, Aaron’s question of the night before came back to my mind.  I was reminded of how much I wanted to impress God’s love upon him.  How could I do that if I was grouchy with him?  And again, how could I answer his searching question in a way that would impact him?

As I thought about it, God gently nudged my heart.  “It’s Christmas, Patty,” He seemed to say.  “What better time to explain my love than at Christmas?”

All of a sudden, wet bedding and a busy day ahead didn’t matter so much.  The Christmas music playing in my bedroom took on a clearer meaning.  I decided to talk to Aaron on our way to his day group.

He promptly turned on the Christmas CD that was in the player as soon as I turned on the van.  “Number 12,” he flatly said.  Aaron always follows the numbers of songs very closely.  “This CD has 14 songs,” he further explained.  “It’s on number 12 now.”

I smiled.  He seems to think that I want to know this information as much as he does.  But this morning, I was glad to know that I had only three songs to go before I could talk to Aaron once again about his last night’s question.

Number 14 song completely ended, and the CD went to number 1 again before Aaron removed it.  You do NOT remove the CD when the number 14 is still showing.  It must have moved on to the next song, just so you know.

I grabbed the moment.  “Aaron, do you remember asking me last night if God doesn’t like you because He lets you have seizures?” I asked. 

“Yeah,” he answered as he placed the CD in its case.

“Well, this is the perfect time of year to remember how much God loves you.  He sent Jesus down to earth to be born as a baby because He loves you and me that much.  You know that’s what Christmas is all about,” I said.

“Yeah,” he repeated. 

“So you don’t have to wonder if God loves you or not because you have seizures.  We don’t understand all that, but we do know that He loves you a bunch!  Jesus’ birth shows you that every day!” I continued.

We continued talking a bit as we neared his day group.  He was content with that answer.  And I noticed in my own heart a return of that mysterious “Christmas spirit.”  It had nothing to do with this:

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Or this:

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But definitely had everything to do with this!

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My Christmas verse this year, so appropriate for me and for Aaron this morning, is one we all know: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but would have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

I need to run!  I have a load of bedding to put in the dryer.

Merry Christmas to all!

 

 

 

 

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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Some Best Gifts

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.  It’s nice to have a day to declare our love for the people in our lives that mean a lot to us.  I’ll admit that I have loved every flower and card and box of candy that Gary has given me over the years.  But in the past few days, I’ve once again seen that the best gifts my husband gives is what he gives of himself, over and over and over, as we walk this life road together with our Aaron. 

Gary and I love Aaron.  We have chosen at this point in our lives to keep Aaron at home with us.  It’s not always easy, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.  However, there are two attitudes that help tremendously as we care for our son.  The first one is humor.

I’ll be honest and say that I like it when I pick Aaron up from his day group, and hear him say, “WHEW!!  I’m stuffed!!”  He then tells me what he ate for lunch that day, usually something on the large side.  So I casually ask if he wants supper and he often says no. 

Now, I don’t mean to sound mean, but Gary and I do enjoy eating dinner alone.  Just the two of us, enjoying casual conversation and pauses of quietness……blessed quietness.  Because if Aaron is with us, he loves to talk about his day and his recent activities and what he ate and what he said and how he was just teasing this person and how he got in trouble and what movie he’s watching and what aliens he’s interested in and what game he’s playing, etc., etc.  He watches for the slightest pause in Gary’s and my conversation, or maybe not even a pause at all, and will jump in quickly. 

“AND……guess WHAT?!!” he’ll interject.  And he’s off and running with another tale that he knows we MUST hear.  There is a time and a place for us to hear from Aaron, but we also enjoy each other’s company at least a few times a week.

The other night Aaron wasn’t planning to eat with us.  Gary came home to two place settings on the kitchen table.  We soon sat down to eat, just me and Gary, when we heard that all too familiar sound of Aaron’s heavy footsteps on the stairs.  How does he do that?  How does he just KNOW that we are sitting down to eat? 

Gary asked the blessing as we held hands, with Aaron hovering there between us.  As soon as the “Amen” was said, Aaron launched in.  “DAD, guess what?!”

“Aaron,” I interrupted.  “I thought you said you weren’t going to eat.”

“I’m not,” he replied.  “DAD, guess what?!”

So there we were, Aaron’s captive audience.  It’s always a struggle for us to know how blunt to be with Aaron.  We don’t want to make him feel like he’s not wanted with us.  But, really, we didn’t want him to stand there the whole meal and talk up a storm……and he would.  He was well on his way to doing just that. 

Finally I said, without terrible bluntness, “Aaron, now you’ve talked enough.  You need to let us eat.” 

“OK,” he said.  He walked over to the counter, picked up a pineapple that he noticed, and brought it over to us. 

“DAD!!  Look at this!!  Mom got a pineapple today!”

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In Aaron’s mind, he WAS letting us eat.  I didn’t want to be so blunt as to say, “AARON!!  QUIT TALKING!!”  So I told Aaron to let us eat, and he WAS letting us eat while he continued to talk.

Gary, also not wanting to be too blunt or hurtful to Aaron, looked at me and said, “Your clarification of your wishes would greatly enhance your desired results.”

Aaron had no idea what Gary was really saying.  Gary and I laughed and laughed, which made Aaron think that we loved what he was saying about pineapples……so he continued his talking while he let us eat, just like I had told him to do. 

Next to humor, patience is another important gift that Gary gives as we live with Aaron…..or he lives with us. 

Gary ordered two updated Star Wars games recently for Aaron’s computer.  He installed them for Aaron on Saturday.  Then came Gary’s strict instructions to Aaron about not changing settings or doing any other things to mess up what Gary had taken time to do.  We have lots of experience with Aaron doing just that.

Gary and I came home from church the next day to find Aaron telling his dad that something wasn’t right about the games.  Without even looking, Gary knew…..and he was right.  Aaron had tried to put some codes in or something…..it’s all Greek to me……and he had jumbled things up.  Gary had to sit down and re-do much of what he had just done the day before. 

It was a resounding GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR moment, for sure.  And Aaron knew it…..knew he had blown it and knew we were frustrated.

Aaron finally came in my room and said, “Nobody forgives me!”  Can we spell the word D-R-A-M-A?

The game was eventually back up and running.  Gary had slipped outside to take Jackson, our Dane, for a walk.  The walk was, I’m sure, doing more good for Gary than for the dog. 

Enter Aaron……into the kitchen, looking for Gary.  Gary, who was nowhere to be found.  Aaron asked me and I couldn’t lie, so with resolute steps Aaron was out the back door and striding across the grass to catch up to Gary and Jackson.  I felt badly for Gary.  I knew he wanted some alone time. 

Soon I looked out the window, watching them come from behind the tall evergreens into my view.  They walked slowly, Gary and Aaron, with Gary talking and engaging with Aaron.  It warmed my heart, as I am quite sure it did Aaron’s as well. 

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Gary’s love for Aaron is a great gift to me.  His humor and patience often come at times that we both need them the most.  Often when I am tired…..done…..ready to check out emotionally……Gary will step in and save the day for me.  Those are some of the very best gifts that he gives me, and they’re not just on one special day or two a year. 

Of course, I do still love flowers……just in case he reads this, you know.   🙂

 

 

 

Shake and Toss

I remember when Aaron was just a little guy and we were stationed in Germany.  Boxes of gifts from family would arrive before Christmas, full of presents for all of us.  It was so exciting to place the bright packages under our little tree and see the happiness on the kid’s faces as they especially noticed each gift that had their name attached.  On Christmas morning, we would open our gifts and watch with the delight that all parents experience as our children could hardly contain their excitement.  It was a time of pure joy!

But Aaron quickly learned something about his gifts.  Some of his presents contained clothing.  Others contained toys.  Toys tend to rattle.  Clothes don’t rattle.  So smart little Aaron would pick up a gift and give it a shake.  If all was quiet inside the box, he would then toss it over his shoulder and move on to the next one.  It really was hilarious.  We caught him in the act on the video that we were making.  Shake and toss.  Shake and open.  Shake and toss.  And Aunt Sandra, after seeing the video that we mailed to her, declared that she would never send another gift of clothes to Aaron ever again! 

We laughed and laughed over that.  “But wait,” I said.  “Clothes are wonderful!  Maybe not to Aaron, but to us they’re great!!”  Gary and I knew the value of  clothing for our children when we lived under a tight budget.  Aaron could care less, but he just didn’t understand their importance. 

Life’s gifts come in all shapes and sizes.  Some we know right away are amazing and will be treasured forever.  Others are uncertain.  And then there are those gifts that we want to shake and toss away.  Gifts of hardship and pain……gifts that aren’t fun…..that definitely weren’t on our want list. 

I recently received a wonderful gift from some old friends of ours.  We came to know Bruce and Glenda at our first military duty station in Fort Carson, Colorado.  Then we were also stationed near each other in Germany.  Our kids played together when they were very young.  Bruce and Glenda live in Alabama now, and are flying me there to spend a few days.  I haven’t seen Glenda in years, though we’ve stayed in touch.  It’s a gift that I didn’t need to shake!  I knew right away what a precious gift it was.  I leave today, in fact, and am so looking forward to this getaway with a dear friend. 

Another gift of mine, in his own amazing way, is our Aaron.  Of course, he’s our son and I love him with all my heart.  His special ways of living life due to his seizures and autism, however, make him a very unique gift.  Trust me, there are plenty of days that I wonder about this large gift of Aaron.  There are many times that I want to shake and toss.  I want to shake and toss Aaron!!  But those moments are always balanced by the spurts of joy and laughter that he brings into our lives.  He’s the whole package, that’s for sure!

For instance, last Friday we were listening to a CD on our way to his day group.  He likes it when a song totally ends before he gets out of the van at Paradigm.  As we pulled up to the curb on Friday, the song seemed never ending.  I had errands to run and then an appointment at 1:00, so I finally told Aaron that I really had to go.  I told him that he could finish the song the next time we played this CD.  Aaron didn’t like that idea at all, but he finally agreed.  However, to register his disapproval, he gave me a resounding hit on my arm before he left the van.  It hurt!  And it made me very angry.  Yet off he strode as if nothing at all was wrong.

I drove away in frustration.  See what I mean?  Aaron can go from happy to hurtful in a flash.  It was a time I really would have shaken and tossed that gift.  Yet I know better.  I know that God gave us Aaron and that he is indeed a beautiful gift, not to be shaken and tossed, but to be opened and enjoyed.  It sure takes a lot of patience sometimes, though!  More than I often have on my own, for sure. 

Yet that evening, Aaron bounded in the house with a little wrapped butterscotch candy in his hand.  His driver, Paulette, had given Aaron a wrapped candy and then gave him one for me.  Aaron was so excited to give me this little candy, and wanted me to eat it right away.  It was close to supper and I told him I would wait.  Aaron made sure, for the rest of the evening, that I didn’t forget his gift to me.  He talked and talked about that candy. 

“It’s one of those sucking things,” he described.  And he ran up to my desk that night to retrieve the piece of candy and bring it to me, hovering nearby until I finally ate it. 

Aaron can go from hitting to hugging in no time.  From grouchy to giving.  His gifts are all over the place, but each one I must receive and enjoy.  Well, not always enjoy but at least try to understand and appreciate.

He stood in front of me one evening like this.

 

“Take a picture and send it to Andrea!” he said.  So I did just that as we both laughed at his silliness. 

He just came downstairs this morning.  One of the first things out of his mouth?  “Mom? What do you think of Megatron and Optimus Prime versing each other?”

And we’re off and running, as always.

I’m still unwrapping all the layers of this Aaron gift that we’ve been given.  And remembering the verse that I read this morning.

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be glory forever.  Amen!”  (Romans 11:36)

No shaking and tossing allowed.