Getting Aaron

I ran into Great Clips this morning, taking Aaron for another haircut, shave, and beard trim, and who greeted us but Erin!  Erin has worked there for quite awhile.  Erin loves Aaron, if you follow me.  She’s a mom, and just a very sweet person who genuinely loves seeing our Aaron.  So it’s always nice when Erin cuts Aaron’s hair! 

Erin is one of these people who just gets Aaron.  She was genuinely happy to see Aaron as we walked through the door.  She talks to him while she cuts his hair, asking him questions and interacting so well with him.  I just love having people like that in Aaron’s life.

I can tell very quickly if someone gets Aaron or not.  You don’t have to totally understand Aaron to get him.  Is this making sense?  There are just some people who from the first moment they encounter Aaron, are relaxed and accepting of him.  And there are others who look at Aaron like he has an alien head or something…..although Aaron would think that having an alien head is pretty cool. 

For instance, Friday evening Aaron and I went to Little Caesar’s for pizza.  The line at the take-out window was long, so I decided that Aaron and I would go inside to grab our pizzas.  As I parked, I gave Aaron the usual directions…..wait for me, don’t barge in the door, if there’s a line then don’t push ahead, please don’t clap, and please talk SOFTLY!!  Of course, I was trailing behind him as I finished my instructions and he was barging in the door.  Oh well.

Thankfully, there was no line, so Aaron had free rein to walk up to the counter, lean way over and loudly say, “Can I have some breadsticks??!!”  I was tugging Aaron back while reminding him to talk softly and also reminding him that I already told him he could have breadsticks…..when I turned and saw the cashier’s face.  She was staring a hole through Aaron while she wore totally no expression on her face.  There was no emotion at all from her.  She looked at Aaron like he was perhaps an alien, but a very boring alien.  Like she was thinking, “Who are you and why are you in my store?”   

Aaron was very excited and happy, totally oblivious to this girl’s cold stare.  He continued to interrupt as he loudly asked if we could get TWO pizzas as well as breadsticks.  Her eyes went from me back to Aaron, with her impersonal cold stare once again.  At times like that, I’m very thankful that Aaron doesn’t get social cues.  This girl didn’t get Aaron, but Aaron didn’t get that she didn’t get him, so in that respect all was well. 

But all was not well in my spirit.  I wanted to give her nose a little pinch and then deliver a lecture, but of course I didn’t.  And I know that maybe she was having a bad day.  Yet really, deep down, I just know that some people get Aaron and some people don’t.

Tuesday for lunch, Aaron and I met his case manager at Applebee’s for his yearly PCSP meeting.  Barb, from Paradigm, was there as well.  Aaron is as comfortable with Barb as he is with me, so she understood Aaron’s whacks on her arm, his too tight squeeze of her hand, and how he helped himself to some of the chicken on her salad.  It was our server, though, whom I especially noticed.  She made eye contact with Aaron, smiled at him, listened to him, and was genuinely relaxed with him.  I even looked at Barb and whispered, “She gets Aaron.”  And Barb knew just what I meant. 

When someone understands Aaron, it’s as obvious as the nose on their face….like that little girl’s nose that I wanted to pinch.  J  But it’s very obvious to me when a person understands Aaron, and even accepts him just as he is.  Sometimes being in public with Aaron is embarrassing, honestly.  He’s large, and loud, and totally blind to the effect he has on others by being “out there” with some of his behaviors.  He might point at someone because of their hair or whatever.  He might turn around in the restaurant booth to see what the people behind him are eating or saying.  He might stop to stare at their plates as we walk out of the restaurant.  And if he goes to the bathroom by himself during our meal, it’s very interesting to watch people’s faces as he walks by, his head high and arms swinging, often making funny noises with his mouth.

So when someone gets Aaron, I find myself relaxing some.  It’s as if I don’t feel the need to explain, which I usually don’t do anyway.  I shouldn’t have to explain Aaron.  He is who he is, in all his boldness and uniqueness.  But I’m human and I feel my face getting red when Aaron does something a little crazy that draws attention to us.  It’s nice to see others understand him even if they don’t really understand… accept him…..and especially to enjoy him. 

Having Aaron in my life has taught me to try hard to show understanding to other families I see who are probably uncomfortable in public.  I remember when Gary and I ate dinner at a local restaurant with some friends.  Our table was near a mom and dad who were eating dinner with their special needs son.  I noticed their son immediately.  He was stimming in his unique way, and I just knew what they were feeling.  I could see it on their faces, especially the dad.  So I finally made eye contact with the mother, and I smiled at her.  I pointed to myself and shook my head yes.  She was a little confused, so I just stood up and walked over to their table.  I spoke to her and her husband, and told them who I was…..and that I had a son much like their wonderful son.  They both visibly softened and relaxed.  They were so happy that I understood and that I spoke to their adult son, and that I got it.  That’s what meant the most to them….the fact that I got their son. 

So when you’re out and about, and you see an Aaron…..or most likely, when you HEAR an Aaron…..just smile at the parents with genuine love.  Even when their Aaron might pull one of the lower boxes of cereal out of the huge cereal box display….and mom stands there with fallen cereal boxes all over the aisle….smile and maybe even offer to help pick them up.  Yes, that happened to me.  And the help of a sweet teenaged boy was such a blessing that day!

There are special people all around us who need us to get them.  There are families of special ones who will feel a huge weight lifted off their hearts if you are that person in their lives. 

I get it!  You can, too.


We all know the famous Browning poem, “How Do I Love Thee?”  Well, I have some thoughts about Aaron, but the title would be “How Do I Embarrass Thee?” As in, how does Aaron embarrass me?  Being a southern mama, I would add, “Bless his heart.”  And you can take that any way you want.  We southern girls certainly know how to do that. 

            You know I love Aaron with all of my heart.

            You know I love Aaron, every part.

            But oh, how embarrassing he can be.

            So today I have a story of three.

OK, I’m no Browning……bless my heart. 

Anyway, today was dental cleaning day for Aaron, so we took off this morning for our beautiful drive north through the country.  We drove up 135th street to 53rd, for you local folk, as we headed to the town of Maize and to our dentist’s office there.  Aaron was enjoying his day off as we drove by cows and horses and goats and one field of critters that I couldn’t identify.  He was really loving the oldies CD that we listened to, and hearing the fact that these were songs from my high school days. 

Aaron didn’t have time to enjoy the waiting room where he likes to talk to Lee, the receptionist.  He was immediately called back for his cleaning.  I had urged him to be patient and polite, character traits that run short for him sometimes in the dentist’s chair.  And when he walked out about 40 minutes later, I heard him before I saw him.

“Mom!” he said.  I could tell just from the sound of his voice that he was exasperated.  “Let’s go now!” he demanded as he walked into the waiting room.  I could tell from the wild look in his eyes that he was upset.  Oh dear.  So as I checked out and made his new appointment, the hygienist was able to whisper that he was more upset than usual today.  He even told her to shut up at one point…..or maybe more than one point.  He was just rude and belligerent to her.  He doesn’t like the cleanings…..he doesn’t like the feel of it and the time it takes……and he doesn’t like being told over and over to hold his mouth open and to loosen his steel-like lower lip.  And of all things, we go every two months to the dentist for cleanings because of how Aaron doesn’t brush well enough. 

I was embarrassed.  I know the staff there understands as best they can, but it’s hard to be the mom at that moment….no matter how old my “child” is.  I know that I will always be dealing with these red-faced moments, and I know there is a legitimate reason why, but it’s still just….embarrassing.  As Aaron and I drove away, I gave him a lecture.  He doesn’t do lectures, I know, but I still try.  I filled my lecture with talk and examples and reasonable comments to which I felt he could relate.  I was still somewhat lecturing as we walked into Menards for a quick stop.  As we walked up the long middle aisle, Aaron was lagging behind.  Finally he said, “Mom!  You keep talking about mad things!”

So I knew it was time to stop.  Enough talking about mad things.  What’s done was done, and I hoped that some of what happened and what I said had made an impression on Aaron.  Yet Aaron lives in the moment, so permanent change is doubtful.  The next moment in the dentist’s chair may still cause frustration for Aaron.   Anyway, the dentist was my first story of embarrassment today.

Number two – Pizza Hut.  Aaron and I love the Pizza Hut not far from the dentist’s office.  It’s fairly new and it has a nice lunch buffet.  Aaron loves anywhere that has an all-you-can-eat buffet, because all-you-can-eat is a meal made in heaven for Aaron.  He does get my money’s worth!  But buffets, where Aaron gets up and down, and is in front of people as he does so, can sometimes max out my embarrassment quota.  I can understand when he’s awkward and spills the salad bar cheese on the counter.  I often go with him in order to help him hold his plate straight and steady.  Pizza sliding off his plate onto the floor has taught me that lesson.  I can understand and deal with that, too.

But good old Aaron is so happy and relaxed because of the all-you-can eat reality that he will sometimes break out in song.  He did that today as he went up to the buffet for what I told him would be his last time.  He was remembering the last song we heard on the oldies CD as we parked outside.  I had stayed in our booth near the buffet and just watched him as he put two more pieces of pizza on his plate, and as many breadsticks as would fit.  Then suddenly he broke out into, “Oh, there’s magic….”  Several times, as I watched.  And then some passing gas noises.  I just sat there and savored the moment.  The table of construction guys must have, as well.  I didn’t look.  

Aaron sat down and started talking, loudly, so I did the “Ssshhhh” thing for the umpteenth time.  “It’s always, sshhhh!” he complained to me.  And I told him it’s because he’s always NOT “ssshhhhing” when he should be “ssshhhhing!”  I looked down for a few seconds and looked up to find him with both arms straight up in the air, flashing the peace sign with a look of purpose on his face. 

“Aaron, arms down,” I said with resignation.  At least he was quiet.  Peace.  Until we were leaving.  I had paid the bill, and as I turned to leave, Aaron turned back to the buffet…..where he reached in and grabbed one more bread stick with his FINGERS!!!!  He had me talking about mad things again as I hurried him out the door. 

Number three place of embarrassment – Great Clips, of course.  A new girl cut his hair, and today Aaron talked non-stop to her.  He told her about his scraped arm, his day group, robots, aliens, movies, and what he had done that morning.  “Going to the dentist is not my thing!” he informed her.  And of course, he had to tell her about his room being painted. 

“Do you know what happened on Saturday?” he asked her, sort of breathlessly, as if it was a major and unusual event.  She told him she didn’t know what happened on Saturday.

“This man came to my house,” he continued.  “And he painted my whole wall!” he finished.  Like he would paint only part of it?  I smiled and the new hairdresser smiled, and everyone there was hearing all of this……aliens, robots, disliked dentist visits, and painted walls.  All of it, clearly heard throughout the shop. 

Including his parting words to the nice hairdresser as we stood at the counter to pay.  “Do you like oldies?” he asked her.  “My mom and I are listening to oldies.  Mom said those were songs she knew in high school.  That’s when Mom was young.  She USED to be young.” 

The girl politely smiled, not sure of what to say with Aaron’s “USED to be young” mom standing right there.  Aaron continued.  “Yeah, mom knows those songs.  She USED to be young.”  So then the very composed, somber older lady in the waiting area burst out laughing.  So did I.  May as well.  And as I herded Aaron toward the door, I told this woman that at least Aaron wasn’t discussing my weight.  He’s been known to do that, too. 

You know, there is good embarrassment and there is bad embarrassment.  Aaron’s behaviors, such as he showed to his hygienist today, are a bad embarrassment that makes me feel frustrated and sometimes humiliated.  Aaron’s good embarrassment when he’s singing at the buffet, flashing the peace sign for all to see, or talking about his mom who USED to be young, can still redden my face.  But it’s all fun in the way that Aaron makes it funny.  He makes us laugh, even as we may try to hide.  I can let it ruin my day because of the embarrassment, or I can let it make my day.  I can choose to enjoy Aaron, or I can choose to always be frustrated. 

Sometimes Aaron needs for me to talk about mad things as I try to help him grow and be appropriate.  But many times, I just need to relish the unique person that Aaron is and not let my embarrassment let me miss these special moments with the joy that they can hold. 

It’s magic, if I allow it to be. 

Reminds me of a song I knew when I USED to be young.


Yes, Another Great Clips Story!

I just can’t resist.  Here I go again, writing yet another blog about Aaron’s visit to Great Clips this morning.  I’ve written several blogs about his times there.  What is it about Great Clips, you might ask?  Or maybe not.  Anyway, it’s as if Great Clips is a microcosm of Aaron’s life and ways every time we go there.  He’s funny and unfiltered and embarrassing……and more……from the second he walks in the door.

Last night I told Aaron that we might go to Great Clips the next morning to get his hair cut.  The operative word was MIGHT, because somehow Aaron rarely hears that word when it comes to possible places we might go.  That’s why I usually wait until the very last minute to tell Aaron of a possible trip.  If it doesn’t work out, he is not happy at all.  The operative word is NOT, as in NOT happy AT ALL.  But I wanted to tell him last night that we might…..MIGHT…..go to Great Clips so that he could be mentally prepared to get up early and leave the house hopefully before 9:00.  This is out of Aaron’s routine and he needs a good reason to get out of his routine.  A GOOD reason.  And Great Clips is a GOOD reason for Aaron.  He loves going there. 
The reason I had told him we MIGHT go to Great Clips is because I never know how long the wait will be for a haircut.  If the wait is too long as we are on our way to his day group, then we can’t go.  No MIGHT about it at that point, but Aaron never sees it that way.  So this morning, my heart sank when I logged in online and saw that the wait was 16 minutes.  Aaron would love the precise time, by the way.  That would make Aaron late to arrive at Paradigm, though.  But Aaron had forgotten all about the MIGHT word as he walked with resolve out to the van.  Only 9:02 and the wait was already that long on a Monday?  Bummer!

Aaron has totally no reserve when he barges through the swinging door of Great Clips.  That’s why you would have seen me in a mad dash to grab my keys and purse as I hurriedly opened the van door, hoping to beat him to the front door.  I rarely do, and this morning was no exception.  He barreled in just inches in front of me, but being aware of this he wasted no time in hurrying as fast as he could to the front desk as he bellowed, “I need to hurry and go to Paradigm!!”

And we’re off, I thought, as I tried to regroup while the two men who were waiting and the two men who were getting haircuts just stared at unusual Aaron.  The stylist was new to us, but she smiled and walked over to the computer to see that we had signed in.  At the same time, I was correcting Aaron and giving him a little Emily Post lesson on good manners when barging into Great Clips…..all of which meant nothing to him.  He was already checking out the container of tempting ball point pens, hoping he would be able to sneak at least one of them into his waiting pocket. 

We sat down, minus the Great Clips pen, and I continued with my manners lesson.  “I was just trying to get them to hurry,” he explained.  And I continued to explain the concept of the word “rude.”  Should I include the word “shocking?”  Maybe not today.

But I WAS trying to reinforce the idea of talking softly as Aaron sat there talking in his usual loud voice.  He didn’t like that lesson, Emily Post or not, and he reached over to give me a whack on the arm.  I felt my face getting red, mostly from embarrassment, as I felt now three sets of eyes on me from the three men who sat around the waiting area.  With the lesson on not hitting and on talking softly under his belt, Aaron got up and lumbered across the room.  I just watched him with bated breath, wondering what he was going to do now.  He had spied the DumDum suckers in a glass container on the counter, so he took one and came back to his seat, where I helped him open it and in his mouth it went.

After a couple minutes, he took it out of his mouth and started talking again.  I saw his green tongue, and so I told him that his tongue was a nice green shade.  “Green?” he asked loudly as held up his sucker.  “This sucker is red!”  Ah yes, there’s that color blind factor again.  Dad would have confirmed that it was red as well, but I confirmed that it was green as Aaron stuck his tongue out for further inspection.

Soon the stylist called for the next customer.  “Kelly?” she called out.  And the man with the name Kelly got up and went to the salon chair.  Aaron just looked at him and then said, loudly of course, “Kelly!”  I didn’t want Aaron to say another word, not knowing what opinion he was going to give of that name or anything else that might come into his mind, so I shushed him quickly with a pat on his leg and a reminder in his ear.  The stylist who was getting Kelly ready looked over and said, “Hi, Aaron!”  She knows Aaron and her greeting surprised Aaron but made him happy, too.

Not long after, thankfully, it was Aaron’s turn and so he heard his name called.  He stood up beside me, taking his glasses off first and then his watch.  He always takes off his watch as I sit there and always tell him he doesn’t have to do that, but he always takes it off anyway.  He is oblivious to the stares of the other customers.  And the stylists always smile.  As soon as Aaron was seated, another stylist came out from the back and I heard her say, “Hi, Aaron!”  It’s so sweet how many of them know Aaron and greet him by name, with big smiles.  He IS hard to forget, that’s for sure.

Somehow, as soon as Aaron sits in the chair, he is often speechless.  The stylist asked him a question, but he remained silent, so she mostly just cut his hair and let him enjoy the experience.  We paid at the counter a few minutes later as I kept one eye on Aaron. 


No, Aaron, you don’t need another DumDum.  Quit trying to put it in your pocket.  Don’t you try to sneak it out of there!  Put it back!

No, Aaron, you don’t need a Great Clips pen.  You have thousands of pens at home.  Or at least it seems like it.  Do NOT put it in your pocket.  Put the pen back!

Finally, we were finished.  The stylist was paid and given a tip.  The DumDums were still in their glass container, and the pens were perched where they belonged, with none missing…..I think.  Aaron had put his glasses on and had situated his watch halfway up his arm as he always does.

We walked to the van. I was opening my door when Aaron said, loudly, “Mom!  Mom!  Look at what martial arts does!” 

And there he stood at the window of the martial arts studio in front of where we parked, pointing to the poster on the window as he made sure I noticed each martial arts move listed there. 

Just when I thought he couldn’t be any more noticeable, he proved me wrong.  I was wishing he wanted to get IN the van as quickly as he wanted to get OUT not 20 minutes earlier. 

Oh well, I just roll with the flow.  I figured my face needed a little color today anyway. 

Do you see why I wait as long between haircuts as I possibly can?