Helping Dad

Gary has been in the process of putting up a small shed in our back yard, one that can hold our garden tools and implements.  Aaron has been very interested in Gary’s work.  Last Saturday, Aaron knew that Gary was going to be once again laboring out in the heat.  He wanted to go out and help Gary, so after Aaron got his morning routine accomplished, he walked with purpose to the shed site to see what he could do.

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Aaron doesn’t have great manual dexterity or skill, but Gary didn’t say a word about that fact.  He welcomed Aaron, even as he was searching in his mind for a job that Aaron could help with at that particular point. 

He told Aaron that he could help by handing him the screws when he needed them as he worked on securing the floor to the frame underneath.  But for some strange reason, Aaron said that he didn’t want to touch the screws with his hands.

Hmmmmm……

So Gary told Aaron to hold the box of screws, which Aaron was very happy to do.  When Gary needed a screw, he would reach into the box that Aaron held and get one out. 

Now Gary didn’t really need Aaron to hold the box of screws.  Gary could have easily just scooted the box around and keep it handy as he worked.  But he would never have hurt Aaron’s feelings by not giving him a job to do. 

There Aaron sat, in the hot sun, holding the box for Gary.  And talking, I’m quite sure.  Talking about his Star Wars game…….his Star Trek television show that he is watching……the latest movie he has decided to watch……and any number of other things that really only Aaron is interested in.

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I’m also quite sure that Gary would have much preferred some solitude outside……time to work alone after a long week of endless people and situations at work…….time to hear the birds……time to ponder his own thoughts.  But Gary saw beyond his own desires, and saw Aaron’s.  He knew how much Aaron wanted to help and he knew how much it would mean to Aaron to do so.

I believe, too, that Aaron wanted to do a man’s job.  Time with a man, especially time with his dad, fills a need in Aaron that he probably doesn’t even recognize. 

It did my heart so much good to look outside and see the two of them working together.  It did my heart good because I knew that it was doing Aaron’s heart even better.  And it was very pleasing to Gary to give Aaron that opportunity, but even more that Aaron wanted that opportunity to help. 

Such a simple time it was, and not one that lasted all that long.  But the impact on Aaron was huge, one that will last much longer than the actual helping did. 

Aaron walked inside later.  “Dad said I helped!” he proudly told me.  And I praised him for that, which made him smile and rub his hands together in delight before he went on his way.

Gary and I don’t have all the answers to Aaron’s needs.  On some days and in many ways, we feel like we blow it, for sure.  But I looked at this scene on that hot Saturday and I knew that Gary got it right. 

Being a dad is incredibly important, and for a dad of a child with special needs, it’s also incredibly difficult at times. 

How thankful I am for this man who has stood by my side for all these years!   He has stood unbending through hard times, but he has also bent down plenty of times to meet Aaron where he is. 

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Happy Father’s Day to Gary! 

 

Taking the Bags Out

We’ve been very encouraged lately to see Aaron in mostly good moods at his day group, Paradigm.  He had some very discouraging struggles over the last few months of 2016, but now it’s like he’s turned over a new leaf.  We certainly pray that it lasts.  Perfection?  No, of course not, but he’s been far happier than he’s been in a long time. 

Honestly, one reason may be that we did reluctantly increase one of his drugs he takes for his autistic behaviors.  I think it has helped to calm him.  With this increased calmness, then, has come the ability to relate better to the people in his surroundings. 

Aaron loves helping.  He would rather be out somewhere helping with shopping or errands at his day group than to go on most of their activities.  The smaller group is more suited to Aaron, but the helping itself also does something for his ego, too…..in a positive way. 

We’ve been praising him for helping Amy, who works at Paradigm, with shopping at Sam’s or WalMart for Paradigm supplies.  We praise him for helping Brandy or Barb with work at one of the Paradigm residential settings.  Aaron, like any of us, thrives when he is commended.  And for all of us, it’s wonderful to be praising Aaron rather than to be fussing at Aaron. 

His personal relationships with Paradigm clients have been mostly better lately, as well.  Take his friend, A, for instance.  She is usually Aaron’s nemesis, and he hers. There is much bad blood between them.  But this week Aaron had a taco that came with his meal from Taco Bueno……and he gave it to A!!  Today Barb sent me a picture of Aaron hugging A!!! 

All which goes to show that when Aaron is happy, everybody is happy!

Getting Aaron happy, though, can be tricky.

And there’s something else.  Getting Aaron happy first thing in the morning can be virtually impossible.  That’s why this morning was such a shock, and worthy of a blog.

It started last night, when Aaron saw me carrying two pink AMVETS donation bags down to our guest bedroom.  He asked what I was doing, so I told him that I was preparing donation bags for AMVETS. 

“I’ll carry them out for you!” he enthusiastically offered.  But I thanked him and then told him that I wouldn’t be taking the bags out until morning.

“What time are you taking them out?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I answered.  “Just sometime in the morning.”

Aaron lingered. 

“What time?” he asked again.

“I don’t know an exact time,” I replied, knowing how Aaron loves exact times.

More lingering.

“What time?” he patiently repeated.

I knew that Aaron would need an exact time or he would go to bed still asking me what time I was carrying AMVET bags outside!!

“OK,” I said.  “Probably around 7:45.”

“So, 7:45,” Aaron confirmed.

“Well, maybe not EXACTLY 7:45,” I said, “but sometime around there.”

I was sitting at the kitchen table this morning.  7:45 had come and gone.  I hadn’t taken the bags out yet.  I heard Aaron on the monitor, up in his bedroom, stirring and then getting out of bed.  Before long, he came down the stairs and into the kitchen.  I looked up and saw right away that he had put on his tennis shoes, still wearing his pajamas, and I knew right away why.

“Mom?” he asked first thing.  “Have you taken the bags out?”

“No,” I said with a smile.  “But let’s do it right now.”

Aaron, who usually isn’t very chipper in the mornings and likes to talk about how he doesn’t feel well, turned and put on his jacket.  Then he followed me happily to the guest bedroom, took two bags, and carried them out to the end of the driveway.  He came back and carried a small table out for me.  Then we were done and Aaron went about the rest of his morning. 

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I was pretty amazed.  I thanked Aaron, but not in a way that was too exuberant.  Aaron doesn’t like excessive exuberance.  He can be excessively exuberant, but no one else usually can.  We’ve learned this about Aaron.

I’m a realist, born of experience with Aaron. But I am, at the moment, a very happy realist.  I pray that Aaron continues down this helpful path, learning how much fun it is to be needed.  We all love being needed, don’t we?

Aaron really is no different than the rest of us, despite his glaring differences that at times show outwardly.  His heart desires praise and love and usefulness, just like mine.

He also desires…..eating out. 

I think I’m seeing a Friday night plan taking shape.