|Our military housing on Fort Huachuca, Arizona|
|Our backyard view – Fort Huachuca, Arizona|
|Coronado National Forest|
Aaron’s good at that!
As a person with Asperger’s, Aaron often demonstrates the social impairments that accompany this form of autism. The social protocols that most of us possess are foreign to Aaron, no matter how many hundreds of times Gary and I have tried to drill these niceties into his brain. When these social impairments are combined with his interest in the unusual, it can be a sure recipe for embarrassment…………not his…………but mine and Gary’s, or Andrea and Andrew’s.
When we made our many military moves, we would visit churches as we tried to find the “home” church that God would want us to join and be a part of during our stay in that area. We visited a church one Sunday morning when Aaron was a teenager. Arriving a little later than we had planned to, we found that all the back rows were already full. Trust me, a back row for us with Aaron was most definitely preferred! However, on this particular Sunday we had to choose a pew near the front of the church. This situation made us very uncomfortable as we spent a good portion of the services making sure that Aaron was happily occupied, was being quiet, didn’t make multiple bathroom trips, etc.
We already felt conspicuous as visitors…………..Aaron only added to that feeling for us. Oh well……..we just smiled and went to the front, sitting down and hoping for the best. Things were progressing smoothly as the worship service continued. Suddenly, during one of the songs, there was a commotion near the back of the church – on the side where we sat. An older woman had collapsed and her family gathered around her to help. We all sat down and soon an ambulance was called. The congregation was led in prayer for her as everyone waited for the ambulance and EMTs to arrive.
Aaron thought that all of this was very exciting indeed. In fact, this was the most interesting church service he had attended in a long time……….probably ever! Gary and I realized that he was becoming a little too exhilerated over this unusual turn of events, so we went into “Calm Aaron” mode. We tried to redirect him from straining to look behind him at the action in the rear pews. We rubbed his back, which he loved and which always calmed him. We whispered an explanation to him of what was occurring as he kept asking…….loudly…….”WHAT? What’s going on? What happened?”
Realizing that no one in this church knew us or knew Aaron made us even more aware of how odd Aaron must have looked to everyone around us. We reached a point where I do believe we would have just gotten up and left if we were near an exit, but this wasn’t an option to us at that point without being very disruptive. Aaron, as usual, wasn’t displaying the proper responses to this tense situation. He didn’t care about the poor woman who had collapsed. He didn’t care about her very worried family members. He definitely didn’t care about his very embarrassed parents or sister or brother. He was excited! Here was a situation that grabbed his attention and peaked his interest!
Aaron’s eyes were darting here and there as he anticipated the arrival of the ambulance crew. When they finally came, they seemed to fill the front of that small church as they entered a side door. Naturally, they ended up walking right in front of and then beside our pew. Now Aaron had moved beyond excitement to being absolutely thrilled. When Aaron is beside himself with excitement, he bends over at the waist and rubs his hands together. And so there in the pew, as all eyes were on the EMTs pushing the stretcher right beside US, Aaron bent over at the waist………….rubbed his hands together rapidly…………..and said………….loudly, of course…………”COOL!!!!!”
Cool? Did Aaron really just say, loudly, that this was cool? Now Gary and I were in “Shut Aaron Up” mode. We were beyond embarrassed……….more like horrified………and felt that we should stand and offer a public apology before slinking out the nearest exit. I’m surprised that one of us didn’t have a stroke and have to be hauled out on a stretcher, too.
Well, we all survived. The dear woman who passed out was fine after a brief hospital stay. Gary and I recovered as well, as did Andrea and Andrew………….though it took the siblings a little longer. As for Aaron……..he never did see the problem with his reaction, so he had absolutely nothing to recover from. He rehashed and rehashed the entire story many, many times……….complete with bending over at the waist and rubbing his hands together. This was, to him, a church service worth remembering! It was for us, too, but for very different reasons than for Aaron.
And for once, we had no problem the following week with getting Aaron out the door to church. He couldn’t wait to go back to that church to see what would happen next!
Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome often become fixated on certain areas of interest. This is also called “perseverating.” When Aaron demonstrates this behavior, we call it: “Oh good grief! What’s Aaron stuck on now?!”
On our recent trip back east, he took his CD player with him along with some favorite CDs as well as some CDs he hadn’t listened to often or ever. He loves oldies music and so when he started listening to The Four Tops CD he was captivated. Over and over he played certain songs, and over and over he stared at their picture inside the front cover. I had to look at it; Gary had to look at it – and we had to listen to Aaron talk and talk about The Four Tops. At one point he said, “I love The Forty Tops!” I told him that if they were The Forty Tops then they would be a choir. He thought this was “quite funny,” as he says.
He observed that The Four Tops wear “shiny church shoes” and because of the tapping on one of the songs he’s just sure that they are tap dancing. Somehow I can’t see The Four Tops tap dancing, but I could be wrong. Bing Crosby, maybe, but The Four Tops? Anyway, he wanted to know their names and so I looked that up on my tablet as we drove. Then he wanted me to write their names beside their picture that he stared at on the inside cover, which required me to log onto Wikipedia and compare faces with names, etc. I felt like I was doing a research paper! Aaron was becoming happier by the minute as he gathered more info – or as MOM gathered more info!
In a moment of brilliance, I suggested that we check out YouTube to see some Four Tops videos. I did that, and he was enthralled, but the video kept stopping and Aaron kept getting disappointed – which can lead to Aaron becoming frustrated – which we don’t want! So I rescued my tablet and told him he could log onto his computer at home for the YouTube segment of our Four Tops education. And true to form, as soon as we were home Aaron was on YouTube watching the singing and dancing Four Tops. At supper that night, he educated Andrea on all he had learned about The Four Tops, whether she wanted to hear it or not. She was shown the picture with the names printed, heard about their shiny shoes with which they certainly tap dance, and was told that The Four Tops twirl when they dance.
And Aaron wonders why The Four Tops sing about girls all the time, and things like love, and he cracks up when they sing about staring at the girl’s picture and kissing it a thousand times – or something like that. In his literal mind, this is beyond comprehension. And again, why do these guys keep singing about girls and love anyway?! So this morning as we drove to his group, he did NOT forget to bring The Four Tops CD to the van. When he heard them sing the phrase “I get all choked up,” he declared, “Well, that’s weird! Why are they doing that?” I asked him to tell me what he thinks “all choked up” means and he said, “You know – that coughing thing!!” Whereupon I nearly became “all choked up” as I tried not to laugh! And I will try very hard not to “choke HIM up” when he returns home today and we have to talk about all of this all over again!!