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! 

 

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.   🙂

 

 

 

Too Often Unsung

I’m about to make somebody very uncomfortable today. That’s not my intention at all. But I know this somebody very well and I know that this will be the result of what I am writing. This somebody is my husband…..my friend…..my Gary. It’s not his birthday. It’s not even our anniversary. I just want to give a big thumbs up to this man who does so much for me and for our family. He doesn’t like lots of attention. Sorry, dear.

I watched him spend hours…..HOURS…..this past weekend on my blog. He tried to fix the problems with my old blog. It took forever! He finally realized that there was no way to go forward with it, so then he dug in and got me started on this new blog site. It took lots of work to get it up and running, and to understand all the in’s and out’s of it. I still have questions, but it’s so nice to know that I can go to him for answers or that we can work it out together. And all of this work he did while he was coming down with the respiratory crud that his co-workers so kindly shared with him.

This little venture of mine…..this blogging and writing that I love….is important to him as well. I can’t express what that means to me. Yet what I do has always been important to him. He has worked hard in both the military and civilian world to make it possible for me to be where I desired to be – at home with our children. He supported me in our many years of home schooling. And he supports me now as I continue to be with Aaron. WE continue to be with Aaron. I couldn’t do it all without Gary.

He’s a loving husband, appreciative and kind.

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He’s also a very hard worker at home.

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And always has been…..and continues to be…..a fabulous dad.

To Aaron:

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To Andrea:

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To Andrew:

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I am very blessed, and I am very thankful, for this man in my life. I just hope he still speaks to me after he sees this.   🙂

I love you, Gary!

 

 

 

Rocking Together

Yesterday was one of those days.  It was a culmination of several of “those” days that actually became one of THOSE days.  Am I making sense?  Let me once again offer some quotes from Karen Williams in her excellent article – Understanding the Student with Asperger’s Syndrome.  For Gary and I, the title should read – Understanding Our Son with Asperger’s Syndrome (If That Is Even Remotely Possible).  Williams says, under the category of Emotional Vulnerability:  “Rage reactions/temper outbursts are common in response to stress/frustration.”   She goes on to say that those with Asperger’s “………..are easily overwhelmed when things are not as their rigid views dictate they should be.”

I would add that, likewise, parents of Asperger’s children (or adults who behave like children) are at times overwhelmed when things are not as their child (or adult who behaves like a child) wants them to be.  Williams adds, “Affect as reflected in the teacher’s voice should be kept to a minimum.  Be calm, predictable, and matter-of-fact in interactions with the child with AS, while clearly indicating compassion and patience.”

As a parent with an adult (who sometimes behaves like a child) with Asperger’s, I do whole-heartily agree with Williams.  I would also add that perhaps the parent should have a pillow to scream into; a punching bag hanging in the garage to punch on; a blog to write in……………OK, just kidding.  Sort of.

Aaron’s been hung up on a computer game and it’s been all consuming to him.  Saturday was one of those days when he just would not get off the computer to shower, take his pills, or even eat.  Aaron has to reach a certain level of a game before he will turn it off.  This is why we removed Nintendo and PlayStation from our home years ago.  He does much better on the computer, for some reason, but occasionally will revert to these old behaviors.  When this happens, we take the keyboard away and hide it.  Aaron has come to expect this and is usually agreeable about it………..as if it’s almost a relief to have the temptation removed.

Yesterday he was not relieved.  We removed his keyboard Saturday night, so on Sunday he clipped coupons and then napped while our small group was here for lunch.  After his nap, when the small group was gone and a friend who had stopped by had left, Aaron fully expected that his keyboard would be returned.  We had not made it clear that we were not returning the keyboard at that time.  Mistake number one:  Not being clear and consistent, and expecting Aaron to follow along.  Consistency has always been an issue, especially with me.  And inconsistency and change does not work well with Aaron.

Aaron was talking to Gary and me about all of this, and followed Gary downstairs to his study, where they continued to have a pleasant conversation.  Gary was very upbeat and happy.  Aaron was holding a container of his favorite Pringles……………and was becoming agitated.  Soon I heard a strange noise and when I walked downstairs I discovered Gary staring quietly at the mess.  Aaron had thrown his container of Pringles across the room and there was a huge pile of chips and crumbs all over the floor as well as some of Gary’s bookshelves.

Well, well, well…………now what?  Aaron grabbed the container, twisting and squeezing it in sheer frustration as he continued to escalate.  Gary and I followed him upstairs, talking calmly to him………….no affect in our voices at all.  If we yelled, we knew that Aaron would go through the roof.  His eyes were darting around, probably trying to find something else to break.  We stood there, using soothing tones that calmed Aaron a little but were not totally defusing the situation, when suddenly Gary asked, “Aaron, do you want to go to Dairy Queen and get a blizzard?”

It was amazing to see Aaron’s face.  His struggle was so evident as he tried to process this offer.  He was slowly deflating, but he wanted to still be angry.  He paced around the family room and then angrily said, “OK!!  I’ll go!”  He put on his shoes and socks, and then Gary asked him if he wanted to take the van or the truck.  Aaron calmed down even more as he said that he wanted to take the truck, so off Gary and Aaron went……….with Aaron sitting up in the truck with his dad.  I knew what an effort it took for Gary to do this.  He was tired after a hard weekend of working outside, studying for Sunday School, and teaching that morning.  I knew that Gary wanted nothing more than to rest, to relax, to have time for some things that he wanted to do.

His love for his son was evident…………..both of us were loving Aaron at that moment but not really liking him.  While they were gone, I vacuumed up the mess downstairs, wishing that the messes that Aaron makes in our hearts were as easy to dispose of and forget.  When they returned home, Aaron was a different person.  He was full of talk about his M&M Blizzard, their run through the car wash, what road they were on, and the barber shop that was nearby………….”You know, Mom, they have that red and white sign that looks like a spinning candy cane!!”

Later, Aaron and I sat on the glider on the front porch as a thunderstorm moved through.  I love doing that and was happy that Aaron joined me when I invited him to come out.  There the two of us sat on the glider, trying to rock as the wind blew and the thunder rumbled and the rain came down.  We talked………..mostly Aaron talked, of course……………and I kept trying to rock.  You see, Aaron likes to sit forward on the glider and when he does this, he rocks in his own rhythm……….which is the opposite of the way I am rocking.  When I went forward, Aaron went back.  Then when I was going backward, Aaron was pushing forward.  This is not conducive to smooth rocking!  I told him to sit back and relax so that we could rock, and for a minute or two he would.  Then he would sit forward again………..and again we would not be able to smoothly rock as he was moving against my every move.  I just observed, and smiled, and laughed softly at the awkwardness of this supposed rocking.

And I realized how Gary and I have to rock together in our life with Aaron.  We don’t always accomplish this feat, believe me!  Any married couple will agree that it takes time to develop unity in every area of marriage.  Aaron and his issues have certainly been difficult for us at times.  We haven’t always agreed on how to handle discipline, especially, as well as other areas.  Time and maturity and experience have taught us so much.  So many times, I have rocked one way while Gary is rocking in another direction.  This makes for jerky, unhappy motions in our marriage and in Aaron’s life as well.  He needs us to be unified………..and Gary and I need to be a solid unit as we deal with Aaron’s life and decisions that involve him.

Gary blessed me yesterday in how he handled Aaron with love and wisdom.  We were rocking together and the result was smoothness and pleasure in the end as we saw Aaron relax and calm down.  We never know what we’ll face today or tomorrow with Aaron, but we do know that if we rock together with God in the center, then life will be much happier and certainly more peaceful.