See…And Be…The Blessing

While my husband was mowing our yard on Saturday evening, I decided to run down to the store for some good old fried chicken.  Working behind the counter was a familiar face…a sweet woman who often waits on me.  I always ask her how she’s doing and ask about her elderly mother who lives with her.  She missed seeing Aaron with me and was asking about him.  Everyone knows Aaron…trust me on that!  😊

I ordered my chicken, and then asked for a few more pieces to be added a la carte.  As she filled the container for me, she told me that she would just put in those extra legs and thighs at no charge.  I said no, that I would pay for them, but she insisted on her plan.  The reason?

“You are always so kind to me,” she said.  “I want to do this for you.”

I was so touched…a little embarrassed…and walked away very blessed.

The next morning our pastor shared a meaning of that very familiar word…the word, “blessed.”

He said that to bless means, “To kneel in order to serve.”

He talked about how Jesus knelt down and washed the disciples’ feet.  Jesus was kneeling in order to serve.

We often talk about how we want to be a blessing, to God and to others.  We also talk about God blessing us.

But how can I possibly bless God?

I bless God by kneeling and serving.  I kneel before God, certainly.  But I am also to be like Jesus and kneel in service before the people in my life.

As Gary and I listened to the sermon, it hit me.  God had given me a sweet object lesson of this “blessing” principle just the evening before.

I had blessed this deli worker by showing her that I cared about her and her life.  She turned around and blessed me by giving me some free chicken.  I wasn’t showing her kindness for the purpose of getting something free, but my kindness gave her the desire to bless me in return.

As I serve God, I am blessing Him…and He, in return, will bless me.

I don’t mean that God will give me free stuff.  I mean that God will kneel down in His kindness and will bless me with joy…peace…love…grace…and other such sweet blessings that are promised to me all through scripture.

Sometimes, though, we think of serving God in big, obvious, public ways.  Our human nature and our culture tend to value the well-known over the little-known.

Over the years, more and more, God has taken away most of the public ways I had of serving Him.  Instead, God has brought home to me that, well, my home is to be my primary place of blessing God and blessing others.  This is my personal experience and doesn’t mean that it will be yours as well.  But wherever God has put you is where you ARE, by His plan, and that is the place where you can still bless Him and others.

Home can be a hard place to feel like I am a blessing.  The sameness and the drudgery of home life, honestly, can squelch the feeling that I often associate with being a blessing.

Cleaning around the toilet can be a blessing?  Really?!

But I’m brought back to Jesus, humbling himself by doing the disgusting work of a servant.

Washing the disciples feet can be a blessing?  Really?!

Really.

I kneel.  And I serve.  In the place where God has put me.

I don’t choose the place.  I don’t choose the service.

Validation isn’t the important thing.

Serving is the important thing.

For me, I serve God as I serve Aaron.  He was given to us by God.

On a seizure day:

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While we walk:

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Or he TALKS:

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When he wins and grins:

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Or asks for that homemade milkshake:

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The times are precious:

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And so are the children and the homes that we are given!

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits.”  (Psalm 103:1-2)

 

The Good-Smelling Difference

Aaron was awake and out of bed very early Monday morning, especially considering the fact that he took a long time getting to sleep the night before.  We were late to bed on Super Bowl Sunday, and not just because of the game.  He and I watched a Dr. Quinn after the Super Bowl…a SUPER Super Bowl for us, by the way.  Aaron would tell you that the team we voted for WON!!  YAY!!

Aaron enjoyed watching the game with us.  He didn’t have many new insights, except for thinking that he heard something upstairs on fire.  What??  He was sure of it.

“I hear a snappeling sound!” he insisted.

Gary and I assured him that there was no fire upstairs, but finally he had to prove it to himself, so up the stairs he stomped – he does sound like a bull elephant! – and came back with the report that there was no fire upstairs.

“There’s the snappeling sound again!” he soon insisted once more.

Still no fire.

We eventually realized that the “snappeling” sound he heard was the sound of the player’s shoulder pads hitting together.  Who notices that sound?

Aaron does.  And isn’t that word just the perfect word for a crackling fire?

He didn’t eat much of the food I fixed.  He did try to convince me when I told him that he could have two Rice Krispie Treats that this was, indeed, only TWO!  😊

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On this Monday after Super Bowl, Aaron had an autism doctor appointment.  Aaron would tell you that we were eating lunch at Old Chicago as the main event, with the doctor visit as an annoying side trip.

He was chipper and happy, eating some breakfast I fixed him, but by the time we left the house later he had greatly changed.  I think he had a small seizure that I didn’t totally catch, only seeing the end of it.  Therefore, on the way to the doctor he was very tired, keeping his eyes closed most of the way.

The doctor does a good job with Aaron, trying to get him to communicate with her, but he was still draggy and tired…and his answers often very inaccurate.  She and I end up, as we did yesterday, talking about my Aaron concerns.

And my concerns seem to grow.  Weight loss…behaviors…seizures…a hard time on many nights going to sleep.

Adding a medicine…the concerns with that…

Just on and on.  And so many issues are unknown, even to doctors, when it comes to the brain and to the impact of long-term seizures and meds.

Now I was feeling dreary and burdened as we drove away, Aaron’s eyes closed again.  Even inside Old Chicago, as Aaron managed to eat two pieces of pizza, his mood wasn’t his usual over-excited self.

But on the drive home, Aaron and I had fun watching the temperature drop number by number as a cold front blew through.  He thought it was great fun!  It was also great fun to anticipate getting a haircut, which he loves.  I had signed in on-line and he was happy – but still very tired.

We ran home for a quick stop and to grab our jackets.  Then I told Aaron that I was sure a few Reese’s Cups would perk him up.

“Yeah!!” he agreed.

He carefully took three small ones, put them in his coat pocket, and off we went.

I never know when we go to Great Clips just how the visit will be.  As we walked in the door, I was just happy that Aaron didn’t barge in and loudly say,
“I’M HERE FOR A HAIR-CUT!!!” – as he so often has in the past.

However, yesterday I realized that we didn’t know any of the stylists.  I could feel discomfort invading my happiness.  I just never know if someone will understand Aaron or stare at him in that all-too-familiar way that makes me half angry and half sad.  I was hoping for someone who knew Aaron and was good with him.  Instead, we were given the perfunctory greeting as we entered, mixed with inquisitive stares.

UGH!!!

Aaron and I sat in our chairs, him totally unaware of my concern.  He wanted to know what Bed Head meant as he examined the products on the shelf, his voice still a little slurred.  Finally, he sat down and carefully pulled his Reese’s Cups out of his pocket.

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Two were placed neatly on the chair beside him, and the third he slowly unwrapped.  He ate it, and then repeated the action two more times.

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By then, the stylist walked our way and called his name…and I, with huge relief, saw that Aaron was in very good hands.

I knew he was in good hands because of the stylist’s big smile and her comfortable conversation with Aaron.  There was none of the awkward staring or obvious discomfort that we sometimes encounter when we are out.

Aaron sat in the wrong chair, one he has often used, but she handled it so easily.  Soon Aaron was sitting in the correct chair as the stylist asked him if he watched the Super Bowl.  Perfect question!

“Yeah!!” Aaron answered.  “Who did you vote for?!”

“I wanted the Chiefs to win,” she answered.  “Did you?”

“Yes!!” replied Aaron, rubbing his hands together in delight.

They talked about Super Bowl snacks as she cut Aaron’s hair and trimmed his facial hair, and soon she was done.

“Aaron, would you like some good smelling stuff in your hair?” she asked.

“I need to ask Mom,” he said as he looked my direction.

“MOM??” he yelled.  “Can she put some good smelling stuff in my hair?”

I laughed and said yes, of course, knowing how very happy Aaron would be with this turn of events.  He doesn’t have enough hair for good smelling stuff, but that’s not at all important.

Smiling, good smelling Aaron left there a very different person than when we walked in.  I did as well, I assure you.

And once again it hit me just how big a difference one person can make in another person’s day….specifically, in Aaron’s day…and thus, in mine.

Later that evening, Aaron was waiting on me to finish some things in my bedroom.  He was hovering, as he so often does.

“Mom!!”  he suddenly exclaimed.  “Do you want to smell my hair?!”

Normally, that would be a no.  A big no.  But not today, thanks to our difference-making hair stylist.

“Sure I do,” I answered.

Aaron chuckled in joy as I took a sniff.  He was rubbing his hands together, a sign of his total happiness.

Who would imagine that such a simple thing as good smelling hair stuff would bring such happiness to Aaron and to me?

His hair still smelled good, but more importantly, his heart was light and happy.  The residual nice scent was like the residual warmth in our hearts, both of us.

Never underestimate the difference you can make in someone’s life, especially in the lives of our special ones.  It isn’t necessary to spend money or to take tons of time.

A smile…a word…the warmth of understanding…are all such sweet gifts to each of us, parents and children alike.

That good smell lingers for such a long time!

Longer than the good smelling stuff in Aaron’s hair, trust me!   😊

 

 

She Took It All

One of Aaron’s favorite things to eat is a Cheddar Pasta Salad from the deli at Dillon’s.  The name has actually changed to Cheese Pasta Salad, but to Aaron and to me it’s still Cheddar Pasta Salad.  Aaron always gets a large size, watching carefully to see that the container is filled to the brim.  We go so often that we’ve gotten to know some of the deli workers, who can always guess what we want when we walk up to the counter.

Yesterday afternoon Aaron asked me if he could have a Cheddar Pasta Salad, so off we went to run an errand before the Chiefs – Titans football game, and then end at the Dillon’s deli.  Things were going smoothly, and I was happy that we would make it home in time for the game.

It doesn’t ever seem to matter how carefully I plan our entrance into Dillon’s.  Aaron always seems to somehow get ahead of me as we make our way to the deli counter.  He is definitely on a mission!

The problem is that he will often push in front of people if there are others standing at the counter.  Therefore, he and I are in a foot race as I try to head him off at the draw, before he offends the others who were there before us.  Aaron doesn’t care one bit about waiting his turn when it comes to his Cheddar Pasta Salad.  He doesn’t notice if people are staring or are angry, if they sigh or if they edge closer to the counter.  He only has eyes for the food behind the counter window, looking quickly to see if there is any Cheddar Pasta Salad.

Yesterday there was a mom there with her very cute little girl who was maybe four years old.  I made it to the counter just a few steps behind fast Aaron, just in time to touch his arm and remind him that someone was before us in line.

Aaron was very happy to see that there was some Cheddar Pasta Salad in the tray.  “Look, Mom,” he said.  “They have Cheddar Pasta Salad!”

“That’s what we’re getting, too!” said the friendly mom.  “It’s her favorite!” she added as she looked down at her smiling little daughter.

In an instant, I knew that we were in a dilemma.

In an instant, Aaron had figured out that there was NOT enough Cheddar Pasta Salad for both him and the little girl.

And in that instant, Aaron’s face fell.

“Oh boy,” I thought to myself.

The mother was telling me that her little girl just loved the pasta…that she never ate the broccoli…that the mom ate the broccoli…

“There won’t be enough for me!!” Aaron blurted out.

“Yes, Aaron, there will be some for you,” I assured him, while I felt dread creeping up my spine.  How far would Aaron go in his disappointment?  Would he become angry?

The mother also told Aaron that they weren’t taking all the salad, but Aaron could see that there would not be enough for his large container.

He stared down toward the floor, not making eye contact, as he tried to process the fact that these interlopers were taking HIS Cheddar Pasta Salad!

Their transaction done, the mother told us to have a good day and told Aaron to enjoy his salad.

“Shut up,” Aaron softly replied as he continued looking down at the ground.

I was horrified!!!!

The mother and cute daughter were walking away as I sternly told Aaron to say thank you to them.

He refused.

I told him through firm lips that he would NOT get his salad if he didn’t say thank you.

The girl behind the counter, new to us, was waiting on my order.  I fumbled out that we would take the rest of the Cheddar Pasta Salad.

“She took it all,” Aaron flatly said.

My face was flaming.

The mother and little girl were a short distance from us.  The container…the medium size and not the large…was being filled with the last of the Cheddar Pasta Salad.

“THANKS!!!” Aaron suddenly bellowed.

And the mother turned and smiled at us.  I wondered if she could see the distress on my face, and on Aaron’s as he processed taking home a medium container.

Not a LARGE!!

Then the mom and her daughter turned and walked right behind us.  I touched her arm and whispered to her.

“I don’t know if you heard what he said, but I’m so sorry,” I told her.

She said she didn’t hear anything.  I softly told her that Aaron has autism, but I could tell she knew.

“Don’t even worry,” she kindly said.  “My older daughter works at Open Doors with autism all the time, so I totally understand.”

Relief washed over me…partly because they hadn’t heard Aaron’s comment and largely because she was so kind.

I thanked her, turned back to Aaron…who was staring dejectedly at his medium container…and then she said to me:

“You’re a very good woman.”

I was so surprised!  I thanked her.

And I blinked back tears and swallowed the growing lump in my throat.

I was so happy that now Aaron was holding a jar of Chili Fig Spread, excited about his new find, moving on to the next thing as he always does.

He is so oblivious to other’s emotions.  So clueless as to the stress he inadvertently creates.

SO unaware of how embarrassing and wrong it is to tell someone to shut up!

But he did just that.

And he will do it again.

So, we give the lectures and we live the example, but none of that can permanently re-wire his brain.

I picked myself up off the floor, figuratively speaking, as I gathered my wits about me and picked up the pieces of my shattered motherly pride.

Yes, my son is the one who told you to shut up.

But this is our life with Aaron.

Aaron, who wants life to fall into place his way and when it doesn’t, is hardly able to do anything but to tell the offender to shut up.

But he DID say thanks!!  I’m so thankful for that!!

I DID give him his Cheddar Pasta Salad.  Look at his sad face, though.

 

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His medium…not large…Cheddar Pasta Salad.

“She took it all,” he said over and over as we walked through Dillon’s.

“She did NOT take it all!” I reminded him over and over.

We actually got a lot in return at that deli counter.

A large serving of kindness goes a long way!

 

The Chicken Whisperer

God did the sweetest thing last week and I wanted to share it with all of you.  Some of you read my last blog about how Aaron and I went from a very happy almost three days, to having Aaron crash and taking me with him.  We went from happy to sad faster than it takes for me to run from a spider…and those of you who know me know that’s FAST!

On Saturday evening, while Aaron and I were happily watching a movie, I got a message from my friend, Summer.  She asked if Aaron and I would like to come down to her family’s home in the country to see their chickens.  A couple of the hens recently had baby chicks so Summer thought Aaron might like to see them.  I eagerly said yes!  That sounded like so much fun.  The invitation just added to my happy and I was…well…VERY happy!

Our future chicken visit was a bright spot after Aaron’s happy disappeared on Sunday night.  I looked forward to it so much…to having something fun to do with Aaron that was out of our norm.

Wednesday, chicken day, finally came.  Aaron slept later than anticipated, but at last he and I made it to Summer’s house.  How pretty the day was, and how pretty their home was as we pulled into the driveway!  I immediately noticed the windmill and thought it was a perfect Kansas scene.

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Aaron was a little nervous because he had forgotten meeting Summer, and he had not met her sons, and he wasn’t too sure about meeting the chickens – fun as it sounded.  But Summer came right out to meet us, as did Austin and Tyler, and they all put Aaron right at ease.  Right away we were standing at their pond, where they tossed out some fish food and up from the water appeared lots of catfish.

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Aaron thought that this very cool!  And what fun it was when he got to throw some food out in the water as well!

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We walked behind the house then, and there were the chickens…and a goose, Paco.  As we approached the gate, one of the chickens hopped up right beside Aaron.  Aaron petted her, and Summer told Aaron that he was a Chicken Whisperer.  😊

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Inside the enclosure, Aaron got to throw some chicken feed on the ground and soon we were surrounded by chickens.

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Aaron got to hold a chicken, managing to still hang onto his prized goose feather he had found at the same time.

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Then we saw the cute baby chicks under low hanging evergreen trees.  Surprisingly, the mama chickens were very tolerant of us being so close to their babies.

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Summer was telling us that no one had been able to hold a baby chick yet because of their protective mamas.  Just then we turned around and saw this:

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“How did you do that, Aaron?” Summer asked.

We laughed, and I wondered if maybe there WAS something to this Chicken Whisperer after all.

Aaron sat in a chair and Summer gently talked to him about how to carefully handle the wee one.

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Then one more up close and personal with one of the grown-ups:

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And the opportunity to gather some eggs with Austin before it was time to go.

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We left there later with a plate of cookies that Summer had made, and with the eggs that Aaron gathered, and with such happy memories just made.

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When we got home later, after eating too much at the Pizza Hut buffet, a thought hit me.  I couldn’t remember when exactly Summer had messaged me about coming to see the chickens, so I looked at my messages and there it was.  Summer had messaged me, as I said earlier, on Saturday night.

Saturday night…when Aaron and I were still in happy mode.  Saturday night…before the sadness of Sunday night.  Saturday night…before I knew just HOW much her invitation would mean to us.

I know in my heart that Summer was nudged by God to message me that night.  I was excited to receive her offer, but I had no idea what the next night held.  I had no idea that I would be wiping away tears of disappointment on Sunday night when on Saturday everything was going so well.

But God knew.  God cared about me enough to prompt Summer to invite us down.  God knew before I knew…and He knew what Summer didn’t know…and that was this:  that He wanted to bless me and give me a hug when I really needed it through the action of one of His children who was listening to Him.

This thought and this seemingly simple action is simply profound to me.  God indeed does go before me in ways I sometimes never see, but when I do see it I can only say, “WOW!!”

And to thank God for His sweet care for me, and for Aaron, by using one of His very sweet families.

No action is too small or insignificant to be used by God in a huge way in someone else’s life.

Thank you to Summer, Tyler, and Austin!

And a special thank you to God!

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True, Special Friends

Aaron attends a special needs day group on Monday through Friday.  This day group, Paradigm, has clients of various ages – all adults – that have a variety of special needs.  They are out in the community nearly every day attending a host of different events and activities. 

Aaron has developed friendships there over the years.  Like any group that is together as often as they are, there are ups and down.  Then you throw in the special needs, medicines and side effects of medicines, behavior issues, lack of filters, and so much more – and there can be plenty of noise and drama and action. 

But there is something else I have seen there that is very touching.  I have seen empathy for each other.  I have seen real caring.  And I have seen forgiveness.

Aaron is in a very good place right now with his behaviors.  He has, in the past, struggled with anger and has had eruptions because of his lack of control.  He has come home with broken glasses, broken watches, ripped clothes, and many tears…his not being the only tears, for sure.  So while he is still loud in his playfulness, and loud in his talking, and loud and sometimes inappropriate in his teasing – he is basically very happy and helpful. 

When he was having behavior issues at Paradigm, there were very many times when it was his friends who warmly welcomed him back the next day.  He may have hit one of them, or insulted them, or yelled at them…but they would warmly tell him that it was all right, that it was a new day, and that they still liked him. 

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When he would have a rough day, he wouldn’t want to go back to Paradigm the next day.  Almost always, though, with our encouragement he would return.  I remember times when he would want me to walk into the center with him, as if my presence would buffer him from either being rejected or from bolting back out the door before he faced his friends again.

I would hear his friends call out to him.  “Hey, Aaron!” one would say, and then another.  I was just amazed at their forgiveness and their fresh start as they helped Aaron pick up the pieces and have the courage to face them again. 

Once I walked with Aaron over to a table filled with his best friends…all girls, by the way.  😊  Aaron was very nervous about talking to them after whatever had happened the previous day, but they spoke to him as if nothing had happened at all.

Aaron’s eyes filled with tears as they darted around the table, afraid to make contact. 

“I told Mom I was afraid you wouldn’t like me,” he finally said, his voice trembling and thick with emotion.

He was so like a child, this adult man.

“We like you, Aaron,” one of the girls said.  And they all said those same words as they affirmed to Aaron that he was their friend.  What wasn’t voiced, but was as clear as the morning sun, was that they understood Aaron, and they loved and accepted him just the way he was.

Aaron has made huge strides in learning to accept his friends there, as well, on many different levels.  He is sometimes curious about their physical handicaps…wheelchairs, muscle issues, deafness, seizures, etc.

He has seen many behaviors that are disruptive, loud, angry, and irritating.  And other behaviors that are just very unique – the young man who wears a suit and tie every single day, or the one who keeps a towel around his neck, or the person who rocks – and so many, many more. 

He has been curious about those who can’t hear or who can’t talk well.  About those from different ethnic backgrounds.  Or ones who are from different countries.

“Mom!” he said one day.  “Giselda said she was sorry in a Mexican way!” 

What is very sweet to me is to see how this setting is now so very normal to Aaron.  I hope that makes sense.  We might walk into Paradigm and see special needs.  Aaron walks into Paradigm and sees friends.

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Not long ago, as Aaron and I stood at the card counter trying to pick out a greeting card, Aaron remembered that he wanted to tell me something.

“MOM!!” he bellowed for all around to hear.  “I forgot to tell you something!!”

“You did?” I asked when he paused in order to see if I heard him.  How could I not?!

“YES!!” he continued.  “Guess what?!”

Aaron is great at making an effect.

“What?!” I obediently asked.

“Shauna got a NEW wheelchair!!!” he exclaimed.

My emotions tumbled at that point.  I didn’t let Aaron know this as I responded with excitement and asked him to tell me all about it.

You see, most 33 year old men would be saying things like:  “Guess what?  So and so got a new job…or a new car…or is having a new baby.”

But Aaron was just as excited about Shauna’s new wheelchair as anyone else would have been about those other life events.  It was sweet, but sad to me in a way, too.  It was just something that drove home to me once again, out of the blue in front of the card counter, the reality of Aaron’s life.

As I dropped Aaron off at Paradigm a few days later, Shauna and some of his other friends were coming down the sidewalk.  Aaron quickly lowered his window.

“Shauna!!!  Come and show my mom your new wheelchair!!” he yelled.

So she rolled over to the van to show off her new ride, and I loved every minute of it.  Aaron was so very excited as he jumped out, rubbing his hands together in pure delight.  Shauna was all smiles. 

How could I be sad when there are so many reasons to be thankful?

Watching him walk into Paradigm with his friends just gives me every reason in the world to be happy as I drive away, on so many days. 

And to the business owner across the street who one day called the Paradigm clients “a circus”:  I would choose that “circus” over yours any day of the week. 

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Happy, Helpful, and Forgiving

It’s beyond time for an Aaron update.  I do believe I could write every day about life with that young man of ours.  I wish I had that kind of time, so since I don’t, I’m sitting here wondering how on earth to corral my rambling thoughts on recent…or not so recent…Aaron antics.  And not only his antics, but what those actions show about the real Aaron, deep in that brain of his.

Aaron has been mostly happy lately.  He is showing that happiness in various ways.  One way is by being extra helpful, so he’s been taking out the trash and the recycling; setting the supper table; carrying in groceries; and even helping others in ways that are…well…a little intimidating.

I saw that for the second time yesterday as we left Sam’s.  We were walking to our van when Aaron spied a lady near where we parked, putting her items in her car trunk.  She had a couple heavy packs of drinks.  Before I knew it, Aaron was running toward her.  I knew what he was going to do because he had done this same thing last week at Wal-Mart.

“Aaron!” I said.  “Come back here!”

But he was determined to help this random lady.  She looked up, a tad startled at first, but then she quickly relaxed when she saw Aaron.

“Hey!” Aaron blustered.  “I’ll help!!”

She smiled and actually let him!  Then she looked at me with a big smile, which made me very happy, as Aaron proceeded to put her two heavy drink packages in her car.  She thanked him as he stood there with a huge smile, rubbing his hands together in his Aaron way, and then came back to the van.  And I don’t know who was happiest at that point…Aaron, or me!

The lady last week at Wal-Mart was kind but said no to Aaron.  So as I did then, I once again explained to Aaron that his offer was very nice but that he had to understand that running up to various women at their cars might be scary to them.  Aaron thought this to be strange, even after I explained it to him.  It’s so amazing that he doesn’t get it, that social norms elude him. 

I had just seen this demonstrated a few minutes prior to the parking lot incident, while we were in the self-checkout lane inside Sam’s.  A man in the other lane beside us was trying to get the attendant’s attention.  She was talking to someone else and was unaware that this man needed her help.  He continued to try to get her to notice him.  What I was noticing was that this exchange was bothering Aaron.  He was bothered by the fact that the man’s voice was rising, and he was bothered by the fact that the attendant didn’t hear him.  Therefore, Aaron decided to be helpful once again.

“HEY!!!” he yelled out. 

Well, well, well.  This did get the attendant’s attention.  And Aaron got a very annoyed look from her, with a raised eyebrow to boot.  I apologized to her while correcting Aaron, and then she realized about Aaron, and she was kind and understanding, and Aaron’s face turned very red, and I have no idea what the irate man was doing. 

WHEW!!!!

It was another teaching moment for Aaron, with me doing the teaching and Aaron looking around for someone else to help. 

OK, where was I?

Oh yes, I was talking about how happy Aaron has been and how he shows it.  He was so happy to see my good friend, Jennifer, in Sam’s that he gave her a big hug.  Yeah.  SO big and strong that I texted her last night to see if she was hurt.  She said she’s not.  Oh, Aaron!  Just another social norm and boundary that Aaron doesn’t get. 

Sam’s was pretty exhausting yesterday, can you tell?

In fact, by the end of the day, Gary and I were at the end…of our patience and our wits and our nerves.  I don’t know, it was just such a tiring evening with Aaron.  He wasn’t bad at all.  But goodness, he LOVES to talk!!!!

That’s another way that he shows his happiness.  Talking!  Almost incessant talking!!  He’ll be in his room for a few minutes and then we hear him barreling down the stairs.  He finds us no matter where we are…outside, downstairs, in the garage, on the porch or patio, or in the bathroom.  It matters not!  Aaron has something to say and he WILL say it, even if he’s said it a million times before.  You think I’m exaggerating?  It certainly doesn’t feel like it to me and Gary.

We often tell Aaron that we just talked about this…that he needs to look that up on his computer…that we don’t have a clue about it…and we even throw up our hands as we say, “I DON’T KNOW!!!!”  But Aaron is not easily deterred as he pushes on with his comments and his questions and his observations…over and over and over. 

I wish I could say that I’m ever the wise and patient mom.  I wish I could give examples of how to always be on top of these issues.  But in all honesty…and I do try to write this blog with all honesty…I’m just not.  Not always patient and calm and understanding, much as I want to be. 

At the end of last night, when I was at the end physically, Aaron and I were in the kitchen.  He was talking again and I was just so done.  He, I thought, spilled a little water on the kitchen floor and that was it.  I didn’t yell, but I talked through…I’m ashamed to say it…gritted teeth. 

“Just clean up the water,” I said, in my “gritted teeth” voice.

I hurt Aaron’s feelings. 

“Shut up!” he responded.  More than once.

This prompted a stern rebuke from Gary.

Well, the rest of the evening went fine as Aaron and I went through his bedtime routine.  But when it came time to give him his hug and a kiss on his cheek, he put his arms under his covers and said no.  No goodnight.  No hug.  No kiss. 

“Because you were mean to me,” he said.

So I left his room.  But before long he was at my bathroom door.

“OK, Mom,” he said.  “I’ll say goodnight.”

He walked into his room with me following.  He got under the covers, held out his arms for my hug and accepted my kiss on his cheek.  Bless his heart.  He so wants our love.

Forgiveness is a big part of our life.  We have to forgive each other a lot. 

God forgives, too, and I’m surely thankful for that.

And God understands, as my dear friend Linda reminded me this morning.  She understands this kind of weariness as she reminded me that Jesus often tried to get away to be alone…but the crowds still followed Him.  I’m so thankful that God understands, and ever thankful for the forgiveness and peace He gives.

I’ll end on a funny note.  I am sometimes amazed at how quickly Aaron can be irritated by me.  I mean, really – ME?!  Be irritating?

It is very puzzling, though, at what can set him off.  Like the other morning, when feeding our Great Dane and fixing his pills in some peanut butter, I dipped into some peanut butter for myself.  This really bugged Aaron. 

“MOM!!  You act strange!” he said angrily.

“How do I act strange, Aaron?” I asked.

He stared at me a minute.

“In lots of DIFFERENT ways!” he replied as he turned and walked away.

Now if that’s not the pot calling the kettle black!  HaHa!!

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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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I’ll Be Your Friend, Part 2

I wanted to quickly share with you another sweet Aaron moment from today.

I wrote yesterday about Aaron’s sad day on Tuesday, but how that episode confirmed to him that he truly does have wonderful friends at his day group.  Here’s the link to that blog – I’ll Be Your Friend

He not only gave Natalie a card yesterday, but he also filled a baggie full of Cheez-Its for her, which he happily carried with him to Paradigm that morning.  I’m sure he was all smiles as he handed that baggie to Natalie. 

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But he also has another friend there, one who is on a very restricted diet.  Aaron has often felt sorry for her and has wished that he could give her some of the snacks that he takes to share with others. 

When Aaron took his baggie stuffed with Cheez-Its yesterday, he asked Barb if he could give some to his friend, H.  But Barb said that he couldn’t due to her strict diet.  But, Barb added, H. could probably have four or five of those crackers. 

And so today, before we left for his day group, this is what Aaron did.

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Five Cheez-Its, just for H. to enjoy all by herself.  To me, this is a picture of simple kindness.  I love that beneath all the complex layers of Aaron’s personality and of his autism, he has a heart that loves to give to others. 

Gary and I have talked occasionally over the years about how, when Aaron was young and we lived in Germany, we met with a professional.  This man talked to us about Aaron.  We were pretty offended by some of the things he said…things about how Aaron would probably never go to college, get a big job, yada yada yada. 

So O.K.  Aaron hasn’t been able to do many of the things that his peers have done.  But today, Aaron put five Cheez-Its in a little baggie for his friend, because she can only have five.  He didn’t find a cure for cancer…or put a man on Mars…or finish his fourth doctorate.

But he made his friend, H., very happy. 

And my mother’s heart is as proud of him as a mother’s heart can be. 

I’ll Be Your Friend

I pulled up to the curb in front of Aaron’s day group yesterday, a little early to pick him up at the end of his day.  Soon Aaron walked outside, heading toward the van, followed by Barb.  Barb is like Aaron’s second mom.  She is also a manager at Paradigm.  Sometimes Aaron wants Barb to come out to talk to me so that she can tell me something fun about Aaron’s day.  However, fun was not part of our conversation on this day.  I realized this right away as I looked at the tears on Aaron’s face when he sat down beside me in the van. 

“Mom!” Aaron choked out through his tears.  “Natalie got mad at me and called me…….”  And on and on he talked, his voice thick with emotion and his hands rubbing together in frustration. 

Aaron loves to give his money to his friends, especially to Natalie, and it’s sometimes a real problem.  Aaron isn’t supposed to give away his money, and Natalie isn’t supposed to ask him for money, and when they are found out, it can be touchy.  Both Aaron and Natalie have trouble controlling their emotions when things get stressful, which certainly happened yesterday.  Words spill out…tears are shed…accusations made… 

If you close your eyes, and if the voices were far younger, you would think that once again we were on the school playground trying to settle a spat between two kindergartners.  But these are two adults, who because of their special needs happen to, at times….many times….still operate as little children. 

Aaron was being very dramatic, which showed me how much his giving heart was hurting.  He had done wrong and tried to deny it.  Natalie had done wrong and got very mad at Aaron.  Both were hurt and upset.  But Aaron…his heart wants to give everything he has to his friends and when it all messes up, he feels betrayed and lonely and adrift.

“I don’t have any friends,” Aaron sadly declared as his voice broke with emotion.  “And I don’t want to come back tomorrow!!”  Just then, standing behind Barb, came the voice of Koren.  She’s Aaron’s friend, and though at times she’s hard to understand, I clearly understood this.

“I’m your friend, Aaron,” she said.  “I’ll give you a hug.”

So Barb stepped aside and Koren gave Aaron a dear, kind hug along with a few pats on his back.  It was just the sweetest thing!!

Aaron and I sorted through the story with Barb before finally pulling away from the curb.  But soon Aaron said he had left his billfold with Barb, so I quickly turned around and drove back to Paradigm.  I went inside, and when I came back out, there was Aaron leaning inside the van that held Natalie.  I was concerned!  But as I stepped closer, I heard Natalie say, “I’m still your friend, Aaron!” 

Aaron backed out of the van, his face a picture of relief…and Natalie’s face alight with a smile. 

Later Aaron, as he so often does, asked me if he could give Natalie a card the next day.  After saying he didn’t want to go to Paradigm the next day, I knew that wanting to take a card was a good sign that he was softening about going.  So I found a card for Aaron and he carefully wrote Natalie a note…a short note with a huge message.

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We all need a friend, don’t we?  One thing that amazes me at Aaron’s day group is to walk in and see the interactions of these special adults.  They love being and having friends, just as much as you and I do.  Life is so very hard for them, harder than I can even begin to imagine.  Sometimes it would be easy to feel sorry for them, sorry to the point of tears. 

But then I see them welcome Aaron when he walks in the door.  I see their smiles, their hugs, their concern for each other expressed in various ways.  I see Aaron welcomed and loved, even after having a hard day previously. 

His friends there are a picture of love and acceptance.  I don’t see jealousy or judgment or bullying.  Maybe those things happen at times.  But there, among all the varying special needs and all the medical conditions…from wheelchairs or braces…with halting speech or deaf ears…curled hands and bent bodies…I see so often the joy and the love of friendship. 

That scene has touched my heart more than I can express.  I would love to share pictures, but privacy issues won’t allow it.  So you must take my word for it, and try to imagine it yourself. 

Sometimes the most needy ones are the ones who give to each of us a picture of what we need the most. 

Genuine, unconditional friendship. 

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