Aaron and The Wedding

 

Two weeks ago we had…a WEDDING!!!  Our first wedding!!!

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Our daughter, Andrea, was wed to Kyle Kester in a perfectly beautiful outdoor ceremony at the Texas home of Kyle’s grandparents.  It had rained a lot there, even the morning of the wedding; but God told all the weather forecasters that He was sorry to spoil their forecast…that He had lots of people praying for no rain, so no rain it was. 

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It was a small wedding, the way Andrea and Kyle wanted it, and was full of close friends and family who helped with everything and shared in our joy.  Even my brother, John, married them…and his wife, Jeanie, was the coordinator. 

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Family.  When all is said and done, is there anything or anyone more precious to us than family?  And especially at an event as special as a wedding, family is there.  The pictures are taken, the hugs shared, the laughter abounding.  Family love is everywhere during a wedding.

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Yet when all the wedding photographs are finally ours to see and enjoy, we will look at our family wedding picture and have one missing member. 

Aaron.

Aaron could have been there…and yet he couldn’t.  Let me go back in time and explain.

Kyle, from the first time he walked into our house nearly three years ago, was a natural with Aaron.  We love that about Kyle.  He is patient…treats Aaron as an equal…knows how to talk to Aaron…and knows when to redirect Aaron more than most people do at this stage in their relationship. 

Aaron has a very close relationship with Andrea.  Aaron is the older by 18 months, but he still sees Andrea in somewhat of a mother role in his life.  He loves to talk to her on the phone, almost always about himself, but still he wants to tell her everything about his current movie or game or activity. 

But two things happened when Kyle came into this perfect picture.  The first thing is that, to Aaron, Kyle was taking Andrea away from him. 

“I still want Andrea to be my sister!” Aaron exclaimed when he realized that Kyle just might be here to stay.  We explained and explained, over and over, that nothing would change…that Andrea would still be his sister, forever…and that she would still come to visit, and we could go visit her.  And that if they got married, he would gain a wonderful brother!

The second thing that happened to Aaron was the process of figuring out just who Kyle would be in our family, and particularly who Kyle would be to him…to Aaron.  Aaron struggles with just who is who in family relationships.  He may meet a couple and later say that the man is the woman’s dad, not her husband.  Uncles, aunts, and cousins are completely impossible for him to understand.  And brother-in-law?  Forget it!!

Aaron wants to forget in more ways than one! 

“I don’t NEED a grand-brother!!!” he blurted out one day as he expressed disapproval over the upcoming marriage. 

We didn’t even tell him that a “grand-brother” isn’t a thing. 

Many of Aaron’s thoughts about all this marriage business, and the dynamic driving his thoughts, will hopefully be the stuff of another blog one day.  Back to our decision now about Aaron and him coming to the wedding…

Andrea called late one Saturday night last December with the very happy news that this had happened:

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 Kyle and Andrea’s engagement was not unexpected at all, but the reality of it was cause for so much joy.  We were happy, happy, happy!! 

Yet with Aaron, we were slow to tell him the great news.  We knew that he would not be happy, happy, happy.  The next day, on Sunday afternoon, we told him what he suspected to be true…that Andrea and Kyle were engaged to be married.

Not long after, I looked out the window and this is what I saw.

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 Aaron was crunching up mulch.  This is his long-standing way of relaxing…of unwinding…of thinking…of dealing with stress. 

My heart just went out to him as I looked at him sitting there, alone with his mulch and his thoughts.  How difficult it was, and would continue to be, for him to adjust to this huge change looming in his relationship with Andrea.

I opened that door of my heart and I cried.  I cried off and on that whole afternoon…some happy tears for the engagement…some sad tears for the reality that is always Aaron.

My thoughts had already, for months, turned to how we would fit Aaron into a wedding.  Initially, I tried to figure out ways that we could make it work, having a wedding down in Texas where we wouldn’t have someone who could help us with Aaron.  I knew that Kyle’s sweet family would do whatever they could to help us.  But still…

A couple weeks after the engagement, everyone was home for Christmas.  We have such a fun time all together, laughing and eating and telling stories as we catch up.  But Aaron doesn’t have such a fun time.  He does for awhile, but then reality hits him.  He is not the center of our time and attention.  He must vie for his place, take his turn talking, and eventually come to the dawning conclusion that our interest in aliens and nanomites and volcanoes and outer space is waning after several hours…and most definitely after several days.

Then there is all the hilarity as we laugh and tease and hug.  The cherry on top is our annual Christmas Eve Bingo game, with gifts to be won or to be stolen…loud and long…and miserable for Aaron.  He does not like parties…he does not like emotion, including too much laughter…he does not like Dad being goofy as he directs the game…and he does NOT like having his gifts stolen. 

It inevitably leads to what Andrew calls, “Aaron’s Annual Christmas Meltdown.” 

And it is not a tradition that we treasure. 

But this is who Aaron is, down to his core.  He can’t help it and he can’t change it…and certainly neither can we.

So when we were all here this past Christmas, while Aaron was occupied in his room and with Andrea’s beautiful diamond sparkling on her finger, we had a family wedding talk.  Specifically we had a “how do we fit Aaron into a family wedding” talk.  And the consensus was unanimous:  Aaron would not fit into a family wedding.

It sounds harsh, maybe.  Unbending on our part.  Heartless.

But you see, Aaron doesn’t see things like we do.  He has no emotional interest in family events like we do.  What matters to Aaron…is Aaron.  I say this a lot, but it’s because it’s totally true.  Aaron wouldn’t care about a wedding, on many levels, just as he never cared about family funerals or celebrations or anything else that was full of other’s emotions.

Emotions drive Aaron nuts.  So does having his routine disrupted…sharing attention with others…sleeping in strange places…and having to be around lots of noisy people who are not aliens.  He would love it if they were aliens, but they are not.  Just another bummer!

And what if Aaron was having a bad seizure day on the wedding day?  That would have been just awful.

So our only reason for having Aaron with us would be FOR us.  For us to say that Aaron was there.  For us to have the whole family together.  For us to have the photos taken (which Aaron would HATE, by the way). 

Andrea and Kyle’s wedding day was a day for them, and for both our families.  A day to relish each other and to enjoy every sweet moment to the fullest.  Aaron, honestly, would have made it impossible to do so.

Therefore, Aaron stayed back in Kansas.  Abigail “watched over” him, as Aaron says.  She and her fiancé Corey, and Abigail’s parents, David and Melissa, had tons of fun with Aaron.  At least I like to think it was tons of fun for them.  Ha!  It certainly was fun for Aaron. 

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And let’s not forget Gracie and Cosmo, who became Aaron’s furry friends.  He loved every minute of doggie licks and snuggles!

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We all live life wanting no regrets.  But when you have a child with special needs, especially behavioral issues, you sometimes must shift around your definition of “regrets.”  We do regret that Aaron couldn’t be at the wedding, but we don’t regret our wise decision to not make him attend an event that he would truly detest. 

Our special Aaron definitely makes our life unique and forces us to sometimes make very difficult decisions.  Often the best decision for Aaron, though, is the hardest decision for us to make, but Aaron’s needs and his happiness is what must come first.   

And trust me, we’ve all learned that lesson the hard way over the years…more times than I can say. 

Now the holidays are right around the corner, and we’re about to see how Aaron handles his new…

GRAND-BROTHER!!! 

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The Plan

Today is a super special day!  You see, it’s my anniversary…OUR anniversary!  The day that Gary and I said “I Do!!”  It was 39 years ago that I wore the beautiful dress that my mother had made, every stitch lovingly sewn by her hand.  39 years ago that I walked down that aisle of the brand new Johnston Chapel Baptist Church, the first bride to do so in our new sanctuary.  39 years ago that I joined my hand with Gary’s and we embarked on our new life together. 

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Doesn’t it sound perfectly romantic?  And it was!!  It was because we planned it that way.  Every bride plans her wedding day to be exactly as she wants it to be.  We’re watching our daughter, Andrea, plan her wedding to Kyle now.  It’s fun to see their special day taking shape. 

No bride and groom plans for things to go awry on their special day.  Sometimes things don’t go as planned on the big day, but the plan is for all to be as perfect as possible.  Perfect plans, planned with perfection…the dress, the tuxes, the flowers, the attendants, the food, the music…each checked off the list as the plans take shape. 

The PLAN!!

Fast forward 39 years, to this morning.

I had a plan for this morning.  I was going to sleep in on this Saturday morning.  My normal wake-up time is 5:30. That’s a.m.  So on a Saturday, I love having no alarm go off.  I love waking up when I wake up, which is never real late but any time past 5:30…A.M.!!…is late for me. 

Part of my careful plan is to even set the coffee-maker alarm for one hour later than normal.  Ahhhh…luxury!!

Therefore, you can understand my irritation when our old Great Dane stood up this morning in our bedroom where he sleeps, and halfway shook himself, and woke me up.  I knew…I just KNEW…what I was going to find.  Jackson doesn’t get up off his mattress on the floor very easily now because he is so old and stiff, but the one time that he will get off his bed is when he either has to go potty, or he already HAS gone potty.

This morning it was the latter.

And it wasn’t even 6:00 yet…which means it was five something…too close to my normal wake-up time for this Saturday morning when I had so carefully planned to sleep late!!

And yeah, there was poop involved, on the floor and on his bed.

I did finally go back to bed after the clean-up, but it just wasn’t the same.

Happy Anniversary day!

Dear Gary had given me flowers yesterday evening, and this morning they were joined by the sweetest card.  Then later, coffee cups in hand, we walked down to our little Mulberry tree with Jackson sniffing all around, and we picked mulberries.  It’s so us, this simple kind of thing.  It’s the simple life that we love in the place that we are.  I was planning breakfast on the patio with the birds and me and Gary, then making his favorite cheesecake, and on I went with my planning.

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Then the back door opened.  Gary and I saw Aaron coming across the yard.  He was early to get up, as well.  We both looked at each other, knowing what we each were thinking.  Aaron joining us wasn’t really in our plan for this morning quite yet.

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Aaron wondered what we were doing.  He was unimpressed with the fact that we were picking mulberries.  He wanted us to be back in the house, where we could see that he had his coffee and where we could listen to him talk.  But we continued picking our mulberries while Aaron walked back to the house, a little in a huff because his morning wasn’t beginning as planned, either.

Soon I did fix our breakfast, where Gary and I were once again joined by Aaron.  He was still a bit huffy and on edge, but bacon helped.  I thought it was quite ironic that he was wearing a shirt that said, “No Bad Days.”  HA!!

I wish it could be that simple, but with Aaron it’s just not.  A day not going as he so carefully plans can set him on the wrong path for sure, and Gary and I are dragged along as well.  But breakfast, and joining me as I watered the flowers, and going with Gary to the hardware store, did a world of good for Aaron…and for us…and so our day has been going along just fine.

Not perfect, though, as we would like to plan for our anniversary to be.  But it’s us, with Aaron, and it’s really what it’s supposed to be.

39 years ago, in that pretty church with all our plans coming together, I would never ever have dreamed of having our 33 year old special needs son still living with us.  It’s not that we don’t love Aaron.  It’s just that having ANY child with special needs, and all that this life entails, would never have been in our master plan. 

But our life, with Aaron, WAS in God’s master plan for us…because He is the Master of our lives.  We’re not.  It really is that simple.

Yet not that easy, on many days and in many ways.  We have questioned and struggled and been angered plenty of times over these years.  And still, God reminds us that our plans are not always His plans.  He tells us that He knows the path that we take, because it’s the path that He put us on.  It may be a path with suffering and pain, with questions and even anger, but it’s always with God beside us and under us and all around us. 

I’m thankful that God also forgives us, because we don’t do this very well on some days.

I looked at my cup of tea this morning as we ate breakfast on the patio, Aaron included.  My tea was in a wonderful mug that our friend, Terri, helped Aaron make for me while we were out of town last week.  He wasn’t sure that he would like painting, as he calls it…and he still isn’t sure that he liked painting.  But he is very proud of that mug.  He even opened the running dishwasher the other night when friends were over so that he could show them his mug that he made for Mom. 

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I will treasure that mug.  I will treasure our Aaron, even on the trying days, with God’s strength.

And I will treasure the careful plan that God has made for our life, including the trying days, with God’s strength. 

Our life began with a plan, and our life will end with a plan. 

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God’s plan!  The best plan!!

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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.