Life has been pretty tempestuous and I’m not just talking about a whirling mess out in the Gulf by the name of Laura. We’ve had our own commotion under our roof. Hurricane Aaron has been building for several days and the other night we were inundated with his storm surge. Honestly, though, my outburst was stronger than his by a long shot!
Ah, the wonders and joys of autism. Aaron wants…needs…routine and predictability and all his things in all their proper places. Upheaval of any kind creates stress for him, and stress for Aaron inevitably creates stress for Gary and me as his parents and caregivers.
The stresses around us that cause us angst do affect him because his level world is easily tipped by what Gary and I are going through. Aaron expects us to stay as level as he needs us to be, but we all know that life just isn’t that way.
When Aaron sees Gary and me off kilter, he will then seek to identify what is bothering us. Then that person or that event becomes the enemy because they have affected him. Aaron doesn’t mean to be narcissistic. That delightful character trait is part and parcel with autism. We know that fact in our heads but sometimes the understanding doesn’t transfer to our hearts during the turmoil.
Several events have impacted us over this past week. A hoped-for trip to Indiana to see our son didn’t happen. Disappointment over changed plans crept in.
Then last week we grieved with our daughter and son-in-law, Kyle and Andrea, over the sudden serious health issues of one of their beloved dogs. Aries started having seizures. The next week was heart-rending as he declined drastically. So, this past Friday they made that awful end-of-life decision. Gary and I were so sad, but I also think that seeing our children’s grief increased our own. We loved Aries, and we love Kyle and Andrea, so our sorrow was two-fold.
This is the prayer Kyle prayed the night they said goodbye to Aries:
Aaron really can’t handle seeing us cry but try as we might he did see our tears over the loss of Aries. We now had the double whammy of changed trip plans and heartbreak over Aries.
However, we were only halfway done with disruptions. Out in the ocean, Tropical Storm Laura was brewing. Kyle and Andrea live to the east of Houston, near the water. Kyle works on a fast responder ship, and those huge vessels don’t stay in the harbor during a hurricane. Fast forward to today: Kyle is now on the ship up in one of the channels and will stay there indefinitely. Andrea is home alone with their other 3 doggies. She knows she is welcome to go to Kyle’s parent’s home a little further inland but it’s not best to leave your home if you can possibly stay. So, Gary flew to Houston yesterday and is there with her, which is such a comfort. His retirement a month ago is a blessing!
Aaron senses our concern about all this hurricane business. He usually likes to watch the progress of hurricanes, but not this time. Why? Because Gary and I are spending too much time, in Aaron’s opinion, monitoring Hurricane Laura…wondering about Kyle and Andrea…planning Gary’s sudden trip…and talking on the phone. No matter how calm we are, all this time and talk is unusual to Aaron. Sometimes it takes time away from Aaron.
On Monday evening, as I finished looking once again at the Weather Channel, Aaron became rude and I became undone. I lost my temper and lost my cool, and Aaron reacted, and we had our own tempest in the family room. These things do happen, especially when we are stressed, but then the tension and guilt are increased. It takes some doing to un-do it all.
Aaron paced in and out of the family room where I still sat. We tried to watch a Little House episode but he just could not settle down so he chose to end it and go to bed. But he kept coming back to me with one more word of anger. Then he finally stood in front of me.
“I know what I’ll do!!” he belligerently said.
And with that, he stuck his tongue out at me.
I tell you, I just had to laugh. He didn’t mean for it to be hilarious, but it was. I kept my laugh to a minimum and somehow he didn’t get more angry, but it was just really funny.
I knew when Aaron was finally OK by what happened soon after. He came bounding once again into the family room, stared at me, and then said:
“Mom? Do you know what a sea mine is?”
A sea mine?! But I was actually quite relieved to be talking about sea mines. Aaron is playing Battleship on his computer, so talk of sea mines was perfectly normal for him. It showed that he had at last moved beyond our anger and beyond the unsettled surroundings of his world, and he was back to his normal. I didn’t care one bit about sea mines but trust me, at this point sea mines were a very welcome reprieve!
Aaron’s normal rarely involves human emotion or important life events that impact us. These issues cause him distress, so he quickly reverts to talk of battleships and sea mines and gun turrets and whatever else comprises his focus at that time. Gary and I so often shake our heads, but we know we must jump on board with Aaron in order to preserve our peace. It’s both very frustrating and very fascinating to see how his mind works.
There is one more thing going on. Aaron’s bedroom remodel begins tomorrow. Gary and I had to empty it before Gary left for Houston. That caused some anxiety, to say the least. But beyond that is the fact that now Aaron is in another bedroom where all his things are NOT in their normal place.
“Mom!! This bed isn’t like my bed!!”
“Mom!! I like my lamp better!!”
“Mom!! I don’t like this hard floor!!”
“Mom!! I hope I’m not getting a hard floor!!”
“Mom!! I want to keep my carpet!!”
“Mom!! My chair doesn’t work right on this hard floor!!”
Shall I continue?
No. But Aaron will, trust me.
I took Aaron to Outback yesterday after we dropped Gary off at the airport. Aaron was in his happy place…a restaurant with his choice of food! As we munched on the warm bread and butter, Aaron looked down at the two pieces left on the cutting board.
“Mom,” he said, “you can have this one and I’ll have the other one.”
I laughed because the one he generously gave to me was the much smaller piece while he got the bigger one. And it just reminded me of how life is with Aaron. He doesn’t mean to be this way, but he does require the bigger part of our time and of our understanding and of our attention.
Therefore, Gary and I require a bigger part of God’s grace and God’s understanding and God’s strength on days such as we have had this past week.
And God’s forgiveness when we blow it.
I’m so thankful that He understands.
And I was so thankful to see Aaron smile yesterday as I was able to restore some of his normal. It’s my responsibility, yes, but also my joy as his mother and his caregiver.
By the way, in the eye of the storm there is peace. God’s peace, which never fails, is there for me.
I’m thankful for that, too, during each storm!