The Cold Snap

We have a little bush in our front flower bed, a perennial that we planted probably 17 years ago.  In fact, I can’t even remember the name of this little bush, so I just call it that – Little Bush.  This hardy bush keeps its leaves on all year long, which is part of its charm.  In the summer the leaves are green with some maroon mixed in, and in the fall and winter the leaves are mostly maroon.  Small berries also grow among the leaves in the fall, so by Christmas it seems to be all decorated for the season.  I really like my Little Bush!

Last year, though, probably starting in March, I noticed that Little Bush didn’t look so healthy.  Its leaves that always stay were falling off, until finally only stark, naked branches were there.

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This was quite unusual, and I was worried.  Was I finally going to lose my long lasting little bush?  Was there something that I could do to save it?

I kept looking at Little Bush, wondering what had happened.  Then one day an article in the newspaper caught my attention.  The headline said something about how certain trees and bushes in Wichita were losing their leaves.  I read the information with interest because of my little bush.  The writer explained that earlier in the winter we had experienced several nights when temperatures had dipped to -10 degrees or lower.  These frigid temperatures had damaged some trees and bushes that normally held their leaves all winter.

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There was my explanation, I thought.  This cold snap had damaged Little Bush.  Then the article went on to assure gardeners not to worry but to be patient…that most trees and bushes would begin to grow again in the warmth of spring because their roots were not damaged by the extreme cold.

So I waited and I observed.  I checked my little bush routinely and sure enough one day I saw tiny new leaves emerging on the empty twigs.

 

As time went on and the days passed, the warm spring sun and the rains did their restorative work.  Little Bush grew…

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And grew…

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Until finally Little Bush was back, as pretty as ever!

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I’ve had some cold snaps in my life, too…times and events that came unexpectedly and with little or no warning.  Everyone has.

Cold snaps hurt.  And they take many various forms.

An illness.  A diagnosis.  Sudden death.  Lingering death.  Rejection.  Accusation.  Betrayal.  Job loss.  Divorce.  A prodigal.  Regret.  Guilt.

I remember my dad’s victory over lung cancer…how relieved and thankful we were when treatments were complete and he was in remission.  But before the five-year mark came the blood work and the testing and the phone call…liver cancer…inoperable…four more years of chemo…hospice…

Cold snap.  Recovery.  Then another cold snap.

But through it all, our family verse brought us each the warmth and the hope that we needed: “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble.”  (Psalm 46:1)

Sometimes our hard times…our cold snaps…make us feel like David when he said, “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long – “Where is your God?”  (Psalm 42:3)

Where is God in our pain?  Oh, He hasn’t gone anywhere!  He’s a very PRESENT help in our trouble, remember?  He’s right here with us.

Right after David said his tears were his food, he said, “Why are you in despair, oh my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His PRESENCE.”  (Psalm 42:5)

My little bush had hope because its roots were secure, and so do we who know and follow Christ.  We have hope in our despair because we know that God is sovereign…He is in control…He has a plan…He is present…and He has a purpose for the cold snaps that rock our world.

“I called on Your name, O Lord, out of the lowest pit.  You have heard my voice.  Do not hide Your ear from my prayer for relief, from my cry for help.  You drew near when I called on You.  You said – “Do not fear!”  (Lamentations 3:55-57)

God is near in our pain…near in our pondering…near in our praise that arises even out of hurt and unanswered questions.

I love these lyrics of Jeremy Camp’s song, He Knows:

 

All the bitter weary ways

Endless striving day by day

You barely have the strength to pray

In the valley low.

And how hard your fight has been

How deep the pain within

Wounds that no one else has seen

Hurts too much to show.

All the doubt you’re standing in between

And all the weight that brings you to your knees.

 

He knows

He knows

Every hurt and every sting

He has walked the suffering.

He knows

He knows

Let your burdens come undone

Lift your eyes up to the one

Who knows

He knows.

 

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It’s NOT a Small World

On a recent night, as Aaron and I watched a video and he ate his tortilla chips, I looked over to see that he had perched a bowl on the ottoman in front of him.  Without even asking, I knew what that bowl was for.  Aaron has multiple bowls for multiple uses, all over the house.  Later, after our video was finished and he had cleaned up his area, I looked inside his bowl that he had brought into the kitchen.  Can you see what’s inside the bowl?

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Very, very tiny crumbs are in the bottom of that bowl.  When Aaron is eating crumbly chips, he likes to have a bowl in which he tries to ensure that the crumbs fall.  It’s easy for me to want to fuss at him for taking a whole bowl for such a few crumbs, but I know that my fussing will not change his bowl habit.  He will find a bowl to use, even if he must hide it under his blanket so that I don’t nag him about it.  Yes, he has done that.  So I just let it go…let him keep his bowl for such a seemingly silly use…and thank the Lord for my dishwasher!

Those little crumbs are a perfect picture of an aspect of Aaron that can be both humorous and maddening.  And as always, it’s up to me to decide which it will be.

So often, persons with autism fixate on what to the rest of us would be such insignificant matters.  Like those small crumbs, we would tend to just brush such matters away without a second thought .  But not Aaron!  Not at ALL Aaron!

Take the word, “of.”  Yes, “of.”

Did you realize that there is a movie entitled, “Battle:  Los Angeles?”  And that there is another movie entitled, “Battle Of Los Angeles?”

Aaron watched these two movies a few weeks ago, so Gary and I became ever so aware…once again, because the same thing happened the LAST time he watched those movies…of the importance of the word, “of.”

“Mom!” Aaron would say as he bound into the kitchen.  “I’m watching Battle:  Los Angeles!  Not the one that has the “Of!”  And off he would go in some long tale of the latest alien doings in “Battle:  Los Angeles.”

Then later:  “Mom, did you know that in Battle Of Los Angeles…not the one I’m watching right now – the one that has the ‘of’…”  And another long story would follow.

And yet again:  “Mom, in Battle of Los Angeles…the ‘of’ one…”

It was of upmost importance that he…and we…and anyone else listening…be clear on whether he was talking about the ‘of’ one or the non-‘of’ one.

Are we clear?!

Such a small matter, but huge to Aaron.

Dinner plates done right are also of utmost importance to Aaron.  A few evenings ago, at supper, Aaron had a barbecued rib on his plate.  He ate the rib, then tolerated us putting some cucumbers and ranch dip on that plate.  He ate the cucumbers and dip, then stood up and opened the cabinet door, and took out another plate.  We had asked him if he wanted another rib, and he said he did, but he didn’t say another word about what we knew was bothering him.  He would NOT put his second rib where cucumbers and dip had been, so a new plate was in order.  With his rib on a clean plate, he was happy.

Meals can be interesting with multiple plates, bowls of various sizes, two or more forks, a spoon and a knife no matter what we’re eating, and always more than one napkin.  May as well not fight it!

Life for Aaron is crammed full of these little crumbs.  Like the old children’s story of the Princess and the Pea, where the princess felt that little pea under all those mattresses, Aaron does feel the weight of all these matters that to us are very small and silly.

Therein lies the problem, though.  They are not small and silly to Aaron.  If we don’t understand that, then we will feel the weight of Aaron’s anger and frustration.  He can’t necessarily verbalize what he is feeling, or even understand it himself, but the issues are huge to him and not to be swept under a rug, so to speak.

Aaron’s life has a certain order to it, and he needs those around him to be on the same page with him.  However, most of us are not only on a different page, we’re in a whole different book!  So we’re always having to be aware of what matters most to Aaron, and when, and why, and how…if at all possible.  Notice I said that we must be aware of what matters…not even understand it…but at least to be aware.  And to place the importance on it that Aaron does.

So there may be more bowls to wash, or plates or silverware.  There may be more undue emphasis on minor little words like ‘of.’  More questions to answer, explanations to wade through, and endless stories and comparisons to endure.

But each little crumb collected in that bowl is a part of the puzzle that is Aaron.  Each sigh that escapes our lips…each roll of our eyes behind his back…each scratch of our head…is just part of the process of piecing together all that is Aaron.

Along with all that, though, is plenty of laughter and lots of smiles…and a view of our world that is anything but small.

 

Life is Like a Coupon Box

I walked into the kitchen on a recent Sunday, after Aaron had completed his usual Sunday coupon clipping chore.  There on the counter lay a Dillon’s coupon, one that I had put into my coupon box several days earlier.  I knew right away what this lone coupon on the counter meant.  It spoke volumes to me as it silently stared up at me…..volumes about our Aaron.

You see, this coupon…

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Does NOT belong among these coupons.

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The Dillon’s coupon is not a regular coupon to Aaron, and only regular Sunday coupons are to be placed…precisely…in the coupon box.

Silly mom for thinking otherwise.

Aaron’s life is like that coupon box.

Aaron wants most things in his world to be done in a certain order…..words said in a particular way…with order and sequence and expected results.  But life doesn’t operate that way, no matter how much Aaron tries to orchestrate it to do so.

I saw a small example of this the other night in our family room.  Aaron was looking forward to watching one of our favorite television shows.  He wanted to know what time it was coming on, so I told him what the television guide said.  BUT…I had to add…the football game that was on earlier would no doubt disrupt even the best planned TV schedule.

The TV guide said our show would air at 8:30, but at 8:30 another program was still on.  Aaron was not happy about this development.  I explained the situation, multiple times, as Aaron sat in his favorite chair with his legs covered by his favorite blanket and with his favorite snack-of-choice on the ottoman in front of him. 

He sat there in misery, staring at his jar of cashews, and not-so-patiently waiting for his program to start.  Football games are the epitome of a messed- up world, in Aaron’s orderly world.  A 15 minute quarter may last 47 minutes, for crying out loud, and THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!! 

So there Aaron sat in his chair, waiting for the other boring show to end so that his anticipated show could start.  But that wasn’t all that wasn’t right in Aaron’s world.  It was the cashews.

You see, he will only eat his snack-of-choice during the actual television program.  Not during the offending show that was still playing.  Not during the commercials.  ONLY during the actual program that is to be seen will he eat his actual snack that is to be eaten.  So he sat there, staring at his open jar of cashews in front of him, but forbidden because of the dumb show that was still on…because of the dumb football game that was before that…on this day that was getting dumber by the minute. 

We made it through that cascading torrent of dumbness…barely…without a meltdown or without Aaron giving up on it all and returning to his room like he threatened to do.  And on the very second that his program appeared on the screen, Aaron’s hand dipped into the jar of cashews and his world was set upright on its axis, as it should be. 

The coupon box once again only held the correct coupons.

Last night, as I waited for Aaron to get his bedtime routine completed, I watched him write down his time-to-bed in his special notebook…a new notebook, by the way.  His other is year’s full of the times he went to bed and the times he got up in the morning.  Aaron wrote down the time…10:14.  He was preparing to close his notebook, but paused and then gave a little sigh as he scribbled something out in his Went-To-Bed column.   

“What happened?” I asked.

“It went to five,” he flatly answered. 

Yes, the time changed the second he finished writing 10:14.  It became 10:15, so he HAD to correct the time in his notebook.  Scribbled-out numbers are unsightly, but far preferred over having the WRONG time recorded. 

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The coupon box was once again correct.

Aaron is slowly working his way through watching the complete old Star Trek television series from the 1960’s.  In the opening monologue before each show, Captain Kirk is referred to as Captain James T. Kirk.  Therefore, Aaron NEVER calls Captain Kirk just Captain Kirk.  Captain Kirk is Captain JAMES T. KIRK, people!!

So this conversation happened the other day:

“Mom, who’s your favorite Star Trek character?” Aaron asked.

“Hmmm…” I pondered.  “I guess it would be Captain Kirk.”

Aaron looked at me blankly, as if I had mentioned a foreign character from another show and another time and another planet and another galaxy.

“Who?!” he questioned.

“Captain Kirk,” I repeated.

He continued to stare at me.

Finally…

“You mean, Captain James T. Kirk?” he queried.

Oh, how I wanted to double over in a total belly laugh!!!

But doing so would have highly offended Aaron, so I had to just answer him as seriously as if I was agreeing to the outcome of a very serious discussion about a profound world event.

“Yes,” I sincerely replied.  “Captain James T. Kirk.”

Aaron was very relieved to have this issue settled, and so his Star Trek discussion was continued.

The coupon box was aright once more.

It’s vital that those who live and work with Aaron understand how very profoundly his life and his happiness is tied to the order that he alone sets for himself…and expects everyone else to understand and follow.  Sometimes his desired order can’t be followed, but we must know how to guide Aaron through those times.  Those times when the wrong coupon is in his box, and Aaron most definitely will react, are times that demand great patience on our part. 

When Aaron is deeply frustrated, angry, defiant, or confused is very often a time when the wrong coupon is in the box.  We can’t always see it and we don’t always expect his strong reactions, but we…and everybody else who works with Aaron…had just best realize that there is more going on inside that brain of his than we will probably ever know or even remotely understand. 

It can be so hard and challenging and maddening to us at times…and we know Aaron better than anybody on the planet.  We love him more than anyone, too.  Imagine how very difficult it can be for others to achieve this level of understanding!  And how very impacting in our lives it can be for this lack of understanding to affect us, and Aaron, in a very negative way! 

We have been very blessed with some amazing, kind, understanding people in Aaron’s life.  We have also seen the damage that can come from those who don’t get it.  We have watched this damaging impact in the lives of others whom we know and love, as well, who have special children that have their own coupon box.

Let’s give grace to our children…to the parents of these special ones…and try to comprehend just what each one’s coupon box is really all about. 

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Laughing Again

Sometimes Aaron talks in his sleep.  He has conversations that are so clear it’s as if he’s awake, talking to me or Gary.  I hear him because I keep a baby monitor with me when Aaron is asleep, to listen for seizures.  One recent morning, I heard this “sleep talking” from Aaron, and I quickly wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget.

“Mom,” he said.  “In the movie theater, when I was laughing, I couldn’t see myself laughing.  I want to see myself laughing…..again.”

I have no idea what he may have been dreaming that prompted this little conversation.  But I sure have been thinking about it, wondering if deep in Aaron’s mind there is more meaning to this than I…..or Aaron…..knows.

Aaron goes through highs and lows emotionally as well as physically.  Lately, we’ve been having more lows.  He doesn’t want to go to his day group, Paradigm.  Then he goes, and is at times verbal and physical with staff and clients alike.  Sometimes he’s trying to tease and other times he is genuinely angry, but both times he can be hurtful.  He does so much better one-on-one, and most times he doesn’t participate in the group activities.  It’s just sometimes one thing after another during these low times.

Aaron is unfiltered.  Sometimes it’s funny…..sometimes it’s not.  He can tell you to shut up one minute, and the next minute be wanting to tell you something funny……and then wondering why you’re not laughing.  He’s so complex!!!  So frustrating!!!  And so endearing and heart breaking, too.

He knows when he’s done something wrong, but he just can’t seem to stop himself from doing it first, before the knowing kicks in – in time to stop the doing.  Make sense?  That’s our world.

So when he said that he wants to see himself laughing….again….I had to wonder if he is deep down genuinely wanting to be happier, like he used to be more than he is now, and hopefully will be again. 

When I pick Aaron up from Paradigm, I never know if I’m going to see happy Aaron:

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Or pensive Aaron:

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One night last week, I was so tired and so done with some ways Aaron was acting that I was the one who lost control.  I laid down the law with him, but I did it through gritted teeth and a pointing finger.  Yes, I was that tired and upset.  So the next morning, Aaron stood by me and said, “Mom, I’m telling Barb that you grind your teeth!!”

Barb is his second mother – his favorite Paradigm person.

“I don’t grind my teeth,” I replied to Aaron.

“Yes you do!!” he asserted forcefully.  “Last night you went like this!!”  And he clamped his teeth together and bared his lips, much like a rabid dog.

Oh dear.  Is that what I looked like to Aaron?  Probably.

But more than how he said I looked, his comment was a glimpse into how it hurt him for me to respond to him the way I did.

I’m so thankful for every new day, and for God’s new mercies that He shows me every new day.  Those are the same mercies I must extend to Aaron, hard as it sometimes is.

You know what’s really hard?  It’s really hard to remember who has the special needs here.  Sometimes Aaron is so high functioning that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that his brain does not operate like mine.  And also easy to lose sight of the reality that he deeply feels his struggles more than we can know.

A day or two after I gritted my teeth with Aaron, I noticed that our house was getting a little dark.  The sun had been shining so brightly, but I looked outside to see a dark storm cloud forming right over our house.  Then I heard thunder, and next came a few large raindrops.  Nothing even showed on the radar at this point, but I sure saw and heard our little storm that soon moved on east of us and became a big storm in Wichita. 

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And I thought of what a picture that is of life with Aaron.  He can be our personal storm, loud and disruptive, and then move on to Paradigm to do more of the same there. 

But on this day of our storm cloud, Barb had called to say that Aaron had a bad day.  She said that her daughter, who has Barb’s kind heart, wanted to take Aaron to Wal-Mart.  I agreed, and then when I picked him up later he was so very happy.  He held a Dr. Pepper, and was full of laughter and talk about their little adventure.  What a difference Casady made in Aaron’s outlook with that one simple kindness!  The rain had ended and the sun was shining, both literally and in Aaron’s heart.

And this week, Aaron hurt his friend’s arm by being too rough as they were goofing off or as he greeted her…..I don’t know which.  He broke his glasses in anger on the same day.  Another storm cloud.

He didn’t go to Paradigm the next day.  I took him to Carlos O’Kelly’s for lunch.  It’s one of his very favorite places.  We had a wonderful server who has two special needs boys.  She was so good with Aaron, and I relaxed.  I just watched Aaron eating his food.  He loved every single bite.  He asked to go to Best Buy.  I’ve been saying no to that, but I agreed and off we went…..with Aaron happily pocketing two toothpicks to add to his toothpick collection.

He strolled through Best Buy, looking at this and that, and not asking to buy anything.  He just wanted to look.  It felt good to make him happy in such a simple way……lunch and Best Buy. 

He’s so dependent on us for these times out…..and so dependent on us for his happiness.  Despite our tiredness…..our frustrations…..our ineptness…..our failures…..he needs us. 

I want to see Aaron growing, learning, controlling himself, being responsible.  Like any parent, right?  It’s just a little more difficult for those of us with these issues like we have with Aaron.

But I must agree with Aaron.  Maybe on most days, more than anything, I want to see Aaron laughing again…..laughing from his heart.

And I want AARON to see himself laughing again, happy and having fun, knowing that he is loved. Loved by his Paradigm staff……loved by me and Gary…..loved by friends and family.

And most of all, created and loved by God. 

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You Want to WHAT?!

Yesterday I took Aaron to Great Clips.  I have so many stories that have come out of our Great Clips “haircut/beard trim/anything else on the face that can be buzzed” visits.  So there we were, with me telling Aaron to not barge in the door without me, but he did anyway, as always.  He marched up to the counter and then just stood there staring down at the tempting Dum Dum Sucker bouquet in a bowl that sat there.  I told the stylist that we had checked in online, she said we were next, and I told Aaron to follow me and to not get a Dum Dum until we were done done. 

I didn’t really say done done but I thought it sounded cute.  😊

Aaron would have thought I was weird.

So we sat down to wait for a minute.  I told Aaron to hand me his glasses, and his watch.  He, for some reason known only to him, also removes his watch when it’s time for his haircut.  I have gotten many a smile from people as they watch Aaron remove his glasses and then his watch.  I’ve also told many people to be thankful that this is ALL that Aaron removes!

Anyway, I told Aaron to hand me his glasses and his watch so that he could be all ready when the girl finished sweeping up the hair on the floor.  Aaron was watching the hair sweeping with great concentration. 

“Hand me your glasses,” I repeated.  But Aaron softly said no as he shook his head and continued to focus on the girl and the broom.

I waited a few seconds.

“OK, hand me your glasses,” I said again.

But again Aaron said no as he intently watched the stylist finish her sweeping.

I decided to test it one more time, knowing full well what Aaron was doing.  And one more time, he would not remove his glasses.

“All right, Aaron, I’m ready,” the girl said. 

And as if a spell was broken, Aaron came to attention.  He took off his glasses, handing them to me, and then off came his watch. 

You see, Aaron wouldn’t remove his glasses until his name was called.  It’s the same reason he won’t eat ice cream when watching television unless the show is on.  He will NOT eat ice cream during commercials because commercials are NOT part of the show, and he wants to eat ice cream during the show. 

Get it?

Well, we better get it because Aaron is NOT going to change.  These are just two very small examples of how Aaron does things Aaron’s way.  I looked at his glasses and his watch laying in the chair beside me, and I thought of the example they were of Aaron’s world, lived Aaron’s way.

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Sometimes Aaron’s ways are funny.  Like walking into Subway today after I picked him up from his day group, and reminding him again to stay with me and to enter quietly.

Who am I kidding?

And the staring man sitting there did not sit well with me, by the way.  Good grief!  Aaron’s not an alien, much as he would love to be!

But I didn’t have time to dwell on rude staring men because Aaron was at the counter and he was not ordering a sandwich.  He was telling the nice girl about his upcoming day tomorrow at his day group.

“Guess what movie Paradigm is going to see tomorrow?” he asked this perfect stranger, as if he had known her forever.  She smiled but was a little taken aback.  Aaron has that effect.  He offers no “hello,”……no “how are you?”……..no introduction of any kind.  He just launches into whatever is on his mind at the moment.

And he rubs his hands together while he talks, at differing speeds depending on his depth of excitement at what he is telling.  This time his hands were probably at a slow to medium pace.  Kind of mesmerizing, actually.

Aaron didn’t pay attention to me trying to distract him……trying to get him to just place his order instead of telling this stranger all about his coming day. 

“What movie?” she asked with a welcome smile.  She was getting it.

“We’re going to go see THE MUMMY!!!!!” Aaron exclaimed, his hands now at a moderately fast pace.  “Have you heard of that movie??!!”

Somehow we ordered a club on Italian with extra cheese in between mummy comments.  All was done, I had paid, and was sure that we were free to leave.  A young man who worked there had just wheeled out a large display of chips that needed to be placed just past where we were standing, so I was urging Aaron to follow me. 

Oh, but Aaron had one more thing to say.

“I love Natalie!!” he blurted out, “and I want to marry her but my Mom says I CAN’T marry her!!!”    

Well.

I would have hummed the theme song to Days of Our Lives if I knew it.  This day of my life had just turned more interesting than it already was. 

I didn’t dare look at the rude staring man. 

Aaron’s hands were now at a furious pace……a smoking pace.

The girl just smiled, a very large smile.

The boy whose head was poking out from behind the chips display was deciding whether his smile was OK, so I smiled back to assure him that it was.  What else is one to do? 

I told Aaron that it REALLY was time to go.  I always wonder what people who experience Aaron like this tell their families or friends when they go home.

Aaron has been a huge mixture lately of ups and downs as he adjusts to a medicine increase, and whatever else is going on in that brain of his.  I’ve been pretty exhausted with it……very frustrated at how he’s been treating us and treating others, especially our friend who visited from Arizona……just plain tired and weary.

But there are times of laughter, too, and times when Aaron’s way of doing life is just downright hilarious if you can only step back beyond embarrassment and enjoy it. 

Easier said than done some days, but Aaron’s not going to wait on us to figure it out.  He’s already burst through that next door and found someone else to talk to!

 

Take Time

Last year, especially in the fall, we were having a terrible time with Aaron’s behaviors.  He was generally miserable, and so therefore everyone around him was miserable as well.  Poor behaviors, no filters, and an inability to figure out cause and effect, can certainly produce some headaches for everyone.  It’s the side of autism as well as the effects of seizures, at least for Aaron and for others that I know, that is most difficult to understand.  Difficult, too, to have compassion and empathy for our adult Aaron when he is hurtful with his words and careless with his actions. 

Aaron seems so high functioning.  He is, in many ways, just that.  So it’s very hard to decipher when he is manipulating us and being willfully disobedient, and when he is truly on a track that he just cannot control. 

We see a wonderful psychiatrist for Aaron’s autism.  Gary and I resisted any drug intervention for a long time, but eventually years ago we decided it was time to see if medicines would help Aaron.  Several have been tried over the years. We feel that we have found a beneficial drug now.  The change in Aaron has been dramatic, for the better.  Perfection?  No.  But the improvement we’ll take, for sure!

Since we increased Aaron’s dose of this medicine in January, he has done so well at his day group and at home that it’s been like a vacation.  Well, not totally – but definitely we have seen positive strides. 

But then this week happened.  It’s not been over-the-top awful with Aaron, but he hasn’t been his chipper and happy self as much as in the past few months, either.  He had been collecting steam for two days, disgruntled in the mornings and just very edgy.  Yesterday morning he was fully on track for a bad day, and I didn’t have the ability to derail him, try as I might. 

To add to the volatile mix, I am very vulnerable right now.  Honestly, I don’t handle holidays very well sometimes.  That’s because I miss our two kids who live too far away to come home quickly.  My loneliness for them runs deep during holiday time…..any holiday……and I am more emotional.  Easter is this Sunday.  I love what this time of year is all about.  I long to live every moment in the victory that is mine in Christ.  Then along comes Aaron…..

God bless him!  I picked him up from his day group yesterday.  For maybe one minute things were fine.  Then he told me that he had given his money away….again….and that he did do this and didn’t do that.  And I was just done.  I didn’t yell, but I lectured, which is almost always ineffective with Aaron.  We can do this and we won’t do that and maybe so-and-so……  And I was cold and distant, which makes Aaron feel abandoned. 

We were home, I was in the kitchen, and Aaron kept coming in to say one more word…..to throw one more barb at me.  It’s amazing to see how he thinks.  How I can be making a profound point, eyeball to eyeball with him, and then to have him open his mouth and still be way back at where he was in the beginning, totally not connecting things the way most of us would. 

He finally bent over, hands rubbing furiously together like he does when he’s excited…..but this time he was NOT excited……and his eyes were wide and wild. 

“I don’t love you anymore!!” he said through firm lips. 

And he waited for my response.  I turned my back and it hit me.  I am vulnerable.  I am tired.  I am emotional. 

It’s the perfect time for Satan to attack.  He is no gentleman.  He loves to kick Christians when we are down.  I knew that the adversary of my soul would have been thrilled for me to lash out at Aaron with my words……to release all my pent up anger at him……and then to blame my reaction on Aaron and on my emotions and even on the upcoming holiday! 

I had asked some friends earlier in the day to pray for Aaron.  I know they were praying for me, as well.  And there in the kitchen, with my back to angry Aaron, I prayed, too.  I asked God for peace, for wisdom, and especially for Satan to be defeated right then and there.  I claimed God’s power over our home and over this situation, recognizing that His power was and is all that I need. 

I hoped for time with Gary alone when he came home from work, before Aaron bombarded him unexpectedly with all the sordid details of the day.  That doesn’t often happen, but God was so good.  Aaron was busy in his room when I saw Gary’s truck pull in.  I was able to meet him in the garage, where he knew right away that something was wrong.  We had alone time to talk before Aaron burst through the door.  Gary was ready then, able to be kind and calm, with understanding. 

I was amazed at the happy Aaron that came in the house soon after!  He ate supper with us and acted as if nothing happened.  I was so thankful!  And after Gary and I cleaned the table, Gary told me to come with him as he headed out the door for a walk around the yard.  That sounded wonderful to me!

But it also sounded wonderful to Aaron, who of course knew what we were doing.  My heart sank a little as he followed us outside.  He didn’t care that he was wearing his pajamas already…..didn’t care who might see him……didn’t care that he wasn’t wearing shoes.  So I told him to take off his socks, and he happily joined us for a stroll outside. 

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It actually turned into a very sweet time.  Gary showed Aaron the sunflower plants that were popping up in the garden from last year’s seeds that had dropped in the soil.  Gary pointed out the deer tracks all around, the toad jumping in the water, the clearing he’s been doing out back, and the new grass seed planted.  He pointed out an ant hill and how busy the ants were working.

He showed Aaron how the oak tree is budding and how the buds look like baby pineapples.

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He showed Aaron the oak tree seed pods that fly like a helicopter when you throw them in the air…..things that Aaron knows but that are fun to see again with fresh eyes.  Then Aaron threw one up and watched it land.

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Suddenly Aaron remembered something that HE wanted to show Gary.  It’s something that I had pointed out to Aaron a couple days earlier. 

“DAD!!!  Come look at this plant!” Aaron insisted.

We followed Aaron, with me knowing where he was headed, and we found him standing there just staring at the Lilac bush.  I love the way he stops and stares at things that interest him, as if he’s absorbing every detail…..which he probably is.

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Aaron then leaned over and smelled the sweet lilac scent, and Gary and I followed. 

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I was filled with more than the smell of lilacs.  I was filled with reminders of how important it is to give Aaron time…..time to work through his frustrations and anger without losing mine.  Time to hopefully express himself better.  Time to join Gary and me in a few moments of simple pleasures.  Time for him to see and to know that he is loved.  Time to hopefully show him how to live in thankfulness for all that God has given him. 

If I’ve learned anything with Aaron and with autism, it’s that taking time is absolutely necessary. 

Take time to smell the flowers.

Take time to understand our Aaron.

What Will I Wear?

Aaron notices much more than we sometimes give him credit for.  I love how he will point something out to us, often something that we never paid attention to at all, and then offer his comments on it…..of course……whether we want to hear them or not.  We usually DO want to hear what Aaron has to say, but trust me – there are times when we do NOT want to hear what comes out of Aaron’s mouth. 

Aaron rarely gives any thought to whether we want to hear his observations or not.  His insights may be new, or they may be ones that we have heard over and over and over and over…..and over……again.  It doesn’t matter one whit to Aaron.  He would probably implode if he didn’t talk, so talk he does……and we listen, regardless.

He shares things with perfect strangers, too.  I took Aaron to Wal-Mart with me after I picked him up from Paradigm on Friday.  Aaron was happy that I had found a soft fuzzy blanket on sale and that I had put it in our cart. 

“Is it for ME?” he hopefully asked.  But when I told him it was for our aging Great Dane, Jackson, Aaron was not at all disappointed.  He loves Jackson. 

Aaron sat on the bench near the register as I checked out.  I loved the look on his face as I looked at him and smiled.  Inside I was hoping not to hear him blessing us all with his ear splitting loud clapping…..or a silly ‘meow’……..or a fox whistle……or a very embarrassing farting noise. 

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But Aaron didn’t stay on the bench for very long.  No.  He saw the cashier ring up the soft fuzzy blanket, which reminded him that he had something important to share with her.  He didn’t care one bit that he didn’t know our nice Wal-Mart associate.  He did know, though, that she needed to know something.

So he got up from the bench and purposefully marched over to where she and I were finishing my transaction.  He pointed to the soft fuzzy blanket.

“That’s for our dog.  He’s nine years old and he has weakening in his muscles.”

She thought that was so nice to be buying our dog such a nice soft fuzzy blanket.  She and I were starting to have a dog conversation when we heard Aaron again.

“LOOK!!” he blurted out.  And there he stood, lifting up his right arm and showing the poor unsuspecting soul his yucky yellow and purple bruise on his arm. 

“Aaron…..” I started, but he barreled right over me.

“My desk chair fell on top of me when I was reaching for apples and peanut butter, and I got a bruise!!” he explained. 

She showed him his desired amount of shock and sympathy while I tried to hurry up my payment.  Knowing smiles were exchanged between us as I readied to leave.  Well, knowing smiles shared quickly between her and me. Aaron was already off in search of his next victim, so I had to run.

So back to what Aaron notices, and then shares all too fully with us…..or anyone else who is fortunate enough to be nearby.

On Thursday I wore this blouse.

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Aaron came into the kitchen, looked at me with his head tilted to the side, and then offered his opinion.

“That shirt looks like it should be colored,” he commented.

This forced me to look with new eyes at my shirt. 

“Aaron,” I asked.  “Does this remind you of the adult coloring books that you and I have seen?”

“YES!!!” he replied, so excited that I had gotten what he was trying to convey.  “It looks like it should be colored!”

“Do you like this shirt?” I asked.  And he told me that he did like my coloring shirt, very much. 

So on that day I was fun.

The next day I wore this blouse. 

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Aaron had come in the bedroom and seen me wearing it, before I added a sweater.

“WOW!!” he said, in awe.  “You look like a princess!”

I just laughed.  A princess?  But there was something about this blouse that he loved, and so he saw me as someone very special as I wore it. 

On Sunday, as I was getting ready for church, Aaron came in the bathroom and saw me wearing this blouse.

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“Ewwww,” he said in a measure of disgust.

“What’s wrong?” I asked him.

“What you have on,” he answered. 

“Don’t you like it?” I asked.

“NO!” he replied.  “It’s ugly.”

There was something about it that wasn’t fun like my coloring blouse and wasn’t special like my princess blouse.  This blouse, to Aaron, was ugly……ugly enough to him that he reacted instantly to it.  He wasn’t trying to be mean.  He was just being honest.  The design; the colors that he saw since he’s color blind, perhaps; or maybe the style – whatever it was, he didn’t like it one bit.

I’ve thought about all this since our morning yesterday.  Aaron was not one bit happy to be going back to Paradigm after enjoying his weekend.  I’ve learned to just let him work through it, to not force the issue, but to let him make the decision.  He knows the consequences of going and of not going, so it’s good to let him be the one to choose. 

But yesterday, on this Monday, he was extra unhappy and extra grouchy.  Downright hateful a couple times. 

“I want a break!!” he angrily told me.

“You just had a break,” I told him back, but not angrily.  I know better.

“When was my break?!” he wanted to know.

“Saturday and Sunday,” I answered as I fixed my hair.

“Don’t say that Saturday and Sunday were my break!!” he told me.

“OK,” I said.

So I’m fairly certain he came in the bathroom a dozen times, each time saying with more and more anger, “Don’t say that Saturday and Sunday were my break!!”

He continued on down his anger path.  I didn’t react……I breathed deeply……I prayed…..and I looked forward to Aaron making up his angry mind about what he wanted to do. 

He finally came in the bathroom, bent over while he rubbed his hands together, and said, “I don’t love you anymore!!!!”

Then he was spent.  I was, too.  He walked away, calmed down, went to Paradigm while he happily listened to music, and the storm passed. 

What I wear, in a sense……what I display to Aaron when he is so angry…..makes a huge difference in the outcome.  It’s much like my blouses that caused a reaction in Aaron.  If I show anger when he is angry, the result is explosive and nothing is accomplished.  If I show patience, then he sees that his anger isn’t accomplishing what he hoped it would.  If I ignore him totally for awhile, he becomes uncomfortable and realizes that he has crossed a line. 

I can choose what I wear during these episodes just as much as I chose those three different blouses on three different days.  Will I be fun, or special, or ugly? Every situation with Aaron is different, too, so I need wisdom…..which is a big reason that I pray.

Oh, I get upset, too.  I mutter under my breath……think not-so-kind thoughts……and if Gary’s here, he is at times my sounding board, as I am his. 

But still, what I wear in front of Aaron is so important.  Above all, I must wear unconditional love.  It’s hard sometimes to do that, especially when he tells me he doesn’t love me anymore.  Thankfully, that doesn’t happen often, but when he does go that far, I struggle.

When I picked Aaron up from Paradigm that afternoon, he acted as if nothing had happened between us at all.  And last night, as we watched Wheel of Fortune, Aaron starting rubbing his hands together wildly.

“MOM??!!” he loudly said, “I LOVE YOU!!”

Which is Aaron’s way of saying that he is sorry, and that he does love me for real.

I slipped on some forgiveness right then.

“I love you, too, Aaron.”

It felt very nice, maybe like the princess blouse.  And fun, like the coloring blouse. 

I’m thankful the ugly was gone, at least for now.