I’m a southern girl. Well, from southern West Virginia – born and bred – so no matter what the Civil War folks say about my home state, I still consider myself to be from the south.
I guess that’s why sometimes I just want to look at Aaron when he’s being a particular form of disagreeable and just say, “MERCY!! AARON!!”
And then tell him that he just needs to hush!!
When I talk to Andrea or Andrew on the phone, Aaron invariably barges in the room and wants to talk. This happened on Saturday evening as Andrea and I were gabbing away. I knew Aaron would persist until I caved, so I finally put the phone on speaker and off Aaron went.
He was particularly fixated on Luigi’s Mansion 3 – his newest Nintendo Switch game. And he was even more fixated on going over Luigi and Gooigi. I think I spelled that right.
He wanted Andrea to know who Gooigi is. What Gooigi is made of. What color Gooigi is. What Gooigi looks like. What Gooigi does.
Andrea, ever patient with her brother, commented on everything Aaron said. She even asked questions…good questions…which fanned Aaron’s flames and off he blazed.
Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.
It took me awhile to put out the flames. I usually have to end the talking by telling Aaron to say goodbye, after he has pushed me away several times from taking back the phone.
Never once does he ask about Andrea or Kyle, or Darcy or Oakley or Aries or Siggy…all dogs, by the way. 😊
For some reason on Sunday evening, Aaron kept referring to that phone call. He declared that I only wanted to talk to Andrea…that I never talk to him (REALLY??!!)…that I would hardly let him talk to her…and so forth and so on.
Everything is bad to Aaron when he gets like this, including the fact that I am a bad mom. I eventually shut down when this happens, meaning that I do not fan the flames of Aaron’s anger by things I say. Even my eyes – “Don’t squint your eyes, MOM!!”…or my voice inflections, can increase his anger.
Nothing that I say helps. Nothing that Gary says helps.
Aaron’s lack of empathy and his inability to connect the dots like we do is a most frustrating part of his autism.
The next morning, weary and bothered, I thought of how my friend – a manager at Aaron’s day group – deals with these issues on the day after they occur. Aaron often doesn’t want to go to Paradigm on that “next day” after he has blown it, but Barb always reminds him of an important truth.
“It’s a new day, Aaron,” she says. “We just start all over and don’t let yesterday bother us.”
Thinking of that…of a new day…reminded me also of the wonderful promise in Lamentations 3:22-23:
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”
God’s love and mercy to me, no matter how much I sin, is new every morning. And I know that I must also face every new morning with Aaron in the light of God’s loving-kindness to me.
If God is so loving and kind to me, how can I be any less to Aaron?
That next morning was still a little rough on Aaron’s part. And then when I picked him up in the afternoon, as I watched him approach the van, I saw him stop and turn, running back into the building.
He returned, holding a paper that blew in the wind as he ran toward me again, his face all smiles.
“MOM!!” he said as he got in the van. “I colored this for you!”
With great delight he handed me this picture:
I was so touched. So amazed.
Amazed that Aaron sat still long enough to color.
Touched that he wanted to mend our fences in such a sweet way.
And both amazed and touched that it was a cross he colored for me.
You see, it’s because of the cross that I can even begin to love Aaron as I should, especially when he is at times so unlovable.
It’s because Jesus died for me, and because He is my Savior, that I AM loved and that I CAN love.
And I love how the old King James Version says that verse I wrote earlier. “It is because of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.”
I am not consumed by hatred and sin or God’s judgment, but only because of God’s love and mercy.
Love and mercies that are new every morning.
Like I said, how can I love Aaron any less when I am so loved by God?
One more thing. The cross is also the reason that I can bear the sadness and fear of Aaron’s 3:00 a.m. seizure today, and another one later. The reason I can see him sleeping again now and know he may likely seize again.
The reason I can bear up under the disappointment of our doctor day being canceled…because doctor day means, to Aaron, eating out day. And he does LOVE eating out! It’s always a fun and happy day, but not today.
Aaron goes through these disappointments and rough days often, which means I do as well.
But like the verses above said, great is God’s faithfulness. He doesn’t leave me to handle it all alone. He is right beside me, my best friend, with His mercies and love that give me His peace that passes understanding.
Speaking of understanding, I won’t even go into all the detail of having to wash Aaron’s favorite fuzzy blanket today because he spilled coffee on it…and how it’s the only blanket that he wants to use on his lap when he’s at his desk…or on the couch.
About trying other blankets.
Rejecting those blankets.
Checking his blanket in the wash.
Observing me putting it in the dryer.
Following me around the house because without a blanket he can’t sit or lay.
Aaron has a way of repeating what we say but changing just one word or even just one letter, and so making us laugh or pause in thought. He has a uniquely Aaron way of expressing himself.
That is, after all, the reason I started this blog and the reason I named it He Said What?!
For instance, yesterday we had some rough weather move through our neck of these Kansas woods. Aaron was concerned, asking about the storms and wondering if he should turn off his computer.
I’ve often shown him the radar and pointed out some storms headed in our direction. I sometimes refer to them as a clump of storms coming our way.
So, as he followed me around the house and fretted over his computer being hit by lightning, he said, “Mom! Is that lump of storms going to hit us?!”
Two words, so similar, yet somehow the difference was enough to make me laugh.
Aaron has become a fan of the television show Chicago Fire. In December the fall finale had the typical…and very unrealistic…cliffhanger. Aaron has talked and talked and talked and talked about those canisters in that basement, surrounded by fire, and whether they would blow up or not!!!
I told him that this was a cliffhanger. Aaron, who is very literal, saw no cliff in that fall finale. He also saw no one hanging from a cliff in that basement.
I therefore…and not for the first time…explained that a cliffhanger is when the show’s producers leave you hanging on after the last show of the season in order to make you come back and watch the first show of the new season.
But here is Aaron’s take:
“MOM!! I can’t wait till January 8th!!
Then he waits for me to ask why he can’t wait till January 8th.
“Because that’s when Chicago Fire comes back on!!”
Then he waits for me to show excitement. I am a good actress.
“Remember how they left us hanging OFF??!!”
Then I laugh. He thinks my laughter is an expression of my excitement over Chicago Fire resuming.
But my laughter is really about the way he changed my original phrase.
Are we hanging ON…or hanging OFF?
His change-up of that one little word has had me pondering over the past few days.
Hanging OFF a cliff is a scary situation, to put it mildly.
Hanging ON, to me, conveys hope.
In life, when I am hanging off a cliff of fear or dread or disappointment…or any number of other scenarios…I must remind myself to hang ON.
I hang ON to God and to the hope that He gives me.
How often our life with Aaron changes! We can so quickly go from enjoying life:
To the suddenness of seizures:
The above picture was right after Aaron’s third seizure on Christmas Eve, just as we were getting ready to play Christmas Bingo as we Skyped with Kyle and Andrea from Houston.
It’s a stretch for Aaron to want to play games. My first heart reaction was to wonder why. Why must he have a seizure when he was actually willing to sit with us and play a game?
Sometimes his seizures keep him from participating in something that he really wanted to do. That makes me sad for him. Disappointed.
He did arouse enough to play Bingo, but I played his card because he was uncoordinated and shaky…and grouchy, which is typical when he plays Bingo.
Every day…every situation…can be a cliffhanger with Aaron. Will we have seizures to manage? Behaviors to handle?
I do feel like I’m sometimes hanging off a cliff, holding on for dear life, afraid of what’s next and afraid of falling…of failing.
But then I must remind myself that I’m not alone. I know and trust God.
And I hold ON to Him.
I don’t understand everything.
I don’t even like everything.
But I love God, and I know He loves me.
So whatever cliff it is, I do know that I’m not just hanging off.
I reach up and I hang ON to God.
He lifts me up and He rescues me…not from the situation, necessarily…but from the danger of despair and hopelessness that can so easily overwhelm me.
After all, look at what God says about Himself in Psalm 91:15:
“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.”
May I remember, every day and in every cliffhanger, that I don’t need to just hang off.
I can hang ON…to the God Who rescues me.
Patience is a virtue, so someone said, but I can tell you that it is not a virtue that Aaron typically possesses.
On an average weekday morning, when Aaron is waking up to the smell of his coffee that I bring to his room, he is also waking up to the reality that he will soon be going to his day group, Paradigm. Hope springs eternal, though, that he can stay home. It’s not that he doesn’t like Paradigm. It’s just that he likes being home more.
I fully expect each morning to be the same and am surprised if it isn’t.
Mom, I have a headache.
Mom, my stomach hurts.
Mom, I didn’t sleep much.
Mom, mom, mom…followed by various stay-at-home excuses.
I leave him to his coffee and his conniving as I go about my own getting-ready morning routine…a routine that Aaron knows all too well.
Eventually, almost always, Aaron comes around and decides on his own to go to Paradigm. The problem is that when Aaron decides to go, he wants to go now.
Like, NOW now.
If Aaron walks into the bathroom while I’m drying my hair, he knows that after drying of the hair comes fixing of the hair.
After fixing of the hair, comes applying of the make-up.
Applying of the make-up may be short…meaning only a dusting of powder and a swipe of blush…and mom is good to go.
But sometimes, after the powder dusting and blush swiping, Mom moves to the dreaded eye make-up.
Eye make-up takes way too long in Aaron’s book on a morning when he has resigned himself to his Paradigm fate. He wants eye make-up to go away…to not be applied. He knows that if Mom moves to her desk in the other bedroom, where she seems to like that light from the window, then her eye make-up is really going to happen.
And now is not NOW!!
NOW must wait.
Waiting requires patience…that virtue that Aaron rarely possesses.
One recent morning, as Aaron hovered behind me in my bathroom watching me in phase one of my getting-ready routine…drying of the hair…he decided to broach the dreaded subject of my make-up amount.
“Mom,” he began, “so when you DO put on make-up, are you going to do it ever long?!”
He sounded positively Shakespearean!! 🙂
On many mornings, however, his impatience with my make-up routine can make him very angry. It’s not that he has a thing against make-up. It’s that he has a thing against waiting.
Just like I often begin my days with Aaron’s lack of patience, I also often end my days with that same impatience brewing in Aaron’s mind. This time his testy attitude surrounds the fact that he knows we will watch a show just before bed. We are working our way now through the series “Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman.”
Last night, being New Year’s Eve, Aaron thought a great way to celebrate would be to watch TWO episodes. He came downstairs at 7:30 to find that I was watching an end-of-year special that I had no idea I would watch and that I had not run by him for his approval.
This was not good. Not good for me or for Aaron.
He let me know that he wanted to watch Dr. Quinn now.
Like, NOW now.
I told him no.
I told him that we would watch Dr. Quinn at 8:00.
Waiting for 8:00 was ever long for Aaron. And he let me know, as he went up the stairs to his room and down the stairs to the family room…over and over and over…that 8:00 was unacceptable.
I stuck to my guns, but not without facing Aaron’s wrath.
In fact, I finally marched to my bedroom…got my purse…put on my coat…and told Gary that I was going out for a drive, in order to clear my head.
Aaron just watched, not saying a word. I do believe he was scared. While I was gone, he stayed in Gary’s study. Gary was a captive audience with his leg all bandaged and propped up from his recent foot surgery.
I talked to God while I drove. I told him that I feel a little blank anymore, wondering what He wants to show me or teach me in this life I live. I told God that I want to be patient with Aaron, and that when I’m not, I don’t want to sin in my impatience and anger.
That’s the tough part…not sinning when I am also the one not exercising that virtue of patience.
While I was out driving, I saw a section of beautiful lights still on full display in a neighborhood. I went home, got Aaron, and together we drove through the pretty lights.
No lecture. No mention of his anger.
Just enjoying the bright beauty around us.
It was calming to us both.
And it was surprising to Aaron, I could tell.
Surprising to him that I wanted to simply show him something pretty…something that he loves…when he had just been so mean to me.
Aaron needs to learn to wait. It’s hard on both of us as I continue to try to teach him that virtue.
I read this morning some of my old notes from my Genesis Bible study I recently completed. In talking about how Abraham had to wait on God to give him a son, Joyce Baldwin said this:
“God’s delays are not God’s denials.”
A delay doesn’t mean no.
To prove His promise to Abraham of a son to come, God had Abraham look up into the heavens. God told Abraham to count the stars…the bright shining stars. He told Abraham that so would be his descendants, innumerable like the stars up above.
But the promise wouldn’t happen now.
Like NOW, now.
But Abraham, while watching others have sons and grandsons, had to wait on God to fulfill His promise in a most unlikely way and time.
Abraham had to believe God…had to trust God…and it was counted to him as righteousness.
God did fulfill His promise to Abraham, in His own time. Not in Abraham’s preferred time.
And this is where and how Abraham grew in his faith. As Baldwin says, “Faith rests on the fact that God is faithful, and when we take God at His word, we prove for ourselves His faithfulness.”
Aaron needs to learn to trust me and to be patient when he must wait on something.
I need to learn to trust God and to be patient when I must wait on Him as well.
Waiting on Him to show me what I need to learn…to give me grace for life with Aaron…to not compare myself to others…and a myriad of other reasons and ways that I must wait on God.
Bright lights calmed me and Aaron.
Bright stars calmed and settled Abraham in his faith.
Because God is faithful, I can have faith. Faith in God even during the hard times.
Faith to wait, even when fast answers don’t come.
Aaron and I did watch two Dr. Quinn episodes. It took ever long, but we did.
I kept my promise…and so does God.
For the past few weeks I’ve felt like I live in a snow globe. I’m a figure that’s not fastened down, so when the globe is shaken I just fly all around with the snow. Crazy, to say the least!
Gary and I knew that this was going to happen:
Thankfully his foot surgery was planned and on our calendars many weeks ago. We had time to prepare, even throwing in some minor things like having two bedrooms remodeled. You know how that is. Emptying the rooms of everything; deciding on what supplies to purchase; purchasing supplies; going through drawers and shelves and making multiple donation trips to Goodwill; the remodel itself (great job, Distinctive Designs!!); cleaning; putting everything back in the rooms; and heavy furniture up the stairs or down the stairs (thank you to our son, Andrew, home for Thanksgiving!).
Then there was decorating and preparing for Christmas with all the shopping and wrapping and mailing and cards and cooking yet to do.
Oh, and let’s throw in cleaning our big storage room two days before surgery! Why not??!!
In the midst of it all, there is Aaron. Aaron…trying so hard to maintain his normal.
Aaron’s normal is very vital to him. His normal is as vital to him as breathing or eating. Normal gives him stability and predictability, which he needs to maintain his balance.
Gary and I can roll with the flow, stressful as that flow may sometimes be. Aaron…not so much. When his normal flow of life is redirected…shaken like the snow globe…Aaron most often will react instead of handling the change. Then whatever is causing his life change, as he sees it, becomes the enemy.
The enemy may be an event. That’s why holidays, parties, trips, or other out-of-the-norm happenings can rock his world. Aaron’s world is what he makes it. His world is set and settled in his brain, everything in its place. His days flow with an established pattern. Can we all spell “ROUTINE?!”
The enemy may also be a person. Any person who disrupts his pattern of life or his way of doing life becomes a huge problem to him. Just ask his siblings about our Christmas family time every year. We all know to expect at least one “Christmas Meltdown” every year. The meltdown often involves some aspect of our family Christmas Eve Bingo game, which combines a party atmosphere with a lot of crazy thrown in from the annoying people who are on his turf and messing up his routine.
Autism at it’s finest, let me tell you!
When Gary and I arrived home the day of his surgery, Aaron was so very happy to see us. I saw him scan over Gary’s huge wrapping with his ever-observant eyes, but Aaron never asked how the surgery went or how Gary was feeling.
Instead, Aaron talked up a storm as we got Gary settled in bed. He ran up to his bedroom, returning with a soft blanket of his that he wanted Gary to use. He ran outside in the dark and brought in our trashcans that were at the end of the driveway. He kept looking for ways to help and was just SO happy to have us home. I’m not sure how much of that happiness rested on the fact that his dad was all right or on the fact that we were home, at last, and now life could be back to normal.
Dad was in the guest bedroom. Mom had to make trips down to Dillon’s for meds and food that sounded good to Dad and drinks to settle his stomach. Dad wasn’t talking much and Mom was distracted. People were calling. Or coming to the house.
The morning after surgery, Aaron was getting edgy. We knew it. And Gary, bless his heart…in the shape he was in…managed to ask Aaron about his game he was playing. Aaron was off and running then! Talk, talk, talk!! Talk about what he loved and what he understood and what mattered to him.
Honestly, Dad’s foot and leg all propped up on the living room couch didn’t matter to Aaron at that point. How Dad slept didn’t matter. Dad’s possible pain didn’t matter.
It seems heartless to us, but we know Aaron. We know how autism is often defined by a narcissistic way of viewing the world.
We had some storms that first week. It got rough. My reactions weren’t always kind and loving toward Aaron.
Then after the snow would settle in our upside-down snow globe world, Aaron would look at us and immediately launch into talk of aliens and outer space and his latest movie and anything…ANYTHING…but real life and feelings and concern for us. Then his anger would erupt if he sensed our lack of interest in what he was saying.
Just so exhausting.
One night after going around and around, Aaron regrouped quickly and stood by Gary in the living room talking about what show he was watching or game he was playing. This was Aaron’s happy place with his captive audience.
This past week, our second week post-surgery, Aaron came down with the crud bug. Fever, cough, sore throat, aching all over. A doctor visit, some meds, and he is better. But again, a sick Aaron was a touchy Aaron.
Until he thought of Christmas lights.
“Mom?” he asked on evening. “Can we go look at the lights on the big white house?”
It wasn’t necessarily what I had time or interest in at that moment, but I saw the hope on his face and so off we went. We saw the lights and then drove on to look at some other lights close by in several neighborhoods.
A couple nights later, after our neighbor mentioned a near neighborhood that was all decked out in lights, Aaron and I went out again. House after house was glowing and flashing and bright and fun. Aaron was mesmerized, leaning forward in his seat and very still, with a smile on his face.
“I LOVE this place!!” he finally exclaimed.
It warmed my heart so much for him to express such joy.
It warmed my heart to be the one who showed him this place he loved.
I’ll admit that sometimes I don’t love this place where God has us. Life with Aaron can be very tiring. He requires or demands things from us that we at times have no energy or interest in giving.
This place isn’t always bright and pretty and rewarding and fun. Sometimes we wonder why we’re here and what we’re doing.
But this place is where God has put us.
Aaron is God’s gift to us.
Sometimes we don’t feel that sentiment. Gary and I get weary…lonely…at the end of ourselves.
I’m sure the man Jesus…God’s Son…felt all that and more, thousands of times over, as He walked this sad earth.
And because Jesus walked with us, He also understands our weaknesses and our human thoughts. He is here with us to give us His grace and enable us to do the same with Aaron.
Aaron may not always love this place, either. When his life is askew and he is miserable, loving this place is the last thing on his mind.
But may he know, when the snow is settled and the storm is over, that HE is loved.
Loved by God, as are we…and loved by his parents.
May this place, where we are at the moment, be a place of love when all is said and done.
And may your place, dear one…hard as it may be…be a place filled with God’s love for you and through you.
Bright like the lights of this beautiful season!
What is it with Aaron and crosswalks??!!
I was asking myself this question yet again yesterday as Aaron and I exited Wal-Mart.
I could also ask the question, “What is it with Aaron and Wal-Mart??!!”
Oh, the stories!
As we got out of the van yesterday, while we were still rather obscurely hidden in the parking lot, I reminded Aaron to pull up his jeans. He did that while tucking in his shirt, but for some reason yesterday his shirt tucking had a rather dramatic and unsettling beginning. It involved Aaron fully sticking his arm down the FRONT of his pants, getting his shirt settled down there, and then working his way around the remaining waistband.
I told you it was unsettling.
“Aaron, good grief, you don’t need to make such a production of tucking your shirt in,” I instructed him as we walked through the store and he decided that his jeans and shirt needed repositioning several times.
Several times in the same manner mentioned above.
When will I ever learn to quit walking ahead of Aaron in Wal-Mart?
You would think after the nightie story and the falling cereal display story and the singing story…that I would know better.
I was in full “ hurry-to-the-van-while-mentally-checking-off-my-to-do-list-and-plan-my-next-stop-for-that-one-missing-item” mode as Aaron and I exited Wal-Mart. Which means I wasn’t paying attention to lagging Aaron.
Instinct kicked in, I guess, because I turned around IN the crosswalk, with cars and staring drivers on either side of us, just in time to see Aaron pulling up his jeans and tucking in his shirt.
And doing it in that same disturbing manner!!!
IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CROSSWALK!!!!!
“AARON!!!” I calmly insisted, “STOP IT!!”
I said this while continuing to walk as if nothing was amiss at all.
Aaron knew then that he had erred, so he scurried up beside me as we left the embarrassing crosswalk.
“Well, I had to pull my pants up!” Aaron explained.
“In the middle of the crosswalk?!” I asked.
“What’s wrong with that?” Aaron questioned.
I just took a deep breath, reminded myself not to shame Aaron, and proceeded to once again remind him of how some things are best done in a less public setting.
Trust me, many of Aaron’s actions are best done in a MUCH less public setting!!
But Aaron truly doesn’t have a concept of social norms like you and I do. No amount of proper parenting, wise advice, careful instruction, and repeated modeling of acceptable behaviors has…or ever will…change him.
I mean, he does show some improvements in some areas. He hasn’t made his loud farting noise with his mouth in the middle of Wal-Mart in some time, come to think of it.
He can be so funny, but he can also be so exhausting. The exhaustion is mostly mental for me and Gary with some emotional thrown in as well.
A big part of it is Aaron’s talking. He loves to follow us around the house, sometimes a LOT, and talk…always a LOT!!
Our son, Andrew, drove home from Indianapolis for Thanksgiving. Aaron had fresh ears to listen to all his talking, but he also had competition. The competition comes into play for Aaron because now he must share our attention. He is not the only person in the house, and he must share his podium with his brother.
This is difficult for Aaron, try as he might to be patient. Another issue is the topic of our conversations. Aaron’s topics are typically about aliens, Star Wars or Transformers or Terminators or whatever else he is watching, relational issues at his day group, and more about aliens and outer space and droids and what-do-we-think about aliens and outer space and droids, etc., etc., etc.
All of us are like the drivers in the crosswalk, where Aaron has the right-of-way and we must wait for him to cross. No amount of confirmation from us toward Aaron can change the fact that his mind-numbing conversations dull our responses to him…and he senses this.
He also truly wants to be the ONLY one talking, and this is where we must step in and remind him to take his turn. This creates anger on his part and resentment toward the person who has pushed him off his podium, albeit unwittingly, but done none-the-less. We all understand this about Aaron, and even expect it, but still it’s tiring.
On the day before Thanksgiving, Gary got home early from work so we along with Andrew picked Aaron up from his day group and went out to eat in Old Town. Aaron had a seizure early that morning, and another one about an hour before we picked him up, but it didn’t dull his tongue. Not one bit. 😊
But my favorite picture of our Thanksgiving was when Aaron waddled into the kitchen wearing his shark blanket – a gift from Andrea and Kyle for his birthday – and proceeded to continue talking. It was just hilarious to see him standing there, oblivious to how he looked, and still talking up a storm.
Again, we were trapped in the crosswalk…all of us with hidden smiles on our faces…and Aaron unaware of how comical he looked.
Living with Aaron isn’t always easy, especially when we’re already stressed about other life events and concerns. Having to stop on a busy day for people in the crosswalk isn’t always fun, either. So, when we’re rushing to get ready for the holidays in the midst of having some remodeling done, with lots of furniture to move around and mess to clean up – thanks for your awesome help, Andrew!! – and Gary is having foot surgery on Monday and will be incapacitated for a long time in a house full of stairs!! – and there’s decorating and shopping and surgery prep and just LIFE!!…
Those crosswalks can be very, very irritating and draining.
It helps to be able to smile and sometimes laugh and to think of Aaron in his shark outfit, not to be derailed from talking!
The pulling up his pants thing, though. Some things are best forgotten.
My apologies to all the drivers at that crosswalk.
It was memorable, I’m sure. 😊 😊
Aaron usually is.
My phone rang yesterday while I was working in the kitchen. Of course, it was Aaron making one of his several calls from his day group…calls in which he updates me on his doings, reports good times or bad times with friends there, asks me when I’m coming to pick him up, and stresses that he wants me to come EARLY!!
Since this day was Friday, and since Friday is the day we usually have a special meal of Aaron’s choosing, this phone call greatly concerned food. He also wanted to know if we were going on our Friday Wal-Mart trip to buy him his “end-of-week and beginning-of-weekend” snacks.
“MOM!!” he began. “Are we going to Wal-Mart after you pick me up?!”
I assured him that we were.
“MOM!!” he continued. “Can I get some Pillsbury Crescent Rolls to have for our supper?”
I assured him that we could.
“MOM!!” he added. “Not the kind in the box but the kind that you bake in the oven. Pillsbury Crescent Rolls!”
I assured him I understood.
And then he chuckled…his deep-throated chuckle of pure delight.
Pillsbury Crescent Rolls filled him with the greatest joy at that moment, a contagious joy that was passed on to me as I joined him with a laugh of my own.
One thing about Aaron that continues to teach me so much about handling life is his joy in the simplest of things…things that I often take for granted.
I typically don’t play Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, but for the past few years I have caved somewhat on that standard. Two days ago, while cooking supper, I turned Pandora to a Christmas station. Music has always, from my childhood, been a huge part of my life. I listened as I prepared our meal, waiting for that illusive “Christmas spirit” to wash over me.
Instead, though, I was soon brushing away tears. Silent Night was playing, and that song above all Christmas songs, reminds me of times past and of my parents and of how I miss them and of so many other memories. Sweet memories, but memories now…people and events of the past, not the present.
And the present…the now…is where I wish they still were.
This Thanksgiving and Christmas season, above all other seasons…with its music and traditions and memories…is so very full of emotion and expectations.
Expectations that often don’t materialize and so leave us with sadness.
In November of 2004, my parents called with the unexpected news that dad’s cancer was no longer in remission. Doctors had found inoperable cancer in his liver. All our close family was devastated at this news. Gary and I decided to quickly change our Christmas plans that year. We loaded up our van the next month just before Christmas and traveled the long distance home to West Virginia. All of us wondered if this would be Dad’s last Christmas.
This long, sad trip was very hard for Aaron in all the ways that change and travel have always been hard for Aaron. The most stressful aspect for Aaron, though…for all of us…was the raw emotion that we couldn’t hide. Aaron doesn’t like crying and on this visit we couldn’t successfully hide all our tears from him. The early morning that we left Mom and Dad’s to return to Kansas, we all stood in a circle as we held hands and prayed. And we all cried.
Except for Aaron, who sat off to the side rocking in a recliner and saying over and over, “Crybabies!! Crybabies!! Crybabies!!”
To borrow an Aaron phrase, it was half sad and half funny!
Yet a very sweet moment with Aaron happened during that trip. As Mom and Dad opened their Christmas presents, they unwrapped a framed poem of sorts that someone had given them. Aaron saw it and he held it carefully as he began to read. We all sat still and listened to him read every word in his monotone voice. It was good that he was looking down and didn’t see my parent’s tears, and ours as well.
I have this precious piece now and was looking at it the other day as I did some sorting. I thought of it as I listened to Silent Night and my heart filled with emotions about what used to be and what isn’t now.
I know that I have a choice to make. I also know what God has told me to do.
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18)
As the poem said, happiness is all around us. I like to substitute the more meaningful word “joy” for happiness, for joy is a fruit of the Spirit in my life and is possible no matter my circumstances. But whichever word you use, know truly that there is joy and happiness all around us, every day, in sometimes the smallest of ways. Yet small things are huge when we look at them through the lens of thankfulness.
Over the years, life changes…a lot…but joy with a thankful heart should be a constant for us.
Aaron has seizures, but we are thankful for good doctors:
Thankful for yummy and very cheesy chicken enchiladas:
Thankful for God’s amazing creatures in our own yard:
And thankful for Pillsbury Crescent Rolls!