I guess the best way I could describe Aaron and the subject of love is this:
Aaron holds love at a distance, admiring the concept but not wanting or able to become too involved in the process.
Welcome to how autism colors every single aspect of Aaron’s life, and therefore ours as well…or anyone who is associated with Aaron.
Valentine’s Day has been on Aaron’s mind since soon after Christmas when all the red hearts and cute stuffed animals and boxes of candy appeared on store shelves. Aaron flits from one shelf to the next, holding up items and laughing as he very loudly says, “MOM!! Look at this!! Can I have it??!!”
It’s all great fun as he zooms around finding lots of treasures. This idea of love is safe as Aaron, ever hopeful about his quest for “things,” attempts to score a bag of candy or a cute trinket to tuck away in his room.
Aaron does love showing love, but on his terms. Aaron’s terms are dictated by his inner workings and thoughts, deeply affected by the effects of autism.
At our local Dillon’s just down the road, we have come to know Jody. She is a joy with a warm and loving heart. Jody has personal family connections to special needs. She has come to know Aaron and loves to interact with him. Jody knows that sometimes Aaron enjoys buying flowers there that he gives to certain people, often ones in his day group, Paradigm.
One recent day, when I was in Dillon’s without Aaron, Jody asked me if I thought that Aaron would like to give flowers to his friends at Paradigm for Valentine’s Day. Dillon’s donates flowers to all sorts of local places like hospitals, nursing homes, etc.
I thought that was a wonderful idea, so we made our plan. Barb, Paradigm supervisor and second mom to Aaron (though she’s too young to be his mom!), gave me numbers, and Jody did the ordering, and Aaron and I did the picking up.
Aaron and I were eating lunch after our Meals on Wheels delivery the day before the flower pick-up and delivery. The day before the big Valentine party at Paradigm.
Aaron does not handle parties and celebrations well…at all.
Aaron does not handle expectations well…at all.
“Mom?” he began as we ate our lunch, “you make me feel like you think I need to be in love with the clients.”
I knew we were in trouble with all this business of flowers and parties and LOVE.
I explained, much more than once, over the remainder of that day about the purpose of the flowers. I knew I was fighting an uphill battle, though.
I especially knew this when yesterday morning, Valentine party and flower delivery day, Aaron stood by my desk early…eyes droopy with sleep…and spoke his first words of the morning:
“Mom, I feel embarrassed by this love thing.”
Over the course of the morning, I told him that I would take the flowers…that he didn’t need to go…that it was fine for him to stay home from all the party stress…and so forth and so on.
But no, Aaron felt compelled to go…to give this difficult day a try.
Later, as we picked up the big box of beautiful roses from the Dillon’s florist, one of the ladies there very happily looked at us and said:
“You’re delivering some LOVE!!!”
Bless her heart, she had no idea. I don’t think she heard Aaron’s reply.
“No!!” he simply said.
But that simple reply told SO much!
I made it to Paradigm with grouchy overloaded Aaron. He was showing anything but love, except to Barb when he gave her a gift he had made. He managed a smile for a picture.
He fell on the floor when he backed up into a friend in a wheelchair (neither were hurt). But that certainly didn’t help his love feelings. The party atmosphere was loud and just too much for Aaron, but it always is, so we left and headed home…with Aaron feeling terrible about the fall and the unmet expectations.
The flowers were beautiful and made the clients, especially the girls, feel loved and happy.
Aaron enjoyed seeing a picture of his happy friends that Barb sent. But again, seeing it from a distance was best for him.
Gary and I took Aaron to lunch at a small local Asian restaurant nearby. This made Aaron happy. He processed the morning as he talked about it with us.
He also made us laugh and laugh at his reaction to only having ONE fork. To Aaron, one eating utensil is never enough! This is Aaron’s norm:
But he handled that one fork very well, which was an accomplishment worthy of note to me and Gary.
Small victories are pretty big to us.
Aaron’s happiness is big, too.
A trip to Wal-Mart after lunch. Some Red Hots and a new game for Valentine’s Day. All these things made Aaron very content and happy.
We know to do life Aaron’s way when we can. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.
Seeing Aaron’s reaction to his one fork held a world of meaning to me and Gary.
I’ll hold that in my heart on this Valentine’s weekend.
We love you, Aaron!
Up close or from a distance, depending on Aaron – of course!