Here we go again. I heard it from upstairs…….the sound of the plastic containers full of coffee hitting the floor and then the thump. My heart sank as I hurried downstairs to check on Aaron. He was fine, although sprawled on the floor with spilled coffee all around him. He jerked and dropped his coffee yet again………lukewarm coffee, thankfully. And thankfully he didn’t throw his coffee containers as he has been known to do when he’s in a rage. This was a true accident, but messy and discouraging none the less.
I was frustrated with Aaron this morning over a couple things already and this didn’t help, believe me. My compassion for him still hasn’t quite kicked in yet. He has cleaned up and showered, and seems to be fine. I hope he’s not bruised.
I just stood and looked at this mess………coffee all over the floor, the cabinets, on and under the frig. UGH! And I thought of how many times I’ve just felt like throwing in the towel. We all do, don’t we, whether we are parents or not. But we can’t quit. God doesn’t and we can’t. Especially as parents……….these children are given to us by God and He wants us to hang in there despite how tough it sometimes is.
So instead of throwing IN the towel, we throw ON a towel. We clean the messes up step by step, bit by bit. We’ll see progress one day, even if it’s slow to come…………even when we just stand there and don’t know where to start. God gives patience; and God gives us the same grace toward our children or others that He has extended to us. We clean up the messes, whatever they may be, and we push forward.
The rest of the day is before us. It’s up to me now not to mess up my reactions and my attitudes. I’ll need to grab another towel if I’m not careful!
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.
It’s been one of those mornings. You know……..one of THOSE mornings. I went to bed bothered by worrisome issues that I should not go to bed being bothered by……….those worrisome issues. Can’t end that sentence in a preposition. 🙂 I went to my new location in Andrea’s old room that I’ve set up for myself……..a new desk and an alone place to have my quiet time. The new location didn’t seem to help. I felt stifled and ineffective in my time with the Lord this morning. Distracted…….and thinking that I needed to dodge my prayers that were bouncing off the ceiling, going no where. Is Satan unhappy about my desire for a more intimate time with the Lord? Perhaps.
Later, I looked at the weather forecast and the upcoming week of temps above 100 and no rain only increased my weariness. Our scratchy dog with allergies; laundry waiting to be washed or put away; dishes to take care of; even a Supreme Court ruling and an election in Egypt that I don’t agree with were piling up in my mind. Talk about taking on the cares of the world. Come on, Patty. This is really ridiculous!
After my shower, I heard good old Aaron in the hall. “Mom?” I told him that I would be out in a minute. I could tell that I would have very little patience with him today………shame on me. He thumped downstairs to take his pills and thumped back up to see if we could now talk. I again told him to wait……….and when I did open my door, he was in his room and promptly told me to come look at his finger. He held it up for me as I walked in, and there it was………….his index finger, all wrapped up in a bloody band-aid.
My patience was even less now. “Mom, last night I had some loose skin and so I used my knife to cut it off.” Oh Aaron. We’ve heard this story before and I knew what was coming………..and it did. He wanted to know if he should have used his little pocket knife to cut off the skin; why not?; what would I use?; that he couldn’t help it that the knife slipped, etc., and etc. I removed the band-aid and saw the raw wound where he had cut or pulled off his loose skin. I could feel my irritation increasing. I told him to go shower…………his whole body, by the way, not just his finger! I know how he thinks.
Aaron showered and then came to my bathroom, where I further cleaned and medicated and dressed his wound. He could sense my mood and so he scurried on downstairs, deciding to get his own coffee and carry it to his room himself without bothering his moody mom. Soon I heard, “Mom, I spilled some coffee but I’ll clean it up.” Oh goodness, Aaron! Where did you spill coffee? “On the stairs. I’ll clean it up!” No, Aaron…….I’ll get it. All the while, I was muttering under my breath about how this is the last thing I needed and why did he have to carry the coffee up himself when he’s so shaky and of all mornings…………
Then I saw the spill, which looked more like a gushing of coffee. It was splattered on several stairs, but one stair in particular was soaked with coffee. Oh Aaron! Look at this mess! Next I saw coffee on the living room floor, so got the Swiffer and mopped that section. I headed for the soppy stairs, with Aaron saying, “I’ll clean it up, Mom!” But I grabbed towels and began the clean-up, while Aaron then said, “Here, I’ll help.” He proceeded to carry a wad of paper towels from the kitchen into the living room and instead of heading for the stairs where I was, he started wiping off the piano. WHAT??!! Sure enough, some coffee had splattered onto the piano and Aaron was working to clean up the brown spots…………….while he stood on the still-wet floor. I went from unhappy to unhappier, all the while muttering about how my nerves couldn’t take much more and of all mornings and please, Aaron, don’t talk right now………..
I continued my shallow thinking as I realized that I would indeed have a bad hair day, no matter what I did to try to improve the mess on my head. The clothes I chose to wear today didn’t help any, nor did the sandals. No time to change all that now. Of all days for me to have a doctor appointment, I moaned to myself. Little annoyances for the remainder of the morning reminded me of my misery. Aaron and I hurried out the door, stopping at the grocery store on our way to meet his group. I had promised him a Cheddar Pasta Salad to take to his group. Of all mornings to need to leave early, I grumbled.
At the deli counter, as we waited to be served, Aaron began to notice all the dishes. He leaned over and oohed and aahed over the Deviled Egg Potato Salad, The Layered Salad, the Fruit Salad, the German sandwiches, the Spaghetti Salad…………and his joy over simple food began to silence my distasteful attitude. He had moved beyond spilled coffee, bad hair, wounded finger, scratchy dog, and hot temps. He noticed the good things before him. As we walked out with not only his Cheddar Pasta Salad, but also a bottle of flavored water and some Skittles, he chattered happily about anything and everything. If I wasn’t listening, I would have missed his observation that the entrance sidewalk at the Warren Theater is, in his words, “…….twinkle stone. Does it have jewelry in it, Mom?”
I had to pause in my heart and smile. As we drove to meet his group, I told him that I was sorry about my attitude that morning. He didn’t say a word, but I know he filed that apology in his mind. I needed to say it and he needed to hear it from his grouchy mother this morning. Later, at Sassy Nails, I sat across from a stranger – another mom – while our toes dried. We talked and she shared how her sister had died of cancer, and how through it all she had blessings to be thankful for. This woman, this mom, this sister, had no idea about how much I needed to hear those words. How easy it is to let the slight troubles of my life ruin my disposition and take my mind off the Lord!
So I have counted my blessings for the rest of the day:
1. The spilled coffee matches the carpet, especially in the dim light.
2. A coffee smell on the stairs beats a dog smell any day.
3. The living room needed to be mopped anyway.
4. My new pink toes hopefully took the doctor’s eyes away from my bad hair.
5. I do have hair.
6. It may be 107 degrees outside, but we have working AC inside.
7. It may be 107 degrees outside, but I don’t have to be outside working.
8. It may be 107 degrees outside, but we have water for our thirsty garden.
9. Our neighbors have to move for various hard reasons, and the man taking pics of their house this morning wasn’t taking pics of our house.
10. I have a faithful God; loving husband and children; and Aaron to remind me of what’s important.
And I have forgiveness – God’s forgiveness – and even Aaron’s forgiveness……..unspoken but there none the less.
As a person with Asperger’s, Aaron often demonstrates the social impairments that accompany this form of autism. The social protocols that most of us possess are foreign to Aaron, no matter how many hundreds of times Gary and I have tried to drill these niceties into his brain. When these social impairments are combined with his interest in the unusual, it can be a sure recipe for embarrassment…………not his…………but mine and Gary’s, or Andrea and Andrew’s.
When we made our many military moves, we would visit churches as we tried to find the “home” church that God would want us to join and be a part of during our stay in that area. We visited a church one Sunday morning when Aaron was a teenager. Arriving a little later than we had planned to, we found that all the back rows were already full. Trust me, a back row for us with Aaron was most definitely preferred! However, on this particular Sunday we had to choose a pew near the front of the church. This situation made us very uncomfortable as we spent a good portion of the services making sure that Aaron was happily occupied, was being quiet, didn’t make multiple bathroom trips, etc.
We already felt conspicuous as visitors…………..Aaron only added to that feeling for us. Oh well……..we just smiled and went to the front, sitting down and hoping for the best. Things were progressing smoothly as the worship service continued. Suddenly, during one of the songs, there was a commotion near the back of the church – on the side where we sat. An older woman had collapsed and her family gathered around her to help. We all sat down and soon an ambulance was called. The congregation was led in prayer for her as everyone waited for the ambulance and EMTs to arrive.
Aaron thought that all of this was very exciting indeed. In fact, this was the most interesting church service he had attended in a long time……….probably ever! Gary and I realized that he was becoming a little too exhilerated over this unusual turn of events, so we went into “Calm Aaron” mode. We tried to redirect him from straining to look behind him at the action in the rear pews. We rubbed his back, which he loved and which always calmed him. We whispered an explanation to him of what was occurring as he kept asking…….loudly…….”WHAT? What’s going on? What happened?”
Realizing that no one in this church knew us or knew Aaron made us even more aware of how odd Aaron must have looked to everyone around us. We reached a point where I do believe we would have just gotten up and left if we were near an exit, but this wasn’t an option to us at that point without being very disruptive. Aaron, as usual, wasn’t displaying the proper responses to this tense situation. He didn’t care about the poor woman who had collapsed. He didn’t care about her very worried family members. He definitely didn’t care about his very embarrassed parents or sister or brother. He was excited! Here was a situation that grabbed his attention and peaked his interest!
Aaron’s eyes were darting here and there as he anticipated the arrival of the ambulance crew. When they finally came, they seemed to fill the front of that small church as they entered a side door. Naturally, they ended up walking right in front of and then beside our pew. Now Aaron had moved beyond excitement to being absolutely thrilled. When Aaron is beside himself with excitement, he bends over at the waist and rubs his hands together. And so there in the pew, as all eyes were on the EMTs pushing the stretcher right beside US, Aaron bent over at the waist………….rubbed his hands together rapidly…………..and said………….loudly, of course…………”COOL!!!!!”
Cool? Did Aaron really just say, loudly, that this was cool? Now Gary and I were in “Shut Aaron Up” mode. We were beyond embarrassed……….more like horrified………and felt that we should stand and offer a public apology before slinking out the nearest exit. I’m surprised that one of us didn’t have a stroke and have to be hauled out on a stretcher, too.
Well, we all survived. The dear woman who passed out was fine after a brief hospital stay. Gary and I recovered as well, as did Andrea and Andrew………….though it took the siblings a little longer. As for Aaron……..he never did see the problem with his reaction, so he had absolutely nothing to recover from. He rehashed and rehashed the entire story many, many times……….complete with bending over at the waist and rubbing his hands together. This was, to him, a church service worth remembering! It was for us, too, but for very different reasons than for Aaron.
And for once, we had no problem the following week with getting Aaron out the door to church. He couldn’t wait to go back to that church to see what would happen next!
I remember being pregnant with Aaron and hearing the term “nesting.” I wondered if that phenomenon was really true, and later discovered that it certainly was. I had the rush of energy and the desire to get our nest in order before Aaron’s birth – and he was three weeks early! Interesting!
I find myself considering our nest again, but now on the other end of the spectrum. Goodness, how time flies! And now I sound old even in just saying those timeless words about time. I don’t really feel old, but soon our nest will be a little emptier, and I know that the years have rushed by much faster than I ever dreamed they would when I was knee high in diapers and runny noses.
Tomorrow, barring any delay, Andrea will officially be moving to her new apartment. She’ll only be an hour away but the distance isn’t what matters. This marks the beginning of her independent life. She’s worked since she graduated from college, but has patiently still lived at home as she waited for the wisest opportunity to launch out on her own. That time has come for her, and no one could be any happier for her than Gary and I are. Yes, we’ll have the normal sadness as we watch her go, but the sadness is tempered by the happiness we feel for her. She has a job that she’s wanted and that God put into her lap, so it seems, and now her own place. Her patience has paid off and we believe that God has honored her.
When Aaron found out that Andrea would be moving, he was very surprised. He blurted out, “NO MORE ANDREA??!!” Well, kind of, Aaron………….she’ll still come to visit but no, she won’t be living here anymore. He’ll miss her a lot, as we all will. And she’ll miss him, too – in some ways more than others, for sure.
The nests I’ve seen around our yard, up in the trees, are all empty. It’s the time of year for empty nests. When I think of our nest, the Moore nest, I know that we have a different nest than many other people have. We’re not alone in our uniqueness, certainly, but we are in the minority. At our age, Gary and I should have an empty nest…………but when you have a child, or an adult, with special needs – sometimes the nest won’t be empty for a long time, and maybe never.
This fact hit me at some point when Aaron was entering adulthood. Some of our friends were anticipating their own empty nests, or celebrating that fact when it occurred. None of us dislike our children, but when the time of life comes that our children move on and we’re still young and healthy enough to be alone again – well, it’s just fun! But as Gary and I dealt with the reality of Aaron’s needs, part of that reality that hit us square in the face was that Aaron may not leave home for a long time.
I’m not complaining and I sure hope I don’t sound whiny. When we were first exploring what options we had for Aaron’s services, we chose an agency that would provide Aaron with a group home. We were definitely headed in that direction…………..until one of the staff physically and verbally abused Aaron. Gary and I considered that door shut, and so have kept Aaron at home with us. Some day we will have to cross that bridge again, but we don’t know when that will happen. His day group is a blessing to all of us, with an awesome staff. But honestly, I can hardly imagine someone being able to love and understand Aaron enough to live with him, to care for him during his seizures, to know how to defuse him when he’s angry, to read his body language, and on and on.
There are some lessons that I have learned over the years in regards to our lack of an empty nest at this point in our lives. I don’t always practice what I preach, but I have learned:
1. Do not compare myself to others!
This is a trap that I think we women fall into so easily. I remember in our early years of marriage how I would listen when other wives told me that Gary and I should do this or go here or experience that. I had to learn not to compare our lives with their lives. Now as I think of Aaron being home I must also not compare our lives to those who are “free.” God has given us this life with this situation, in His sovereignty, and to live any other way than in freedom would be defeating.
2. Do not covet the life that others have!
This goes along with not comparing ourselves to others, but coveting takes it one step further down that slope of sinful behaviors. Other couples may have more time alone, more opportunity for travel, more peace and quiet, more time for their own hobbies or pursuits……..but I should never covet these things. Coveting is purely sin!
3. Be content!
Paul had a lot to say about being content………….”Godliness with contentment is great gain;” and “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Being content is an act of my will and an act of obedience to God.
4. Count my blessings!
I have so many reasons to be thankful and so many blessings to count, every single day! And counting my blessings keeps my mind on positive attitudes and focuses me once again on being content.
As Andrea and I worked in her apartment the other day, we noticed the pretty tree out the front window. It’s a Redbud and this spring it promises to provide lots of beauty for her to enjoy. As I was working on something, Andrea said, “Look, there’s a nest in the tree.” And sure enough, there sits a nest up in the branches of the Redbud. What a perfect reminder that now Andrea is starting her own nest! Her first nest is not like my first nest, but it’s a nest and will be blessed by God as she honors Him.
And I want to continue to honor God with the nest that God has given to Gary and me. Our last bird may be here for a long time, but that’s OK. What a privilege to mother our special bird!
Besides, what would I write about if not for Aaron?
Aaron is now 27 years old. I know that he is a man, a grown man, and that fact is very hard to imagine. 28 years ago Gary and I were anxiously awaiting the birth of our first child. I had made all the yellow gingham nursery curtains, bumper pads, changing table covers, and decorated with yellow, fluffy duck decorations. Everything was as I wanted it. And even though I went into labor 3 weeks early and Gary had just changed out of his flight suit when he rushed me to the hospital, we were really ready – for the most part – or so we thought. What new parents can ever be really ready for the responsibility that awaits them? And what new parents can ever comprehend the depth of love that washes over you when you first hold that little part of both of you? Aaron was so little and perfect and beautiful. And my radar screen was still showing sunny weather with not a storm in sight.
When Aaron had his first seizure and was diagnosed with Epilepsy, and then years later was diagnosed with Autism, we were completely unprepared. We never, ever expected such a thing to happen to us. To someone else, yes. Someone we would read about in a magazine, or hear about from a friend, or receive a prayer request for at church. The reality of this event in our lives with our Aaron was just so unexpected and unwelcome. And as I said earlier, when I got home from the hospital after his Epilepsy diagnosis, I cried my heart out with tears for Aaron, for us, and with pleas to God for His grace and strength.
I had a choice to make and I chose to focus on what I KNOW. And what I know is that God is sovereign. God is in control and none of these events surprised Him or confused Him. God loves me and God loves Gary, and God certainly loves Aaron. I cannot and will not ever try to explain the ways of God. There is no unfairness with God, I do know that. So instead of wasting time and energy trying to explain the why of our situation, my choice was to trust the Who in our lives. And that would be God. I know from my walk with Him for all these years and from reading His Word, Who He is. I know that His sovereign plan is best even when He doesn’t choose to reveal it all to me. I trust Him and I love Him and I have found Him always faithful. Those things I know.
While in Leavenworth, God gave me Psalm 18:29: “For by You I can run upon a troop; And by my God I can leap over a wall.” I just love this verse! It’s my theme verse in so many ways. Oh, the walls that I’ve run into in our life with Aaron! I’ve shared many of them in the past few posts. So many times I’ve run into walls, beat my head against walls, beat my fists on the walls, tried to climb walls with my own strength – but by my God, I can LEAP over the walls. What a promise, fulfilled in so many different ways in so many different situations. So I also know that with God, I’m a wall leaper!
But there are also some things I feel, and feel deeply. These feelings come from within my mother heart. I think of my heart as having various doors that open when needed. Doors of love, of wisdom, of encouragement, of laughter, and on and on. But there is a door that I rarely open because it is too painful. That is the door of my regrets and wishes for Aaron. I do not live in regret or in unfulfilled wishes for Aaron, but occasionally those thoughts slip in or that reality hits me in my heart. Once after Aaron started going to the job skills school, he came home one day and said, “Mom, I’ve noticed something. All the kids at that school have problems. What are my problems?” I struggled not to cry as I tried to talk to him about Epilepsy and Autism. He was satisfied and seemingly unconcerned, but I knew he was pondering these issues very personally now. And it broke my heart. I remember when Andrew got his license and later came home with his used truck. We had purposely not made this a big deal because Aaron was often jealous of Andrew’s life. But Aaron looked outside and saw the truck, so he asked if that was Andrew’s. I said yes and Aaron said, “I wish I could drive.” Little glimpses like that into his heart made that door of my heart start coming open. There are times for tears, but not time to wonder about what could have been or might have been. Living in defeat is not God’s plan for me or for Aaron.
And there are so many reasons to be thankful. Gary led Aaron to the Lord when he was 6 years old. Aaron has that understanding. He can walk, and run, and see, and talk (can he ever!). Things could be so much worse. He can read and understand, and even though he can be sooooooo irritating sometimes, he also makes us laugh – a lot!
In closing I want to post a piece that has always spoken deeply to me and I hope it will to you, as well.