What Went Wrong?

Today is National Purple Day for Epilepsy awareness.  We are well aware of Epilepsy in our home because of our son, Aaron.  Aaron is 33 years old and has had uncontrolled seizures since he was in the first grade.  We were a military family living in Germany when Aaron unexpectedly had his first Generalized Grand Mal seizure.

It was a Sunday afternoon when Aaron fell back into my arms, thankfully, and began seizing on our kitchen floor.  I had no idea what was happening.  I remember seeing blood coming from his mouth…later learning that it was because he had bitten his tongue…and I remember yelling for Gary, who rushed into the kitchen and began trying to help Aaron while I called an ambulance.

The ambulance ride to the nearby military clinic…then another ambulance ride to the German Kinder Clinic, which is what we called the children’s hospital…was all a blur.  Aaron spent several days in the hospital, where the German care was good but the language barrier and the differing medical methods and practices were very difficult.  But the thing we did understand was the diagnosis of Epilepsy.

Over the years we’ve tried lots of drugs and other treatments, including hospital stays for video EEGs and surgery to have a VNS implanted, but the diagnosis is the same…Intractable Generalized Seizures.

Intractable – meaning not easily controlled or managed.

Generalized – meaning that the seizures quickly involve the entire brain instead of one small part of the brain.

OK, lesson over.

Because what I really want to do is to share with you the incredible strength and resilience of our Aaron…and of many others I know who struggle with seizures due to Epilepsy or other causes.  And to also share the incredible strength of God that He gives when needed the most.

This past Thursday night, Aaron had a seizure shortly before midnight.  I heard it on the baby monitor that sits on our nightstand beside our bed.  He had another just after 2:20 a.m.  And yet another seizure at 6:45 Friday morning.

He got out of bed not too long after that, heading to the bathroom and turning on the shower right away.  He cleaned up while I stripped his bedding and started the laundry process.  Soon Aaron was in the kitchen, telling me of his bad headache and asking if he could have his coffee.

He spent most of the morning here, as is so usual after these clusters of seizures.

WP_20180323_10_17_19_Pro

When he was more awake and feeling better, and after eating a little, he wanted to go with me to pick up a few groceries.  He was happy to come home with ice cream and cashews and sparkling water, and happy to have supervised Mom in buying what she needed to make for his supper request…Lasagna!!

Aaron went right back to bed when we got home, in his for-real bed now since part of his bedding was back on.  And at 3:33 – since Aaron appreciates such precision…he had the hardest of his four seizures.  Yet amazingly enough, within 15 minutes, he was out of bed…though slowly…and was happy for me to finish putting on all of his sheets and blankets.

Aaron always helps me change his sheets, but I certainly didn’t expect him to do that this time.  I told him to sit in his chair, but he didn’t acknowledge me at all as he stood by his bed, ready to help.

This is what I find so amazing about Aaron.  If I had been the one just finished with my fourth seizure, I imagine that the last thing I would want to do would be to help put sheets on my bed.  It was so heartbreaking for me to watch him stand there, part of the time with one hand on his wall and the other on the headboard of his bed, completely out of it.  Then he turned and bent over, just staring at nothing.  He couldn’t talk well at all, but when he saw a wrinkle in his cover, he reached out to correct it as quickly as he could.  I smiled as I saw his autism come out even through his very fuzzy brain.

WP_20180323_16_04_55_Pro

He stood there by his bed during the whole bed making process.  He tried so hard to function…to think…to speak…to move.  All of it was such a demonstration of how impacting seizures are on the brain.

WP_20180323_16_06_50_Pro

And it was also a commanding demonstration of how tough and brave Aaron is.  How he fights to keep going!  How much he wants his world to be his version of normal, even though it is anything but that.

He only had one piece of lasagna for supper.  That’s because he couldn’t taste food…another sad side effect of seizures.  His hand and mouth tremored, too…yet another side effect.   Then there’s the drooling.  And on the next day, extreme dizziness and needing help to walk because his legs didn’t work right for a while.  Even on Sunday, his sense of taste hadn’t fully returned.

Medicines that help seizures have side effects.  What is what, we don’t always know.  But decrease or stop the meds, and the seizures increase.  It’s a complicated situation.

It’s a reality for far too many people…far too many families.

But I want to answer the question that Aaron asked me on Saturday as he talked about his seizures.  He sometimes verbalizes his thoughts in profound ways, especially when he is thinking about being born to live a life with seizures.

“Mom?” he asked.  “What went wrong with me?”

A heart-piercing question from my son.

So to Aaron I said simply, and say here as best I can:

            Dear Aaron, nothing went wrong with you at all.  God made you wonderfully, as He tells us in Psalm 139.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  You were crafted by God.  I don’t know why you have Epilepsy, but I do know that God loves you and He has allowed this for a reason…one that we don’t understand right now.  But God loves you, and so does Dad and so do I.  We think you’re strong and amazing.  Even on our most frustrating days, and yours, we know that we can trust God because we know Who He is.  He is Sovereign, which means He is in charge and He knows best.  We’re glad you’re our son, and we will always be thankful for our Aaron.

“And we know that ALL things work together for good to them who love God, who are called according to His purpose.”  (Romans 8:28)

WP_20180320_16_16_06_Pro

 

All Aaron!

I heard Aaron through the baby monitor early this morning.  He wasn’t having a seizure but instead was making the unmistakable sounds of getting out of bed for more than just a trip to the bathroom.  When he turns his lamp on and moves his stuff out of his desk chair…his two back scratchers and his hand towel – always, always in his desk chair…then I know that he is getting up for the day. 

UGH!!!  I knew it was way, way too early for him to be awake for the day because I had just rolled over, unable to sleep myself, and saw that it was 4:00 a.m.  I turned the monitor off, tried to sleep but couldn’t, and later just got up and began my day. 

I was sitting at my quiet time desk, Bible and study book open, when in walked Aaron.  Another UGH!  And I don’t mean to sound mean.  It’s just that Aaron will not leave me alone if he is up and about in the early morning.  Without even looking at him, I said, “Aaron, do NOT come in here right now.  It’s too early.”

Total quietness.

So I turned my chair around and there stood Aaron, some videos in hand, slightly smiling.  He looked very chipper and very fully awake, and very happy.  Much happier than Mom.  But I had to smile, too, at the cute look on his face.

“Mom, I got out of bed…” he began.

“Don’t even go there,” I said.  “I know you were up at 4:00.”

“4:11,” he flatly replied.

I had to belly laugh at that.  His precision is always so funny, even before 6:00 in the morning!

We talked and compromised, Aaron saying that he would go back to bed if I would make sure he was awake at 7:30 so that he could say goodbye to Dad before Gary left for work.  Agreed.

I thought about yesterday when Aaron and I ran into Dillon’s before I took him to his day group.  If possible, whenever we are in Dillon’s, Aaron always loves walking up to the fresh seafood and fish display.  He loudly points out the shrimp, lobster, crab legs, and anything else he finds unusual and therefore very interesting.

But yesterday there was a surprise!  Aaron was beyond excited to see two whole fish, Tilapia, laying there on ice. 

WP_20180319_13_26_35_Pro

“MOM!!!  LOOK!!” he exclaimed as he pushed his way in front of a little family also standing there.  “He’s ALL fish!!!” 

How I love the way that Aaron expresses himself…well, most of the time!

Gary and I can truly say…He’s ALL Aaron!

Like taking him to Subway over the weekend for a sub.  Subway and Great Clips are two places where, for some reason, his autism just shines.  There in Subway he told the young girl waiting on us all about Dracula since he’s getting ready to watch the old, old Dracula movie.  He asked her if she had seen the movie, did she know where Dracula lived, and how his voice “sounds like England.” 

I kept re-directing him to think of his sub and not Dracula, so he told the girl that he wanted the bread with the black dots on it.  I had told him the correct name since this bread is new to him, but he couldn’t remember that.  She looked confused, I tried to interpret, but Aaron by then was already asking her if she could show him a picture.  And on we went from there until finally we had the sub with black dots in hand and safely exited. 

Later, as he ate his black dotted sub, I asked him if he liked that new bread.

WP_20180318_17_18_05_Pro

WP_20180318_16_55_46_Pro

“I like it!” he answered.  “It tastes weird.”

That’s Aaron…ALL Aaron!

His take on food is so interesting and funny.  Last night he was eating peanuts.  He is often fascinated, over and over, by the outer skin he sometimes finds. 

“I’m afraid to eat those outering parts of the peanuts,” he told me. 

And orange juice pulp – “This orange juice looks like it has worms in it!”

There he goes…ALL Aaron!

Today describing his observation at Great Clips – “You know what I noticed they do to those women?  They take them to that water place and put their HEAD in it!!” 

YIKES!!

All Aaron again!

I could go on and on sharing many insightful, funny, amazing, and embarrassing comments from Aaron.  I have tons, trust me!  So why do I share?  To make you laugh?  Cry?  Scratch your head…like we often do? 

It’s like this not-too-great picture I took of Aaron awhile back.  We had just gotten home after I picked him up from his day group.  Aaron LOVES to share with his friends, so on our drive home he was already asking about what goodies he could take the next day to share with Natalie, or Simone, or Heather, or….

He didn’t even take his coat off, but just sat down on the floor in front of the cabinet, pulled out the snack drawer, and went to work searching for his next treat to share.

WP_20180308_16_11_00_Pro

In much the same way, I want to share with all of you what a unique young man our special Aaron is.  There are so many varied parts to Aaron.  Some parts I love to share, and others I may want to hide, but they all make up who our son is. 

Autism is not the end of the world, honestly. 

Instead, it can be the beginning of another world…a quite amazing journey.

And so I want to say to each of you –

“LOOK!!  He’s ALL Aaron!”

 

What Time Is It??!!

So today I have another Chicago song rumbling around in my brain.  A couple weeks ago it was the song “Color My World” that I wrote about.

But today…today it’s the song, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”

The chorus begins:

Does anybody really know what time it is?

            Does anybody really care?

Stop right there!!

Yes, somebody cares!!!

AARON CARES!!!

For anybody new to my blog, Aaron is our amazing adult son with autism.  And keeping the correct time is of paramount importance to him.  I mean, look at his log book that he keeps with his time to go to bed at night and the time he gets out of bed in the morning.

7d438-attica-20120928-00738

And many of you still chuckle with me when I share conversations similar to this:

Aaron:  “Mom!  I woke up early this morning!  Guess what time I got up?”

Me:  “You got up at 7:00.”

Aaron:  “No!!  I got up at 6:58!!”

Aaron loves keeping his eye on the time, the PRECISE time!  Therefore, this change yesterday to Daylight Savings Time caused a huge bump in his road of exact time keeping.

And that’s why I waited until he and I were driving to Sam’s Club in the early afternoon to even casually broach the subject of another time change.  He listened and then didn’t have much response, but I’ve learned not to be fooled by his silence.  He was pondering this unwelcome news with each ticking second of his wristwatch…his wristwatch pushed way up his arm, always, for those of you who may not know that little fact.

His Sam’s food treasures kept him from dwelling too much on the time issue.  Pineapple slices…cheese cubes…dry roasted peanuts with sea salt (Aaron likes using their full description!) (and talking about what dry roasted means until Gary and I are sick of the topic of dry roasted peanuts with sea salt!)…strawberries…orange juice…and dog jerky for our big Great Dane, Jackson.

Once home and all unloaded, Aaron went out with me to the front yard.  He kindly picked up branches that had fallen in our last wind storm.  We praised him for his helpfulness, and how he was allowing Dad more time to work on our bathroom remodel.  Or as Aaron puts it – “tearing the bathroom.”  He was very proud of his job well done.

WP_20180310_15_02_27_Pro

And then it hit him.  The afternoon was moving right along.  We were going to watch our West Virginia team play Kansas at 5:00.  Aaron asked about what time the game started, which reminded him of that time issue discussed earlier, and the countdown began.

“Mom?  When do we change the time?”

“We’ll just change the clocks when we go to bed, like we always do,” I told him.

This question was asked in one form or another several times during the evening.  Then it got complicated.

It was 8:30ish when we finished watching a program.  “Maybe I should go on to bed,” Aaron said.  I suggested that we watch one more thing, and then he could call it a night.

“But when does the time change?” he asked again.

“Well, technically it changes during the night when we’re asleep, but we’ll set the clocks ahead when we go to bed,” I replied.

He was satisfied with that.  We watched one more NCIS and then it was definitely time to hit the sack.  Aaron ran down the stairs to say goodnight to Gary, remembering to have Dad change the time on his wristwatch.  We got all the bedtime routine taken care of, with Aaron pushing up his sleeve every minute or two to check the ever important time on his watch.  His eyes were darting, though, to the time on his satellite weather station.  We had told him that the time there would change automatically during the night.

Finally, he pushed up his pajama shirt sleeve, stuck his arm out for me to see, and said, “Mom, look.  It’s this time on me.”

He was struggling with having one time on his watch and another time on his weather station.  Nothing I said was helping much.

Then…THEN…the inevitable happened.  It was time for Aaron to write down his time to bed in his log book…and the time on his weather station did NOT jive with the time on his watch.

What to do??!!!

He wrote down the time displayed on the weather station.  I said goodnight.  I should have known it was not over.

Nine minutes after he went to bed, I heard his heavy footsteps coming up the hallway.  Soon there was a knock on the bathroom door.

“Mom?” he asked.  “Is it really 9:47?”

“Yes, Aaron, but during the night it will change while you’re sleeping.  Now go on to bed and don’t worry about it.”

Off he went.  I think it was 9:48.

I was starting to breathe easy, but I shouldn’t have.

More footsteps.  Another knock.

“Mom?  Is it really 10:03?”

Bless his heart.  These things are so, so urgent and of such great importance to him.  I dare not dismiss them or shrug them off or make him feel like he’s ridiculous to be so tied up in the stress of what time it really is.  Gary and I know to explain over and over, if needed…and it almost always is.  Small price to pay, really, for Aaron’s peace of mind and for ours.

All was well today.  Aaron was super excited to eat lunch at Carlos O’Kelly’s, so it appeared that all the time issues had been laid to rest last night, at the same time that Aaron finally decided to rest.

I think it was 4:43 when we were all walking in from the garage…and Aaron spied the time on the garage door opener.

“Dad!  It says 3:43!!”

And in no more than a couple seconds, maybe three, Gary had gotten that garage door opener in sync with Aaron’s watch, Aaron’s weather station, the microwave that Aaron had just watched me change, the oven, the radio…

So…

Does anybody really know what time it is?

            Does anybody really care?

Silly song!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Notice or To Ignore

The other night, Aaron and I were watching a DVD as he munched happily on his jar of peanuts.

“Mom!!” he suddenly exclaimed.  “What’s this on my dry roasted and salted peanuts?”

That by itself was funny, the way he says the complete name of the peanuts printed on the jar. Of course, Aaron sees nothing unusual about that at all.

WP_20180225_14_06_34_Pro

What WAS unusual, to him, was the little thing that he held up for my viewing.

“What’s what?” I asked as he held something miniscule up for me to see.

So Aaron quickly pushed back his blanket, crawled out of his chair, and stood beside me with his open palm carrying the mystery object.

Before I could tell him what “it” was, Aaron decided to first inform me of what he thought “it” was.

“It’s the cover that’s on some of the peanuts,” he told me.

This isn’t the first time that Aaron has called the thin skin on peanuts a “cover.”  It had been awhile since we had carried on this conversation.  I therefore told him once again that the “cover” was actually a thin skin that remained on some of the peanuts after they were processed.

“A skin?” he asked.  “Can I eat it?”

I assured him that he could eat it.  Later, after he had gone to bed, I found several peanut coverings on the table…ones that he had set aside, not to be eaten along with his dry roasted and salted peanuts.

WP_20180224_16_28_35_Pro

Yesterday, Aaron and I ran down to Dillon’s to buy him some lunch.  There in the entry were some little Girl Scouts selling their Girl Scout cookies.  Aaron had walked ahead of me, so as I grabbed a cart one of the girls focused on Aaron.

“Would you like to buy some cookies?” she asked him.

But Aaron had spied the salad bar.  At that moment his entire focus was on lettuce and cheese and boiled eggs and lots of ranch dressing…not on little girls with yummy cookies for sale.

Aaron completely ignored the girl’s question as he barreled in the open door and headed for the salad bar.  I was hurrying after him, because Aaron is sometimes a disaster at salad bars.  My job is to keep his fingers out of the tempting toppings, his head out from under the plastic shield, and to minimize spillage as he insists on “doing it myself!!”

But as I rushed by the sweet little scout, I definitely saw the look on her face.  She was confused by Aaron; for many reasons, I’m sure.  One of the big reasons, though, had to have been the way he completely dissed her and her question.  She was totally ignored.

I smiled at her as I scurried by, thanking her and saying no thanks, and wondering what she must have thought.

I survived the salad bar with Aaron, even as he told me I was rude for taking the tongs away from him as he spilled first some lettuce and then some cheese, and as I yanked the ranch dressing bottle from his hand before he squirted half of it on his salad.  A man was awaiting his turn, and as I turned to walk away he just smiled at me.  Aaron does have a way of becoming the center of attention no matter where we are.

I grabbed a few more items and then we went through the self check-out, me reminding Aaron over and over to stand beside me.  No wandering off to inspect other’s purchases, engage a random stranger in conversation, or sit down at a Starbuck’s table up the aisle while he ignored the worker who asked him if he wanted something.  All of the above…and more…he has done, trust me.

It was easier this time, though, because Aaron was keeping his eyes on his salad.  After I had paid for everything, he took his salad and held it in his two hands.  He walked this way out of the store, holding that salad ever so carefully, as if he was carrying a delicate Ming vase that he dared not jostle at all.

Aaron was once again so focused on his salad that when the young man who was overseeing the self check-out spoke to Aaron, Aaron once again totally ignored him.  And once again I saw that look on the employee’s face, the look that mirrored the one on the little Girl Scout.  A moment of confusion at being dismissed in such fashion.

But I also saw the young man’s face relax with understanding as I was sure he was quickly processing the reality that is Aaron.  And as I walked by, I spoke to him as I chuckled, and he broke out into a huge grin.  He got it!

How is it that Aaron can pay attention to a tiny little peanut “cover” while totally ignoring human beings who are speaking to him?

Elementary, my dear…elementary.

Autism.  Pure and not so simple.

Aaron often notices what we don’t notice, and ignores what we do notice.

When it comes to ignoring people, we can be downright embarrassed at times.  And then there are those times that it’s probably better for him to not notice certain people.

Anyway, the complexities of autism take many years and many experiences to understand.  Plus each individual is just that…an individual who is unique in how autism presents itself in their life.

That’s why it’s called a spectrum.  A “broad range of varied but related ideas or objects.”

Except Aaron is not an idea or an object.  He is a unique and varied human being, one who delights and engages and ignores and yells and frustrates and…

Well, you get the picture.  At least I hope you do!  Because then you can smile more as you enjoy the broad and varied view.

 

 

 

 

Other’s Colors

Do you remember that old song, Color My World, sung by Chicago?  I’ve always LOVED that song!  The meaning of those lyrics takes on a different hue when I think of our life with Aaron, and how he most definitely puts his own color on everything that we do. 

For instance, on Sunday after church I took Aaron with me to our local Dillon’s.  The grocery store is one of Aaron’s very favorite places!  Every aisle is full of discovery to him.  And since those discoveries involve his taste buds, he is especially eager to go along if offered the opportunity. 

Sunday was a chilly day, but not a super cold day.  However, Aaron decided that it was super cold, no matter what I said.  So he walked outside to the van with his toboggan perched goofily on his head and wearing his thick winter gloves.  I could have insisted that he take them off, but after suggesting such, he still wanted to wear his arctic garb and so I just let it go.

We went in the store, and as I headed to the pharmacy, Aaron veered off to explore the candy and snack aisle.  No surprise there!  When I veered up the same aisle to join him later, I had to laugh at the sight of him standing there examining the selection of peanuts. 

WP_20180218_11_24_29_Pro

He did not think it at all unusual to still be wearing his hat and his gloves.  Nor did he think it at all unusual to talk loudly when he saw me coming toward him. 

“Mom!!”  he bellowed.  “I’m looking at the peanuts!!”

And with that update, he proceeded to bend over to examine the jar that he thought he wanted.

WP_20180218_11_24_35_Pro

And then he had to stretch his arm out to retrieve the perfect jar.

WP_20180218_11_24_49_Pro

“See, MOM?!” he continued to bellow.  “These are lightly salted!  Is that good?”

I assured him that this jar was a great choice, and off we went to the self check-out…where he proceeded to talk to the attendant there about his lightly salted peanuts, in his commanding voice and his even more commanding presence…hat and gloves still included.

Sometimes it’s easy to be embarrassed by Aaron.  He doesn’t need the funny hat and gloves to be noticed, trust me!  So on this day, as he was even more noticed than usual, I just smiled and tried to see Aaron through fresh eyes…to relish how unusual he is…and to enjoy the moment.

The colors of that moment could have been red from my red face, and maybe my face was slightly red some of the time.  But that’s OK.  A little red doesn’t hurt me one bit! 

Another aspect of my colorful life with Aaron has been the joy of getting to know other moms of special needs children and adults.  The special bond we share is a rare treasure.  It’s very encouraging to walk the same path with others, though none of us would wish our circumstances on them.  But here we are, together on this journey, and our shared experiences make us all stronger. 

One of those friends, Joyce, has a particularly rough path as she mothers two adult sons with very significant special needs.  I truly am in awe of what she must handle on a “normal” day, much less on the kind of days she has had lately.  One of her sons had his wisdom teeth removed.  Then sickness hit the family, including Joyce and both her special sons.  Intestinal…respiratory…fevers…seizures…many, many sleepless nights. 

Her world is most certainly colored right now with the colors of poop and puke and puffy eyes, to be honest.  So on Sunday afternoon, I called her and I asked if she might want to escape for a bit…go somewhere and catch a breath of fresh air.  Change the colors a bit.

“Yes!” she said.  And a short time later, when I pulled into her driveway, she strode out to my van with a big smile on her face.  I was amazed, though knowing Joyce, I shouldn’t have been.

“Look at your smile!” I told her as she climbed in. 

“Well, I know what I want to do!” she happily declared.

I was expecting her to name a restaurant…or a park…or maybe the mall. 

“I would like to go to Dollar Tree,” she continued, “and get five vases.  Then I want to go buy some tulips and take them up to Oxford Villa.” 

And again, this woman amazed me.  Oxford Villa is a senior assisted living center where her mother used to live.  Joyce wanted to take some vases of flowers there for some of the residents who might not have anyone who loves them and brings them flowers.

Wow!! 

Joyce, I thought, needed some color in her life.  But instead, she wanted to GIVE some color to others!  I was so touched by her unselfishness!  So impacted by yet another lesson taught to me by this dear friend!

Instead of sipping a coke or coffee while eating a piece of dessert somewhere, I watched Joyce buy pretty colored vases and then examine the beautiful colors of tulips at another store.  We realized that Sunday was not the best day to deliver the flowers, though, so that job will be completed another day.  I hope I can help make that delivery!

Sometimes the best way to mix up our colors in this all-too-demanding life of parenting special needs children…or any other part of life that is draining you…is to look beyond yourself and see the needs of others.  To reach out and help carry their burden while taking your eyes off your own for awhile.

There was joy for me in watching goofy looking Aaron find just the right jar of peanuts.

There was joy for me in watching Joyce’s delight in finding just the right colorful vases for some unknown, needy seniors. 

Looking beyond ourselves causes us to see so many stunning colors that otherwise would have remained hidden. 

It’s so worth the effort, even with red cheeks or through tired eyes!

Thank you, Joyce, for your wonderful and colorful friendship!

untitled

Helping Dad

Gary has been in the process of putting up a small shed in our back yard, one that can hold our garden tools and implements.  Aaron has been very interested in Gary’s work.  Last Saturday, Aaron knew that Gary was going to be once again laboring out in the heat.  He wanted to go out and help Gary, so after Aaron got his morning routine accomplished, he walked with purpose to the shed site to see what he could do.

WP_20170610_12_39_32_Pro (2)

Aaron doesn’t have great manual dexterity or skill, but Gary didn’t say a word about that fact.  He welcomed Aaron, even as he was searching in his mind for a job that Aaron could help with at that particular point. 

He told Aaron that he could help by handing him the screws when he needed them as he worked on securing the floor to the frame underneath.  But for some strange reason, Aaron said that he didn’t want to touch the screws with his hands.

Hmmmmm……

So Gary told Aaron to hold the box of screws, which Aaron was very happy to do.  When Gary needed a screw, he would reach into the box that Aaron held and get one out. 

Now Gary didn’t really need Aaron to hold the box of screws.  Gary could have easily just scooted the box around and keep it handy as he worked.  But he would never have hurt Aaron’s feelings by not giving him a job to do. 

There Aaron sat, in the hot sun, holding the box for Gary.  And talking, I’m quite sure.  Talking about his Star Wars game…….his Star Trek television show that he is watching……the latest movie he has decided to watch……and any number of other things that really only Aaron is interested in.

WP_20170610_13_27_38_Pro

I’m also quite sure that Gary would have much preferred some solitude outside……time to work alone after a long week of endless people and situations at work…….time to hear the birds……time to ponder his own thoughts.  But Gary saw beyond his own desires, and saw Aaron’s.  He knew how much Aaron wanted to help and he knew how much it would mean to Aaron to do so.

I believe, too, that Aaron wanted to do a man’s job.  Time with a man, especially time with his dad, fills a need in Aaron that he probably doesn’t even recognize. 

It did my heart so much good to look outside and see the two of them working together.  It did my heart good because I knew that it was doing Aaron’s heart even better.  And it was very pleasing to Gary to give Aaron that opportunity, but even more that Aaron wanted that opportunity to help. 

Such a simple time it was, and not one that lasted all that long.  But the impact on Aaron was huge, one that will last much longer than the actual helping did. 

Aaron walked inside later.  “Dad said I helped!” he proudly told me.  And I praised him for that, which made him smile and rub his hands together in delight before he went on his way.

Gary and I don’t have all the answers to Aaron’s needs.  On some days and in many ways, we feel like we blow it, for sure.  But I looked at this scene on that hot Saturday and I knew that Gary got it right. 

Being a dad is incredibly important, and for a dad of a child with special needs, it’s also incredibly difficult at times. 

How thankful I am for this man who has stood by my side for all these years!   He has stood unbending through hard times, but he has also bent down plenty of times to meet Aaron where he is. 

WP_20170610_13_28_42_Pro

Happy Father’s Day to Gary! 

 

The Beauty IN The Beast

My phone rang this morning, and there on the line was my very dear friend, Wendy.  I knew right away from the sound of her voice that something was wrong.  It was Elijah, Wendy said, her tone flat and exhausted.  He had run away again, on his bicycle, and had almost gotten on highway 24.  Somehow Wendy got him back, although we didn’t go into all the details of that.

Elijah, who turned 20 years old yesterday, suffers from the worst form of Epilepsy there is.  He has horrible seizures that often require oxygen, and sometimes require strong drugs to just stop the awful seizing.  Those drugs may help to save his life, but they also cause his life to be miserable after the seizures stop.  Life saving drugs like that are also life changing drugs because of the terrible behaviors that usually follow their use.

It’s an awful catch 22……a dreadful dilemma for Dan and Wendy, his loving parents.  And for Elijah……and the whole family…….they live between a rock and a very, very hard place.

Seizures cause changes in the brain.  These changes can contribute to behaviors that defy reason.  Drugs to control the seizures often have the very unwelcome side effect of causing even more behaviors.  Add to all this the sometimes necessary brain surgeries that children like Elijah have had…..multiple brain surgeries…..and the mix is indeed toxic when it comes to the brain being able to make the connections that you and I take for granted.

Gary and I face these same dilemmas with Aaron, trying to find the balance between seizure control and quality of life……both Aaron’s and ours.  Yet preventing or lessening seizures is of paramount importance.  It’s literally a life or death situation.

But so are behaviors, sometimes, when those behaviors can be as dangerous as Elijah’s.

And let’s not forget autism.

BLAHHHHHH!!!!!

Sometimes it’s just too much!

No disease or syndrome of ANY kind is easy to bear.  But some are, sadly, easier to explain.

I do believe that explaining……let’s just say it……bad behaviors…..is tremendously embarrassing and frustrating to us parents who find ourselves having to do it over and over and over.

We get “the look.”

We get the questions, spoken or not.

We get “the talk” from teachers or our friend’s parents.

And sometimes we DON’T get…..the party invitations…..the friendships……the understanding…….the listening ear……the sympathy, that we so desperately need.  That our special children desperately need.

It was just last year that someone came up to my car window, and with great exasperation, said, “Can’t you DO something about Aaron?”

I looked at her in disbelief and said, “Do you have ANY idea what all we have been doing with Aaron for over 30 years?!”

Today I gave our Aaron a fun day after his four days in the hospital.  We went to see Beauty and the Beast.  Aaron wasn’t totally sure that this was prime movie material, but the thought of popcorn and time with Mom won him over.

As the movie progressed, I was pretty amazed at Aaron.  He was completely enraptured by this movie.  He was so still and quiet, except for the rubbing of his hands together that is just so Aaron.  He rubbed his hands softly, unless there was a very exciting piece of action.    He ate his popcorn but didn’t even want a second tub.

As I glanced at him during the movie, I saw him smiling.  His eyes were big and focused totally on what was taking place on the screen.  He loved the characters and the drama and most definitely the music.

But the character he loved the most was the Beast.  Aaron was registering in his mind every nuance of the Beast……his anger at the first, his softening as the movie progressed, his smiles, and his joy as he fell in love with Belle.

Aaron at one point simply said, “I love this movie!”

And when he said it again, a little later, Aaron laid his head on my shoulder.  It was pretty incredible.

Aaron wasn’t the only one, though, that was completely taken by parts of this love story.  I was, too, but for reasons that went far beyond Belle and The Beast.

I was looking at what can transpire when a Beast – or a person – is loved.  Is truly loved and valued for who they are under their rough exterior.

Wendy’s sad and tired words played through my mind as the music played on the big screen.  My own sometimes weary burden over our Aaron’s behaviors was heavy on my shoulders.

Elijah and Aaron are so much like the Beast in some ways.  They can evoke a measure of disbelief in how they act and in what they say or do.  They are at times unlikable, impossible to understand, and downright annoying.

images

But there is another side to them, and to so very many others with these same issues.  A side that blooms under love and understanding, as much as possible.  And when we, or others, can’t really understand we at least know deep down that many actions are beyond their control.

the beast

All of this was playing in my mind as the movie played today, with Aaron’s gently rubbing hands and big smile beside me.  And it’s why tears rolled down my cheeks as the words of this song, Something There, burned into my heart.

            There’s something sweet

            And almost kind.

            But he was mean and he was course and unrefined.

            And now he’s dear,

            And so I’m sure,

            I wonder why I didn’t see it there before.

            New and a bit alarming,

            Who’d have ever thought that this could be?

            True that he’s no Prince Charming,

            But there’s something in him that I simply didn’t see.

Aaron and Elijah, and many like them, have so much more in them than we often see.  They are wonderful and funny and smart and have so much to offer to the world……and the people…..around them.

They need what the Beast needed.  They need the “something there that wasn’t there before,” as the Beast’s friends sang at the end of this song.

That “something” is love.  Some days the love is harder in coming than on other days, but even when our boys aren’t being Prince Charmings, they still deserve as much love and understanding as possible.

Belle and Beast

Aaron and Elijah have lots more awareness than we realize.  Aaron has always known who is real and who is not when it comes to how they react to him and interact with him.

You know what Aaron said tonight?

“Mom, Gaston fake loved Belle.”

Aaron gets it.

He knows very well that the Beast loved Belle for who she was as a person.  That’s real love.

And it’s the love our special kids need……the love for who they are, deep under all the medicines and conditions and labels and diagnoses.

I’ll be the first to say that it’s easier to write the words than it is on some days to live it out in real life.

But our kids will grow under unconditional love, some days more than others.

And all of us giving them real love…..not fake love…..will grow even more.

There truly is beauty in the beast, if we just love and look.

WP_20170512_16_26_43_Pro