One Minute Matters

The last blog I wrote told about Aaron’s difficulty in returning to his routine.  He had a very difficult three days as he adjusted to leaving the house every morning and going back to his day group.  Monday wasn’t too bad, Tuesday was awful, and Wednesday was very “iffy.”  I wrote about Tuesday……the slumped shoulders, sitting in the rocks, actually throwing some rocks, etc.  On Wednesday, I went into the building ahead of Aaron because he said he wasn’t getting out of the van.  I just got out and headed inside, and so he followed me.  He talked to Barb, who knows how to calm him, but he kept saying he wasn’t going to stay.  Barb said she would just drive Aaron in her truck over to where Bryan was working on a house, so Aaron walked outside with her, all the while saying that he was NOT staying at Paradigm.  I just stayed mostly quiet.  Aaron stood at our van, but finally went with Barb and then had a good day.  I drove away just asking God for wisdom, patience, and strength.  We ask God often for those three things when it comes to Aaron.

Later Barb and I texted.  She said Aaron was totally fine the rest of the day.  I told her that I think he is testing me, and she said that they would do everything they could to see that I passed the test.  And the staff at Paradigm truly does just that.  They know Aaron, and they know how to work with him….how to calm him……how to understand what’s behind his actions, when they can understand.  Sometimes no one can figure him out. 

Bryan and Aaron worked together all week on different house projects…..residential settings that Paradigm manages.  Aaron was quite proud of the fact that he helped Bryan put tile down on a floor, but on Thursday he brought a piece of the “tile” home and we saw that it was actually laminate flooring.  It wasn’t long before Aaron had given me a resounding whack on my rear with his little plank, and he got a good lecture from me.  I learned the next day that he had done the same to Barb.  He just never seems to get it…..rarely is able to control those impulses.

 
Anyway, he came home on Thursday all smiles as he couldn’t wait to show me what Bryan had fixed for Aaron to wear around his head as they worked.  It was fun to see Aaron smiling and so happy.  He went from his slumped shoulders on Tuesday:

 

To a face full of smiles on Thursday:

 

Today he said, “Mom, Bryan told me that I’m his number one man.”

“Oh, Aaron,” I replied.  “That is such a nice thing for Bryan to say!”

“I think it’s weird,” Aaron flatly replied……which made me laugh……which Aaron also thought was weird. 

He’s so funny.  Last night he was watching an alien movie in his room, having a blast.  But when he came downstairs and saw a sweet family scene on the movie “McFarland,” he said, “That’s weird!”  So for Bryan to call him his number one man seems weird to Aaron, but deep down I think Aaron loves it.  He just doesn’t know how to convey that sentiment like we do.

Just like he doesn’t know how to handle his frustrations over returning to real life after a month away.  Instead of sitting and having a conversation about it, he has to yell and threaten and cry and throw rocks.  Then our frustrations mount, and we have to be so careful how we handle it.  I’ll admit that it gets old.  Gary and I were talking about it last night.  We really don’t know what a “normal” life is at our age.  Other parents of children, young or adult, with behavior issues know exactly what I mean.  Yet there aren’t many great alternatives, and we do love Aaron.  God gave him to us, so we just take one day at a time.  And we are ever thankful for people, like the staff at Paradigm, who work so well with Aaron and help us on this journey.

We see progress with Aaron, but his core issues will probably always be the same.  I’ve always tried to see the humor in so many things that he says and does.  Sometimes I don’t have to look hard, for he truly is so funny so often.  On Friday, our electricity went off a couple times, so Aaron’s clock by his bed was messed up.  As I was helping him get everything ready for bed, he asked me if I would set his clock.  I told him to look at his satellite clock beside his desk and tell me the exact time so that I could get it right on his night stand clock.

“OK, Mom.  It’s 10:05,” he said.

So I punched the buttons for the hour.  Then I did the same for the minutes. 

“It’s 10:06 now, Mom!” he told me.

And wouldn’t you know, I punched just one too many and the clock said 10:07.

“Oh well,” I said.  “One minute won’t matter, Aaron.”

Who was I kidding?!  And I knew it.

He just stood there staring at his clock.  And I knew that one minute did matter.  It mattered very much to Aaron.  He can halfway brush his teeth.  He can wear the same pair of socks for days in a row, seriously, if I don’t catch him.  But one minute too fast on his clock is not tolerable.  Not at all.

“No,” he replied.  “I want it at 10:06.”

So I hurried and re-punched the buttons, but by then it was nearly 10:07.

“Wait,” Aaron said. 

And he began counting the seconds.

“48…49….50….51…” he continued.

And when he said “60!” and the time was now officially 10:07, I punched the little button very carefully, ONE time, and then all was well.  It was 10:07 on his nightstand clock and on his satellite clock.  They were synced correctly, and now Aaron could go to bed.

If only he would sync his life to ours as easily!  If we could just punch a button here and a button there, and make us all line up together in harmony…..wouldn’t that be awesome?

But I know if we did that, then we would also miss a lot along the way.  Like I told Gary last night, even in the midst of our tiredness and sometimes deep frustrations, we really can look at many amazing facets of Aaron.  We just need to remind ourselves of that on some days when no matter how many buttons we push, things just don’t line up the way we want. 

Honestly, on many days we end up syncing ourselves to Aaron.  We can pretty well predict how he’ll react to different situations, and what he’ll say.  He doesn’t sync himself to us nearly as well, but when he does it’s cause for celebration.  Like how he made it through this week and the expectations that were made of him.  It was a huge accomplishment for Aaron!

But tomorrow morning may be another story.  I need to remember that ONE minute.

48….49….50…..51…..

Some Special Heroes

 

Hero:  One endowed with great strength or ability; one that shows great courage.

 

Don’t quit reading.  I promise I’m not going to launch off into my opinion of Hollywood’s latest hero worship fiasco.  Besides, those of you who know me know what I think about it….and I certainly don’t need to add my voice to the many voices who have so adequately expressed my views.

 

I was going to write this blog anyway, someday, but now I have many reasons to do so.  And yes, a big reason is the messed up qualities that our culture is trying to cram down our throats…..not only the person this week but the people every day and every week that they try to convince us are worthy to be called heroes.

 

Another reason I want to write about some heroes I know is because of a conversation I had this morning with Barb, a manager at Paradigm and one of the kindest people I have ever known.  She told me of a business owner across the street from Paradigm, Aaron’s day group.  This man is not a nice neighbor to Paradigm.  One day, as special needs clients were outside on Paradigm property, he told the Paradigm staff that they could “take their circus somewhere else.”

 

Someone hold me back!  A circus?!  Excuse me??

 

That poor man.  He has no idea that he has heroes across the street from him every weekday.  I looked around inside Paradigm today and I saw amazing young adults.  Shauna gave me a huge smile from her wheelchair.  Jessica waved at me and gave me a beautiful smile.  Paul gave me a hug.

 

For years I have been surrounded by heroes…..by individuals who have extreme challenges, but display extreme strength as well.  How often do we “normal” people stop to think about what these special people face every day of their lives?

 

Each of them has a diagnosis, but their diagnosis does not define who they really are.  There is Epilepsy, Doose Syndrome, Autism, Prader Willi Syndrome, Spina Bifida, Muscular Dystropy, blood disorders, Downs Syndrome, Developmentally Delayed…..

 

But my friends are real people with real lives.  They were named by their parents, who love them so deeply.
Jennifer
Darien

 


Johannes

 

 

Elijah
Christoph
Alyssa
Aaron
Nicholas
Bethany
Rosa
Kaleb
They each face, or have faced, more physical challenges than I have ever seen in my own life.  Could I ever deal with even a fraction of what they handle, sometimes every day?
Seizures.

 

Taking medicines every day.

 

Facing the side effects of all the meds they take, which include being sleepy, dizzy, gaining weight, mood swings, organ damage, bone loss, etc.

 

Surgeries, some extreme.

 

Multiple doctor appointments.

 

Test, tests, and more tests.

Fear of infection.

 

This is just a very partial list of what they routinely encounter.  They pick themselves up, every day, and they live.  They live their lives to the fullest.  Would I be able to function after having one seizure, or would I just go to bed for the rest of the day?  How do some of them do it after having multiple seizures, sometimes daily multiple seizures?

 

But there is much more than just the physical part of their struggles.  What would it be like to face the social aspects of living life every day with a disability or a diagnosis that hindered you from living like your peers?

 

Having to go to special classes at school.

 

Having an IEP.

 

Not going to college.

 

Wanting to drive but not being able to get your license.

 

Having seizures in public.

 

Looking different, possibly.

 

Being bullied or teased.

 

Not having filters, so you say things that others don’t like or understand.

 

Not having close friends, or any friends at all. 

 

Not being invited to go out with your peers.

 

But our kids keep on going.  Somehow they manage to not only live, but to laugh and to grow and to thrive the best they can.  They jump over the challenges and push ahead, every single day.

 

I’ve watched Aaron on a seizure day as he still tries to smile, to get out of bed or off the couch, and to continue his day as best he can.  I’ve seen him go back to hard situations, like after he’s had a meltdown, and face his staff and friends again.  I’ve heard him say that he wished he could drive as he watched Andrew pull his truck into the driveway.  It’s sad to understand that he can’t even go out on his own to get a hamburger without depending on someone to take him.  I’ve been deeply touched as he watched his brother and sister grow and move on with life.  It broke my heart when he came home from his special needs school one day and said, “Mom, I noticed that all those kids there have problems.  What are my problems?”

 

And I want to say, “Aaron, you don’t have problems.  You have challenges, yes, but you have overcome them every day of your life in ways I’m not sure I could.  You are strong, and you are tough, and you are brave!”

 

You’re a HERO!!

 

And so are each of these wonderful young people that I’ve mentioned today.  They are each full of courage and strength to live their days as fully as they can.  They wouldn’t think of themselves as heroes, but I do!

And they don’t belong to a circus!!

 

They belong to a unique group of Super Heroes!  They should be on magazine covers and cereal boxes and talked about on the news!!

 

But they probably won’t be.  So look around you every day and find the true heroes among you.  Smile at them, love them, encourage their families, reach out to them when you can, and pray for them.

I am very thankful to know so many heroes….TRUE heroes that fit that definition perfectly.

And someday I’ll see two other heroes that have already gone to heaven.

 

Ben.

 

 
 
And Katy.

 

They live on in our hearts, and especially in the hearts of those who knew them best.

 

Don’t listen to silly Hollywood stories and look at ridiculous magazine covers to find a hero.

 

I guarantee there are many special heroes around you every day who could be your example of strength and courage.

 

I’m so blessed to live with one!  And to know many others!

 

 

 

 

I Held A Butterfly

 

I’ve had a bit of an up-and-down weekend for several reasons – finding myself sometimes nostalgic as I think of Gary’s and my role as parents to our three wonderful children.  It’s been the most fulfilling calling of our lives, that’s for sure.  Sometimes challenging, too, as it is for every parent.  Now Andrea and Andrew have moved to other states as they pursue their own callings at this point in their lives………..Andrea in grad school studying genetics, and Andrew living his dream of working for a professional NHRA drag race team. 

 

And we have life with our special Aaron, still living at home and treating us to his unique view of life every single day………whether we totally relish his unique view or not.  For at times his unique take on life may be funny……..or it may be interesting………..or eye-opening………..or tiring……….or maddening.   But never dull.  Never, ever dull.

 

This morning Aaron followed me outside where I was picking up some small branches and sticks that had blown out of our trees.  Aaron was happy that Jackson was out with us, too, as we said goodbye to Gary when he left for work and I continued to look around the yard for more sticks.  Soon I heard Aaron say, “Mom!  There’s a butterfly!”  I turned around to look and there I saw Aaron holding the butterfly in his hand.  He was looking at this beautiful butterfly with awe, just as a small child would do.  Therefore, I did the same………bending over Aaron’s outstretched hand as we both admired the intricate markings and brilliant colorings of this special little creature.  It’s something I probably would not have been doing on this pretty morning had it not been for Aaron.

 

I’ve been thinking about that a lot today.  Last night Gary and I talked to Andrea for a long time about her thesis research……..about the rapid sequencing machine that she is privileged to be using………about her research being presented to the DOD……….about her research being published…………about where she might apply for her PhD studies in genetics……….and so much more.  Andrea’s very interesting studies have opened up a whole new world to Gary and me.

 

With Andrew, it’s been so much fun to experience the world of professional NHRA racing.  It’s been pretty amazing to get an inside view of this life through visiting him as he worked at the race in Texas and then to talk to him about his new life……….the traveling………the drivers and their crews……the inside stories and insights……….the new things he’s experiencing and learning………watching him on television…….and for us to stand in the winner’s circle in Texas while I got to hold the winning trophy, a Wally, for real!

 

And just this morning, I held a butterfly, for real!   I got to stand in our driveway and have Aaron show me his wonderful butterfly, and then let him gently slide the butterfly into my hand so that I could experience holding him myself.  Aaron was as thrilled with this experience as Andrea is with her research and as Andrew is with his job in the NHRA.  Once again, I am reminded of the importance of perspective in these matters, and of how true this perspective is in so many areas of life.  My attitude, my perspective, makes a huge difference in how I view these matters. 

 

In sharing life with Aaron, the seemingly small things become big and important.  Sometimes that’s a good thing………and sometimes not so good.  But just like I am excited about Andrea’s and Andrew’s accomplishments and their lives, I want to also be excited about Aaron’s……….or at least appreciative of Aaron’s life, and often downright awed……..I hope.

 

This wonder that is Aaron……….it’s in a butterfly in the driveway.

 

It’s in him putting his plastic Halloween rat on the dashboard last night as we drove to Sonic for his milkshake………and him hoping that the cashier would surely notice it!

 

It’s in exuberantly asking if the Buffaloes beat the Chiefs in football.  The Buffaloes?

 

It’s in being very excited to be in Papa Murphy’s as we ordered pizza on Saturday……and instantly picking up the container of red pepper, telling me that he put red pepper on his Target pizza the day before.   “It was full of hotness, Mom!!”

 

It’s in the joy of playing a simple game of Skip-Bo.

 

It’s in him sleeping with Mr. Snake that he took from Andrea’s room.

 

It’s in him meticulously writing down the times that he goes to bed every night and the times that he gets up every morning in his special notebook………even when he’s groggy from a seizure.

 

It’s in the necklace that he made for me and that he loved seeing me wear.

 

It’s in plopping on the floor in the middle of the vet’s office to pet Kato, the resident cat.

 

It’s in wearing his slipper socks AND slippers, even with shorts, and not caring one whit how he looks.

 

It’s in happily buying Gary a treat at the grocery store.

 

It’s in watching Wheel of Fortune………and yes, even with his VERY loud clapping and yelling.

 

It’s in his childish excitement about his upcoming birthday.

 

It’s in his pure delight with anything and everything that is even one iota out of the norm…………and him not knowing that he is just that…..out of the norm – unique and amazing.

 

It’s in his final good night hug……either because it’s so sweet……..or it’s because I’m so tired that the hug makes me that much closer to quiet sleep.

 

It’s that last knock on our bedroom door to check for one last time on the weather………and the outdoor temperature………..and whether it’s going to rain during the night…………..and will there be lightening……….and thunder……….and should he leave his blinds up………and he might not read before bed……..

 

It’s one of many reasons that we lock our bedroom door.

 

But not our hearts.  I hope we never lock our hearts to Aaron and to all that he teaches us and opens our eyes to every single day.

Footprints

 

For the past two days we had a small and gentle snow that fell to the ground and blanketed our brown earth with a fresh coat of white.  Besides needing the moisture, it was a relief to look outside and see the drab brown grass and trees transformed into the beauty of a soft winter wonderland……….new and sparkling white.
 
Andrea is still here with us as she enjoys the last day or two of her Christmas break.  Along with her, we have her adorable dog – Darcy.  Darcy is so small compared to our huge Great Dane, Jackson.  The difference in their sizes was very evident yesterday as I looked down at their footprints in the snow.  I had no trouble being able to distinguish which print was Jackson’s and which was Darcy’s.  The impressions that each dog made in the snow was undeniable………big for Jackson and small for Darcy. 
 
I’ve been thinking about footprints and pondering the significance of those footprints that we cannot see……….the footprints that we leave in the lives of people that cross our paths.  I have specifically been thinking of Aaron – of some of the people that have left a footprint in his life and therefore has impacted mine.  The footprints don’t have to be huge or to be many in order to leave an impact.
 
Years ago we had a dinner after the morning service at our church.  By this time,  Aaron was in his teens and his differences were very pronounced.  Most of his peers did not know what to do with Aaron ………..how to talk to him or relate to him.  They weren’t unkind but most simply handled the situation of Aaron by ignoring him, or by speaking briefly and then walking uncomfortably away from this person who was so unusual.  As I went through the serving line and filled my plate, I looked around for Aaron in order to direct him to the table where we would be sitting.  But there was no Aaron to be found as my eyes scanned the room.
 
Then I saw him sitting at a table full of teenage boys.  I wondered if Aaron had just seated himself there and  my heart fell as I feared that he might be ignored.  It was then that Gary told me that one of the young men at that table, Tyler Ellis, had asked Aaron if he wanted to sit with them.  I was shocked………and I was also so very happy.  What to Tyler probably seemed like a very small thing to do was instead a huge blessing to Gary and me.  That incident left a footprint in my heart that remains today…………a footprint of kindness that still warms me and makes me smile.
 
I have another footprint involving a young man that had his own struggles yet had a heart of gold.  Paul Gilbow came over to our house to swim with Aaron.  What was routine for our other children was rare for Aaron……….to have someone purposely come over to swim with him and spend time with him.  I remember the joy that filled my heart as I looked out the window and watched Paul and Aaron swim.  Paul was unaffected by Aaron’s unusual behaviors or speech or appearance.  He gave Aaron a day of normalcy and fun, and he gave me a footprint in my life that will stay forever.  Paul has left this earth but his sweet footprint remains with me.
 
We each leave footprints in the lives of others.  Some of those prints are with intent as we purposely reach out to touch others and to help them along the way………….or sadly as we may reach out to inflict verbal pain or to ignore those that we dislike.  Other prints we may never see or realize as we affect people in ways of which we are unaware.  I often wonder that if the footprints of our attitudes and our deeds were visible, like Jackson’s and Darcy’s, then what would mine look like?  When I leave a footprint in some one’s life, what kind will it be?  Will someone look at the footprints in their life and recognize mine?  And if they do, will it be because of a smile or an act of love and caring?  Or will they see anger or frustration or neglect? 
 
I want this New Year to be a year of making the right kinds of footprints in the lives of others…….and to remember that even the very smallest of prints can leave a lifelong, profound effect on those whose lives I somehow touch.  

Our Nest

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?

Four or Forty Tops?

Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome often become fixated on certain areas of interest.  This is also called “perseverating.”  When Aaron demonstrates this behavior, we call it:  “Oh good grief!  What’s Aaron stuck on now?!”

On our recent trip back east, he took his CD player with him along with some favorite CDs as well as some CDs he hadn’t listened to often or ever.  He loves oldies music and so when he started listening to The Four Tops CD he was captivated.  Over and over he played certain songs, and over and over he stared at their picture inside the front cover.  I had to look at it; Gary had to look at it – and we had to listen to Aaron talk and talk about The Four Tops.  At one point he said, “I love The Forty Tops!”  I told him that if they were The Forty Tops then they would be a choir.  He thought this was “quite funny,” as he says.

 

He observed that The Four Tops wear “shiny church shoes” and because of the tapping on one of the songs he’s just sure that they are tap dancing.  Somehow I can’t see The Four Tops tap dancing, but I could be wrong.  Bing Crosby, maybe, but The Four Tops?  Anyway, he wanted to know their names and so I looked that up on my tablet as we drove.  Then he wanted me to write their names beside their picture that he stared at on the inside cover, which required me to log onto Wikipedia and compare faces with names, etc.  I felt like I was doing a research paper!  Aaron was becoming happier by the minute as he gathered more info – or as MOM gathered more info!

In a moment of brilliance, I suggested that we check out YouTube to see some Four Tops videos.  I did that, and he was enthralled, but the video kept stopping and Aaron kept getting disappointed – which can lead to Aaron becoming frustrated – which we don’t want!  So I rescued my tablet and told him he could log onto his computer at home for the YouTube segment of our Four Tops education.  And true to form, as soon as we were home Aaron was on YouTube watching the singing and dancing Four Tops.  At supper that night, he educated Andrea on all he had learned about The Four Tops, whether she wanted to hear it or not.  She was shown the picture with the names printed, heard about their shiny shoes with which they certainly tap dance, and was told that The Four Tops twirl when they dance.

And Aaron wonders why The Four Tops sing about girls all the time, and things like love, and he cracks up when they sing about staring at the girl’s picture and kissing it a thousand times – or something like that.  In his literal mind, this is beyond comprehension.  And again, why do these guys keep singing about girls and love anyway?!  So this morning as we drove to his group, he did NOT forget to bring The Four Tops CD to the van.  When he heard them sing the phrase “I get all choked up,” he declared, “Well, that’s weird!  Why are they doing that?”  I asked him to tell me what he thinks “all choked up” means and he said, “You know – that coughing thing!!”  Whereupon I nearly became “all choked up” as I tried not to laugh!  And I will try very hard not to “choke HIM up” when he returns home today and we have to talk about all of this all over again!!

Matters of the Heart

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.

 

“WELCOME TO HOLLAND”
By Emily Perl Kingsley, 1987. All rights reserved.
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability- to try to
help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this………..
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy.
You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans.  The Coliseum.
The Michelangelo David.  The gondolas in Venice.  You may learn some handy phrases in
Italian.  It’s all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives.  You pack your bags and off you go.
Several hours later, the plane lands.  The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”
“Holland?!” you say.  “What do you mean, Holland??  I signed up for Italy!  I’m supposed to be in Italy.  All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy!”
But there’s been a change in the flight plan.  They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease.  It’s just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books.  And you must learn a whole new language.  And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.  It’s just a different place.  It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy.
But after you’ve been there for awhile and you catch your breath, you look around…………and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills and Holland has tulips.  Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy………..and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go.  That’s what I had planned.”
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away………because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.
But………if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things………….about Holland.
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