All I Need to Know

He threw the glass across the kitchen this morning.  At least it was a plastic glass……and at least it was empty.  So began our morning.  Aaron got up just in time to go out to Gary’s truck in the driveway and hug him goodbye.  He was happy and I was hopeful.  Yesterday was up and down with Aaron.  He didn’t like me for awhile but then settled down and we had a nice evening.  We watched Wheel of Fortune, and played Skip-Bo later while eating strawberries.

Simple pleasures, but not always such a simple life with Aaron. 

This morning as we walked back into the house after his goodbye hug for dad, he decided that Mom was the bad guy again.  He told me he wasn’t going to go to Paradigm today, and on and on. 

Oh, the complexities of his mind!  The challenges of autism!  Physical issues I can handle so much easier because the flesh and blood of those special needs is right there to see and somehow grasp.  But the workings of the autistic mind are sometimes anyone’s guess, and this morning I was in no guessing mood.

So I launched back after his verbal barrage got to a certain point.  I pointed my finger at Aaron and I very firmly put him in his place.  But Aaron rarely stays in the place I put him.  I may feel better for a few seconds, but then he opens his mouth and his resolve is more set than ever……his resolve to win the war, even if he loses a few battles in the process.  I know this about Aaron, but I sometimes act despite what I know.  I act on my feelings, and I often regret it. 

The rest of the morning was filled with Aaron telling me he wasn’t going to talk to me anymore, all the while talking to me to tell me that he wasn’t going to talk to me.  Over and over and over.  He also didn’t want me to talk, so I mostly remained silent, which actually drives him crazy.  There was no winning for either of us at that point.

Aaron went to Paradigm, wanting me to come in with him so I could tell Barb to be sure he was nice……and Barb told him the same thing I had said earlier, that he was the only one who could be sure he was nice.  I don’t know for sure how his day has been.  I don’t know for sure that I want to know.

We’ve had lots of storms in Kansas lately.  On our way back from Topeka recently, Gary and I drove through the beautiful Flint Hills.  There on the horizon were storm clouds, and we were headed straight into them.  There was no avoiding the storm.  No matter what road we took, the drive home led into the storm. 

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And again yesterday, driving Aaron to his day group, we were facing storm clouds.  There they were, dark and threatening. 

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Driving into a storm reminds me of living with Aaron.  It also reminds me of Moses.  I’m reading the book of Exodus, and in chapter 3 God spoke to Moses in the burning bush.  He told Moses of the job He wanted him to do…..to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt.  And Moses said, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 

The first part of God’s answer was simply this: “But I will be with you…..”

God didn’t say, “Oh come on Moses, you’re the man!  You’re so great!  I know you can do it!”

Moses’ sufficiency rested only in those six words that God first spoke: “But I will be with you…..”

Moses’ sufficiency rested only in God.  Not in himself…..not in his family…..not in his royal connections from years past.  No.  The strength and wisdom and courage that Moses needed rested only in God.

I’m not proud of the times I blow it with Aaron.  I’m not proud of Aaron’s behaviors on the bad days.  I often feel like Moses.

“Who am I, that I can parent Aaron?  Who am I, that I can have patience enough on the bad days to tolerate the behaviors?”

And God’s answer for me is just the answer He gave to Moses: “But I will be with you…..”

It’s no mistake that I am Aaron’s mother.  God put me on this road because of His sovereign plan for me and also for Aaron.  I may feel on some days that I can’t do this correctly, or do it at all, but this is where God has put me.  God doesn’t make mistakes.

So here I am, driving on this life road and headed into yet another storm.  I know I’m not alone in this.  I know of others who are feeling the pressure of the dark clouds on their horizons, and are soon overcome with rain and lightning and thunder.  But if you’re God’s child, He is with you.  He promises you strength, wisdom for the asking, peace in your inner being, and joy deep down.  Whatever your situation…..your worry……your pain…..your secret turmoil……your fear…..your failures, God’s word to Moses is God’s word for you…..for me…. “But I will be with you….”

I don’t always feel this fact.  But I know this fact to be true, this fact of God being with me, and so I can rest in that knowledge even when I don’t feel it.

After I dropped Aaron off and drove home yesterday, this was my view.  All the time I was driving into the storm, just behind me was the lifting of the clouds. 

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It’s true of my life, too.  God will relieve the burden, even if the situation remains.  He relieves my burden by reminding me of Who He is, like He did to Moses.  And reminding me that He is with me, always. 

Even when I say, “Are you sure, God?  Did I take a wrong turn somewhere?  And look how I’ve messed up!!”  And He answers once again, “But I will be with you…..”

Dark clouds, or bright sky.  Angry Aaron, or happy Aaron.  God is with me.

On some days, that’s all I know.  But on every day, that’s all I need to know. 

 

Who Are These Special Moms?

As the mother of a son with special needs, I have often had people tell me that they think God gives special children to special moms.  While I realize that this sentiment is meant to be encouraging and kind, I also must say that I think it’s misguided.  A big reason I think this is because I know me.  I know me better than anyone else knows me, except God.  I know that I’m no more special than any other mom out there.  This isn’t fake humility, either.  It’s just the truth.

All moms need God’s grace for each day.  We who are His children need His grace for our own children in so many different ways.  How amazing is God’s grace, too!  He promises this undeserved favor to us over and over, greater grace for greater needs, along with His mercies that are new every morning.  He has all that I need.  He has all that any mom needs.  I asked God many times to give me grace for the challenges that I faced as a mom to all three of our children.

Having said all this, let me also say that I have a great respect for the moms that I know who are walking this life alongside their child or children with special needs.  My heart goes out to them, ones I know and ones I don’t know, as they face demands that they never dreamed they would encounter as a mother.

So as Mother’s Day approaches, and we see the beautiful cards…….heart tugging commercials…….perfect mother and children photos…….and all the lovely images of motherhood through the years – let me give a “special” shout-out to all the “special” moms of special children.

Those dear Moms:

  • Who spend hours researching your child’s diagnosis rather than hours researching what sport for him to play.
  • Who pray for your child’s teacher to be understanding of meltdowns, bluntness, and a zillion other things that have nothing to do with her grasping of educational facts, and yet have everything to do with her ability to learn.
  • Who dread with a passion those IEP meetings.
  • Who dread having to once again explain your child in every new setting.
  • Who dread high school graduation because……then what?
  • Who try to ignore the stares from others in public places instead of basking in admiring glances.
  • Who are learning how to use your child’s feeding tube rather than planning his fun pizza party.
  • Who are searching for the best wheelchair rather than the best bicycle.
  • Who watch their child being marked for radiation rather than getting a cool tattoo.
  • Who are shopping with their daughter for a wig to cover her bald head due to chemo instead of shopping for the perfect new hair products.
  • Who are driving their older child everywhere because he can’t have a driver’s license due to seizures or other medical issues.
  • Who hurt because their child doesn’t have many, or any, friends.
  • Who are signing guardianship papers instead of college admittance papers.
  • Who are scouring the internet for the latest medical treatments instead of scouring for the best college scholarships.
  • Who know more drug names and side effects than they ever wanted to know.
  • Who spend far more time finding caregivers than finding cool vacation spots.
  • Who are adept at rearranging schedules due to unexpected medical issues.
  • Who lay in bed at night with the sound of your husband sleeping on one side, and your adult child breathing heavily in the baby monitor on the other side as you listen for seizures.
  • Who read your adult child the same book every single night of his life.
  • Who keep waterproof mattress pads on your child’s bed – your adult child.
  • Who have a hard time finishing a conversation with your husband without being interrupted over and over.
  • And who, for some, will find themselves looking at a gravestone on Mother’s Day instead of looking into the eyes of their child.

 

So to all of you amazing mothers of special needs children, I give you a huge high five!!  I hope you know that you are loved and that God does have special grace for you every day.

And may you, as my friend Atha would say, be established in your purpose……this God-given purpose……of raising one of His very special children.

 

 

 

The Wonder of Me…..And Aaron…..And Lots of Things

I went to pick Aaron up at his day group on Thursday afternoon. I waited in the van for a couple minutes, then saw Barb coming toward me. I knew before I really knew that this probably wasn’t going to be good news. I was right. She told me that Aaron was inside after having a very rough afternoon and that he was refusing to come outside. I went in and we found Aaron laying on one of the couches, crying and very upset. After some time, and moving to a new couch where he laid down again, he told the story of how he had acted……which often starts with him thinking he’s teasing but turns ugly pretty quickly. One thing led to another and the situation became something it never needed to be.

How we wish that Aaron understood that his idea of teasing is often anything but. How we wish he could control himself when he is being redirected. All the talking and lectures and therapy in the world doesn’t seem to sink in. Maybe a little, but not as much as needed. He just doesn’t connect actions and repercussions like you and I do. Reading about the autistic brain……writing about the autistic brain…….saying that I understand the autistic brain as much as I can…….often doesn’t mean as much as it should when I’m staring at my belligerent son, hearing of his actions and trying to control my own embarrassment and anger.

Aaron is often immensely funny, but Aaron is also sometimes immensely frustrating. Thursday fell into the last category.

Aaron is seeing a family therapist every two weeks. This is a new thing for him. I had high hopes that as much as he loves to talk, he would really take to this and love talking to her. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. If she just let him talk about his things, like aliens and movies and games and eating out, then he would probably look forward to it. But he realizes that she wants to talk about his issues……how he’s doing at Paradigm and at home with relationships and anger and attitudes. To Aaron, this is uncomfortable and a waste of time, so he hasn’t been enjoying their sessions like I had hoped.

This past Tuesday she gave him a paper on which she had drawn a large stoplight. The green light means that he is doing good, so keep going. The yellow light means that he is starting to feel some frustration, so he needs to be cautious. The red light means that he is having a meltdown full of anger. At the end of the day, he is to mark what kind of day he has had…..green, yellow, or red.

Aaron didn’t want to take the paper home from her office. Then he told me several times that he thought the paper was stupid. I left it alone on Tuesday night, but on Wednesday night I told him before bed that it was time to mark his stop light with what kind of day he had. I felt like Wednesday had been a green day, so I thought he would be happy to mark the green light. But when I told him to get his paper and mark it, he crossed his arms and told me that he had hidden the paper.

Oh boy.

After some talking, he finally got down on his hands and knees, and pulled the paper out from under his bed. He rolled his eyes as he put a mark on the green light, the mark I thought would make him happy. Then he picked up the paper and as we stood there talking before saying good night, he crumpled that paper some in his hand. He was simmering, I knew it.

So after his meltdown Thursday at Paradigm, and a rather rough evening at home during Skip-Bo as I tried to talk to him, he went upstairs at my direction and brought down the stop light paper so that he could mark it. I knew that he needed to put a mark on the red light, and he knew that, too.

He came down to the kitchen table with his paper, and this was what he laid on the table.

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Well, so much for that idea. How many times I say that when we try something new with Aaron!

So often it’s back to square one with Aaron. We rarely feel like we pass go and collect our $200.00. I know there are times in his life when he needs to pull back and reboot, so on Friday I let him stay at home. He went grocery shopping with me, helping me at the store and helping me carry in the groceries at home. We went to see Jungle Book, run more errands, and get him a sub for supper. We watched a little TV in the evening. It was a pleasant, fun day for both of us.

Aaron found an Elvis CD that he wanted when we were shopping together at the first of the week. He’s been completely fascinated with the songs and with Elvis all week as we’ve listened to the CD while driving. He’s been hilarious with some of the things that he has said about Elvis, like how his voice is “jiggly” and his dancing is “rowdy.”

So on Thursday, meltdown day, Aaron turned on the Elvis CD in the van. The second song that played just left me pretty stunned and with a huge lump in my throat. “The Wonder of You.” Look at the lyrics for the first part of this song:

When no one else can understand me.

              When everything I do is wrong.

              You give me hope and consolation,

              You give me strength to carry on.

 

              And you’re always there to lend a hand

              In everything I do.

              That’s the wonder, the wonder of you.

 

Aaron has decided that he loves this song. It’s uncanny. This song that speaks volumes to me about what kind of mother I need to be with Aaron has become a very special song to him as well. It’s not for the reasons that it’s meaningful to me, either, because I’ve had him tell me why he likes it so much. But he’s played it over and over since Thursday. We even listened to it with Gary at supper last night.

I really do want to be this kind of mother in Aaron’s life. Sometimes he’s certainly hard to understand and he does a lot wrong, but I pray that I will give him hope and consolation, strength and a helping hand.

Honestly, many times, I don’t feel like I’m a wonder. I feel more like I’m left wondering…..wondering what to do, wondering what’s going on, wondering how I can stay calm…..

I could go on for a long time about some of the ways that I wonder.

But Aaron needs me to be there for him despite the wondering and the frustrations, the tiredness and the seeming dead ends that we end up taking. He’s taking a nap right now and just had a seizure. He needs me physically, too.

But he needs me the most when, like the first part of the song says, no one else understands him and everything he does is wrong. I know he’s frustrated by those times more than we are.

All moms can relate to what I am saying, and especially moms of special needs kids and adults understand it all too well.

Aaron will probably never look at me and say, “Wow, Mom! You’ve meant so much to me. You’re a wonder!”

Just reading that makes me laugh. I’d faint if he said that and probably get hurt, so it’s just as well that he doesn’t say it, right?

But I will keep striving to BE that in Aaron’s life…..pick him up, understand as best I can, hold his hand (figuratively speaking, because he doesn’t hold hands much ), and give him strength and consolation.

But trust me, I know me, and I know that at the end of some of our days I’ll still be saying, “Yes, I’m a wonder! I’m a-wondering how on earth we both made it to the end of this day alive and in one piece!!”

And tomorrow’s a new day!

             

Monopoly On a Scrabble Board

I have a dear friend, Joyce, who has two sons with special needs. They each have significant special needs. Joyce is someone that I admire very much. I know she couldn’t handle all that she does apart from God’s grace. One day over lunch, she said the most profound thing to me. We were discussing some of the unusual ways that our boys function in their daily lives, and how we must function as their moms.

Joyce said, “It’s like playing Monopoly on a Scrabble board.”

That’s just one of the best descriptions I have ever heard about living with a child with autism, or many other developmental issues.

How on earth DO you play Monopoly on a Scrabble board?!! At first glance, I might say that you DON’T!! But as parents of our special children, we must. We have to be creative……flexible……think outside the box……and be very patient when all the pieces just don’t fit.

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The bottom line is this……we just don’t have a choice. So we take the Scrabble board and figure out our version of Monopoly, often writing the rules as we make the plays……and changing the ones that don’t work.

Aaron has been doing so well lately that I’ve felt like I’m mostly playing Monopoly on a Monopoly board. Imagine that!!

Oh, we always have our Aaron moments because that’s just how it is. But he’s been unusually happy and kind lately, both at home and at his day group. He’s even wanted to help more around the house, including in the kitchen.

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There are mornings that he hasn’t wanted to go to his day group, just like we don’t always want to get up and face our day. One morning he was getting upset about having to go to Paradigm, saying that he just doesn’t have a good time there.

“But Aaron,” I countered, “every time I pick you up, you say you had a good time.”

Not missing a beat, Aaron replied, “Well, the next time you pick me up, I’m gonna say I DIDN’T have a good time!!”

So there!!

He didn’t see my smile as he huffed out of the room. He ended up going that morning and having a good day, by the way.

This past Friday, however, was just the reverse. He left the house happily. We enjoyed listening to our oldies on the way to Paradigm. He was looking forward to some shopping and pizza at the end of the day, after I picked him up.

I pulled up to Paradigm and saw him sitting outside with his friends. His face was red and he was minus his glasses. I just knew…..and I was right. It had been a meltdown day for Aaron, and who knows why? He had broken his glasses….again…..but thankfully this time I was able to pop the lens back in. His staff was talking to me as Aaron sat in the van beside me, red faced from crying. So instead of shopping we just went to get his pizza and then head straight home, where we continued to sort out what had happened. His behaviors were wrong on several levels, and dealing with it would take a long time, I knew.

Hand me the Scrabble board.

And that rule book that I’m working on, continually.

Yesterday we took a walk in Swanson Park, stopping at the recycling bins on our way. The bins were full, so we couldn’t drop our things off then. We enjoyed the park, the fresh air and sunshine, and the deer that we saw. Aaron had a good time, despite complaining of a sore throat.

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Last night at bedtime I told Aaron that we might get some rain, and maybe some thunder and lightning. Aaron loves rain and he loves storms. He followed me up the hall after I delivered the hopeful storm news to him.

“What time?” he asked.

I told him that I didn’t know what time the rain or storms would come, but that if it happened, it would be later. As in not this very minute.

“Like when?” he asked.

I repeated that I didn’t know just when.

“Will it be later?” he continued asking.

Deep sigh……which he totally didn’t notice.

“Yes,” I affirmed. “The rain and possible storms could be later.”

I hoped to finally be finished.

Aaron followed me still.

“So we might not hear it?” he wondered.

The Scrabble board! Where’s the Scrabble board?!

Today Aaron is home with his cold. He is home with me, snorting because he doesn’t blow his nose.

I am re-reading the Monopoly on the Scrabble board rules about patience.

I was in the bathroom. Aaron stood on the other side of the door, happy because he had asked if we could try the recycling bins again. I had said yes, and had also told him that we would run an errand as well while we were out. Aaron sees all sorts of possibilities in the word “errand.” Most of which are in the form of food.

So there he was outside my bathroom door.

“Mom?” he began. “Are we going to recycle?”

“Yes,” I answered. “I said we’ll run an errand and do the recycling later.”

“What do you mean later?” he asked.

I wilted a little.

“Just later,” I replied.

A moment of silence.

“So what time?” he asked.

A Scrabble board in every room is what I need, with all the Monopoly pieces. Certainly in every area of life with Aaron.

 

 

The Detour

Aaron and I were in Dillon’s last week, where I told him to pick out some items for his Friday snack bag. I usually have his goodie bag all ready for him when he comes home on Friday but this week had been full of unexpected things that had made it impossible for me to have his bag done beforehand. He never minds picking out the items himself even though he also loves it when his bag is full of surprises. His treat bag is a reward for a week well done by Aaron…..or at least done, sometimes not all too well.

Better behaviors = bigger bag. Or so that’s how it was meant to go. Like his former teacher, Mr. Z, used to say – “Sometimes you have to make it worth his while.”

Aaron, ever the clever one, sometimes calls it bargaining. Nothing much slips by his awareness.

Anyway, it’s fun to give him something to look forward to and to work for at the end of his week. On this particular Friday, he had already walked fast and eagerly toward the bakery aisle where he knew there would be a container of croissants waiting for him. I gave my permission as he held the treasure up for me to see, but I said no to his hopeful request for TWO packages as he held up the second one for me to approve. Aaron just laughed, not at all surprised to be vetoed on that one, and then he lunged past the meat section toward the candy aisle……but not before stopping to loudly point out the lobster and shrimp like he always does. I could really just have a recording of my comments as we walk through the store on most days. He’s so predictable in many ways. In other ways, not so much.

Aaron turned left down the candy aisle, seeming oblivious to the sample lady standing nearby. This pleasant young lady had my attention, though, so I stopped at her little table to acknowledge her offer. I was distracted for a short time with little Twizzler samples and water flavor enhancers, chatting away as I am prone to do. We finished our brief conversation, said “Have a good day!” with our smiles…..and I noticed that her eyes darted down the candy aisle that was just behind us and her smile grew even larger.

I turned around and instantly knew why as she said, “Looks like he’s found some candy!” There was Aaron, getting down and personal with the Starburst Jelly Beans.

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And there was a man coming right toward him, pushing his cart and just looking at Aaron. I’m used to Aaron sitting down in store aisles when I’m not there to tell him no, but I imagine this man wasn’t at all sure of what was happening here. I was telling Aaron to stand up, but Aaron doesn’t stand up quickly from a sitting position…..and it’s quite a sight to see when he does……so now this man just swerved around Aaron and gave me a kind smile as he passed us.

I smiled back, thankful that he didn’t scowl or stare awkwardly.

At times like this I just need to have a sign that I can hold high. A sign that in bold letters says – DETOUR!!!

Aaron is truly completely clueless that he has done something a little strange or that he is disruptive. We face these moments constantly in his life. It’s just who Aaron is, and it’s who we must be as well.

We often must take a different route to our destination with Aaron, and hope that we arrive there…..and in one piece. What worked for our other two children didn’t work with Aaron and often still doesn’t. When our children were younger there were many moments of frustration from them as they tried to understand their unusual brother. They both went through times of questioning, as did Gary and I, about why Aaron acted the way he did. Even after the diagnosis of autism, we still struggled to understand what made Aaron tick.

There were times that Andrea and Andrew thought that Gary and I didn’t discipline enough. That we gave in too much. That we let Aaron have his way too often. Now that they are adults, things have settled down a lot and they really do understand their brother. They love him to pieces. It just takes time, education, and a little maturity to come to grips with a brother who can be disruptive and annoying……and super embarrassing in public!

We could be rolling right along in life and before we knew it…..DETOUR!!

A detour because of Aaron’s behaviors or actions…..a time we were forced to recalibrate…..to try to understand and to work through a situation. Or to be uber patient or thick skinned, despite the red on our faces or the words we wanted to say but couldn’t…..to Aaron or to insensitive others.

After all these years, when I turn and see Aaron sitting on the floor like he did at Dillon’s, it makes me laugh. He does look pretty cute and funny sitting there. I think people now are more aware, too, of these special needs. Their smiles and looks of understanding are more encouraging to us parents than they probably realize.

To you parents of special children, just keep the lines of communication open as much as possible with your other kids. Let them vent without judgment. Understand that age, hormones, peer pressure, and so many other things weigh into their reactions to their special sibling. Things WILL settle down with time. And in the meantime, try to spend some one-on-one time with your children, a time where they know they can safely talk to you and that you will have empathy.

And remember that we often have to take a detour, going around issues in a different way than we normally would, because that’s just how life is in their world……and we can’t change that.

Later Aaron shared some of his jelly beans with me. That’s the way it is. Understanding and love lead to sharing and sweetness.

Sticky and germy sometimes, but still it’s sharing, done Aaron’s way.

The DETOUR way.

Can You Be Sure?

Aaron had a seizure at 4:30 this morning.  It was around two minutes long, shorter than some but always too long.  No seizures at all is definitely preferred, but that doesn’t seem to be what God has planned for Aaron in his life.  His nocturnal seizures are why Gary and I still sleep with a baby monitor on our nightstand.  Aaron knows that I go into his room when I hear a seizure and that I’m there to help him as needed. 

Aaron got out of bed around 7:00.  I would need to look in his log book that he keeps to see the exact time. 

OK, I just snuck in his room and took a peek.  He wrote down his getting out of bed time as 7:02.  Isn’t he funny and amazing?

He drank his three cups of coffee, as always…..and he bugged me about a fourth cup, as always.  He said his head hurt, too, as always it does after a seizure.  I can only imagine.

And as always after a seizure, he decided to go back to bed.  He told me his plan, but he wasn’t forgetting about that fourth cup of coffee.

“Can I have a fourth cup when I get out of bed?” he hopefully asked.  And I gave him some hope that he could.  He has no idea what all I would gladly do for him on these seizure days.  I try not to show my hurting heart generosity too much, either, because good old Aaron will jump on that like a tick on a dog.  Forget the fourth cup of coffee!  Let’s go for five or six!

After Aaron had the assurance that a fourth cup of coffee was a real possibility, he started to walk away.  But he came back to the top of the stairs, one more request on his mind.

“Can you make sure I don’t have another seizure in bed?” he asked me.

Oh, if only I could!  I might have to think about granting a fourth cup of coffee, but if I could grant that my son have no more seizures then I would do it in a flash. 

I knew what Aaron meant.  I try to get him to express himself more clearly, so I asked him how I was supposed to do that.

“Can you hear if I do?” he clarified.

“Yes, I’ll hear if you do,” I answered.  I assured him that I had the baby monitor on right beside me and that I would be listening.  He was satisfied with my answer and with the knowledge that Mom was keeping her ear open, so off he went to bed. 

It’s sad to see that Aaron shows this fear of having a seizure.  I don’t blame him one single bit.  He doesn’t remember the seizures, but he’s seen friends at his day group have them and so now he knows what they look like.  And he certainly knows what they feel like when he wakes up with a bad headache, sometimes a bitten tongue, losing his sense of taste, and other complications.  It’s a very hard thing to see your child endure this.  Harder still to see your usually unexpressive adult child begin to verbalize his fears. 

Victory in the verbalization…..sadness in the expressed reality.

I am Aaron’s strength right now.  I am his comfort and his hope.  Me….and the baby monitor.  Aaron is depending on us to be there for him and to help him if he has another scary seizure.

This morning I had planned to write about Nehemiah and the guarantee that he gave the children of Israel as they built the wall of Jerusalem.  I didn’t know I would have this illustration from Aaron.  I would rather not have it.  I would rather use another example from some other scenario in my own life that doesn’t involve him.  But this is where God has us.  This is His sovereign plan, one that I trust even when it hurts.

The Jewish people were rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, but there were enemies who didn’t want them to succeed.  These enemies used words of discouragement and ridicule, but when they saw that the Israelites were serious about rebuilding the wall they changed their tactic.  The enemies became intimidating, threatening to kill not only the workers but their families as well. 

The Jews became scared.  The enemies’ threats were working.  In Nehemiah 4:10, it was said that the worker’s strength was failing.  That word, “failing,” meant to stumble or totter.  The workers were literally tottering under not only the physical work they were doing, but especially they were stumbling emotionally and spiritually under the continued threats they were facing from their enemies. 

They were scared.  And in verse 14, Nehemiah said that when he saw their fear he spoke to them….to the nobles, the officials, and to all the people who were so afraid.  Here’s what he said:

Do not be afraid of them!  Remember the Lord Who is great and awesome, and fight…..”

This verse has been on my mind for a couple weeks now.  I’ve had some fears and concerns in my life.  Health issues for Aaron, for Andrea, for Gary.  Aaron’s behaviors that impact him and us so much.  Andrew adjusting to a difficult new job.  So many other things that jump around in my brain during the dark night hours when I’m unable to sleep…..

I could name fears that I know so many of our friends are experiencing.  Life has changed in a moment for some.  Then there’s the continuing impact of those changes.  Strokes….dementia…..upcoming surgeries…..serious infections…..the diagnosis of a child with a potentially life changing syndrome…..ongoing multiple children with special needs….exhaustion…..job uncertainties…..

Our life stresses are like the enemies of the Jews in Nehemiah.  They surround us, threatening us with their potential or certain life changes.  We sometimes stumble under the burden of it all.  Fear is very debilitating.  Our mind goes places it shouldn’t but it’s so hard to keep from doing that.

This is why Nehemiah’s words have meant so much to me lately.  I need to refocus my focus.  I need to choose what I allow my mind to dwell upon.  The answer is simple, but difficult, because the enemy wants me to stay glued to my fears and my worries…..both the known and the unknown.

But…..REMEMBER!!

Remember the Lord!!

The Lord Who is GREAT and Who is AWESOME!!

God’s got this….all of this.  Whatever the enemy is throwing at us, whatever we see around us, whatever we hear in our head in the dark of the night….is NOT what we are to remember or to dwell upon.

Our God is great and He is awesome.  The battle is His, not mine! 

And so I fight, but I’m not the one fighting.  I am allowing God to fight for me as I pray and give Him my battles and my fear and my worries.  When I feel that familiar fear being thrown at me from the enemy outside the walls of trust, I remember and I remind myself that God is the One Who will fight for me.

The Lord Who is GREAT!

The Lord Who is AWESOME!

I’ll hear you and I’ll be there if you have another seizure, Aaron.

“Can you be sure?” he asked.  “Yes.  I’ll be sure,” I answer.

I’ll hear you and I’ll be there in your fears, God says to me.  

“Can you be sure?” I ask.  “Yes.  I’ll be sure,” He answers.

“Our God will fight for us!”  (Nehemiah 4:20)

Remember!  The Lord!

Getting Aaron

I ran into Great Clips this morning, taking Aaron for another haircut, shave, and beard trim, and who greeted us but Erin!  Erin has worked there for quite awhile.  Erin loves Aaron, if you follow me.  She’s a mom, and just a very sweet person who genuinely loves seeing our Aaron.  So it’s always nice when Erin cuts Aaron’s hair! 

Erin is one of these people who just gets Aaron.  She was genuinely happy to see Aaron as we walked through the door.  She talks to him while she cuts his hair, asking him questions and interacting so well with him.  I just love having people like that in Aaron’s life.

 
I can tell very quickly if someone gets Aaron or not.  You don’t have to totally understand Aaron to get him.  Is this making sense?  There are just some people who from the first moment they encounter Aaron, are relaxed and accepting of him.  And there are others who look at Aaron like he has an alien head or something…..although Aaron would think that having an alien head is pretty cool. 

For instance, Friday evening Aaron and I went to Little Caesar’s for pizza.  The line at the take-out window was long, so I decided that Aaron and I would go inside to grab our pizzas.  As I parked, I gave Aaron the usual directions…..wait for me, don’t barge in the door, if there’s a line then don’t push ahead, please don’t clap, and please talk SOFTLY!!  Of course, I was trailing behind him as I finished my instructions and he was barging in the door.  Oh well.

Thankfully, there was no line, so Aaron had free rein to walk up to the counter, lean way over and loudly say, “Can I have some breadsticks??!!”  I was tugging Aaron back while reminding him to talk softly and also reminding him that I already told him he could have breadsticks…..when I turned and saw the cashier’s face.  She was staring a hole through Aaron while she wore totally no expression on her face.  There was no emotion at all from her.  She looked at Aaron like he was perhaps an alien, but a very boring alien.  Like she was thinking, “Who are you and why are you in my store?”   

Aaron was very excited and happy, totally oblivious to this girl’s cold stare.  He continued to interrupt as he loudly asked if we could get TWO pizzas as well as breadsticks.  Her eyes went from me back to Aaron, with her impersonal cold stare once again.  At times like that, I’m very thankful that Aaron doesn’t get social cues.  This girl didn’t get Aaron, but Aaron didn’t get that she didn’t get him, so in that respect all was well. 

But all was not well in my spirit.  I wanted to give her nose a little pinch and then deliver a lecture, but of course I didn’t.  And I know that maybe she was having a bad day.  Yet really, deep down, I just know that some people get Aaron and some people don’t.

Tuesday for lunch, Aaron and I met his case manager at Applebee’s for his yearly PCSP meeting.  Barb, from Paradigm, was there as well.  Aaron is as comfortable with Barb as he is with me, so she understood Aaron’s whacks on her arm, his too tight squeeze of her hand, and how he helped himself to some of the chicken on her salad.  It was our server, though, whom I especially noticed.  She made eye contact with Aaron, smiled at him, listened to him, and was genuinely relaxed with him.  I even looked at Barb and whispered, “She gets Aaron.”  And Barb knew just what I meant. 

When someone understands Aaron, it’s as obvious as the nose on their face….like that little girl’s nose that I wanted to pinch.  J  But it’s very obvious to me when a person understands Aaron, and even accepts him just as he is.  Sometimes being in public with Aaron is embarrassing, honestly.  He’s large, and loud, and totally blind to the effect he has on others by being “out there” with some of his behaviors.  He might point at someone because of their hair or whatever.  He might turn around in the restaurant booth to see what the people behind him are eating or saying.  He might stop to stare at their plates as we walk out of the restaurant.  And if he goes to the bathroom by himself during our meal, it’s very interesting to watch people’s faces as he walks by, his head high and arms swinging, often making funny noises with his mouth.

So when someone gets Aaron, I find myself relaxing some.  It’s as if I don’t feel the need to explain, which I usually don’t do anyway.  I shouldn’t have to explain Aaron.  He is who he is, in all his boldness and uniqueness.  But I’m human and I feel my face getting red when Aaron does something a little crazy that draws attention to us.  It’s nice to see others understand him even if they don’t really understand…..to accept him…..and especially to enjoy him. 

Having Aaron in my life has taught me to try hard to show understanding to other families I see who are probably uncomfortable in public.  I remember when Gary and I ate dinner at a local restaurant with some friends.  Our table was near a mom and dad who were eating dinner with their special needs son.  I noticed their son immediately.  He was stimming in his unique way, and I just knew what they were feeling.  I could see it on their faces, especially the dad.  So I finally made eye contact with the mother, and I smiled at her.  I pointed to myself and shook my head yes.  She was a little confused, so I just stood up and walked over to their table.  I spoke to her and her husband, and told them who I was…..and that I had a son much like their wonderful son.  They both visibly softened and relaxed.  They were so happy that I understood and that I spoke to their adult son, and that I got it.  That’s what meant the most to them….the fact that I got their son. 

So when you’re out and about, and you see an Aaron…..or most likely, when you HEAR an Aaron…..just smile at the parents with genuine love.  Even when their Aaron might pull one of the lower boxes of cereal out of the huge cereal box display….and mom stands there with fallen cereal boxes all over the aisle….smile and maybe even offer to help pick them up.  Yes, that happened to me.  And the help of a sweet teenaged boy was such a blessing that day!

There are special people all around us who need us to get them.  There are families of special ones who will feel a huge weight lifted off their hearts if you are that person in their lives. 

I get it!  You can, too.