Houston and Home

Gary and I just returned yesterday evening from a trip to Houston, where we got to see our daughter and her boyfriend, and our son.  Aaron stayed in Wichita, where our friend Amber and her family provided excellent caregiving for him.  He has so much fun eating out, watching movies, and just generally being the center of attention.  And we have so much fun seeing our other kids, and having some time to ourselves.  It’s a win-win.

Before we leave on a trip, Aaron is very excited at the prospect of us being gone.  Remember, no filters equals complete honesty from Aaron.  But of course, while we’re gone he calls multiple times every day.  I had told him over and over that while we were at the race track where our son works that I wouldn’t be able to answer the phone because it was too noisy to hear.  That didn’t deter Aaron one bit.  He never left a message, but just pursued calling until eventually, even hours later, I would answer the phone.

“HEYYYYYY!!” Aaron would say with great enthusiasm……as if we hadn’t talked in weeks instead of it being just hours.  And then he would launch into the story of his latest happenings at home or at his day group……what he had eaten and where……what Amber or one of her kids or her husband had done……what our Great Dane was up to……..what movies they had watched……and various other stories and comments.  He never asked what we were doing or how we were, and I certainly would be surprised if he did. 

In between all his phone calls, we did have a wonderful time in Houston…..despite the horrendous traffic that we often found ourselves a part of……and seeing or hearing of multiple fatality accidents, with detours and delays.  Oh Houston, you are so huge and exhausting!

We got to see Andrea’s genetics lab that she has gotten up and running.  Quite an accomplishment!!  She is now the lab manager.  We were privileged to meet her genetics director and hear some very affirming things about our daughter, which thrills the heart of any parent. 

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Andrea and Gary

We got to spend some precious time with Andrea’s boyfriend, Kyle, who is working hard to complete his degree as a ship’s captain.  Between his studying, projects, and work, we were very happy to see him when he could spare the time.  We also got to eat dinner our first night in Houston with him and his dear parents, Kent and Marie.

 

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Andrea and Kyle

 

We got to spend time at the NHRA racetrack in Baytown, watching Andrew as he works with Cruz Pedregon Racing.  We saw Cruz run his career best time!   And again, we heard such nice comments about Andrew and were thankful for the impact he is having on others there. 

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And let’s not forget that we got see our adorable granddogs, Darcy and Oakley.  We also got to see Aries, Kyle’s dog, but silly me forgot to take a picture!

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Andrew got to have some rare time for us to get together on Sunday evening for a visit to Andrea’s apartment, and then dinner with all of us together.  Times like this happen so seldom for us, and we were very thankful for every single minute together.

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Aaron was happy to see us when we got home, although he didn’t want to hug and he didn’t want to act TOO glad to see us.  But he followed us around most of the evening, talking and talking.  Then this morning……did I really hear Aaron get out of bed at 5:25?!  And did I really hear Aaron NOT go back to bed soon after?!  Yes, indeed I did!  I was looking forward to sleeping in just a little instead of getting up at my usual 5:30, so I closed my eyes and hoped……

But no, Aaron was awake for good.  Gary was downstairs, where Aaron went at first, and then back upstairs he thumped.  I got out of bed a little after 6:00 and walked into the kitchen to the beaming face of Aaron.  My, what bright eyes he had on this VERY early morning!! 

Gary had gotten Aaron’s coupons from the Sunday paper out for him to cut, and so his coupon cutting station was all set up on the floor in front of the television.  This gave me some time to read my Bible and drink some coffee, preparing myself for the Aaron onslaught I knew was soon coming.

Sure enough, as soon as Aaron heard the door open and knew I was finished, up the stairs he lumbered and into the room he came.  I was getting ready to iron Gary’s work clothes, so Aaron sat on the bed where he could look at me and talk to his heart’s content. 

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I decided to write down a few of the things Aaron said while I ironed and then on through the morning so you can get an idea of what I mean when I say that Aaron talks a lot.  I mean, a LOT!!  This is only a mere fraction, mind you.

Aaron, while on Andrea’s bed watching me iron:  “The big slug aliens, they had also legs.  They screeched!!”

“This is how I sit when I cut coupons.  Then my leg hurts!”

“You want me to cut diaper coupons?  Do you want me to cut wipes coupons?”

Then back downstairs, where he was watching the movie Battle of Los Angeles:  “Mom, this is the OLD movie.  The new movie doesn’t have ‘of.’  It was only Battle Los Angeles.”

“Where is Los Angeles?”

“The hideout that comes down to earth, that brings their little ships.”

“Why does the military go in the hideout?”

“They put detonators in there and blew up the hideout!”

“The woman military is cute.”

“I didn’t know a woman could be a fighter!”

“Why do they make every alien giant and look like a slug?”

And on and on and on and on he went, until finally I was able to make a legit exit to my bedroom and lock the door while I got ready.  But eventually I had to unlock the door, where Aaron promptly entered and continued his monologue as if nothing at all had interrupted him.  Finally, it was time to take him to Paradigm.

“Guess what time Amber took me to Paradigm?” he asked.

And before I could answer, he breathlessly told me.

“9:13!” he exclaimed. 

He waited for my sure response, as if 9:13 was the most amazing time to leave for Paradigm……and mom’s usual time is, of course, very sub-par.

“9:13?” I asked.

“Yes!!” he replied.  “She took me at 9:13!”

I’m still not quite sure what magic there is in leaving at 9:13, but to Aaron it was impressive and he wanted it to be for me as well.  That, along with giant slug aliens that had also legs and the woman military who was cute and could fight and ships and detonators and diapers……it was just altogether a very impressive morning, let me tell you.

Home sweet home in Kansas…..where the wind blows a lot and Aaron talks a lot.

Sometimes refreshing and sometimes it rattles the nerves, but it’s home. 

And we’re thankful.

 

 

 

Vacationing With Aaron

A vacation trip means different things to different people.  Aaron was very happy when we told him that we were taking a Fourth of July trip to see family in North Carolina.  He likes seeing Aunt Sandra and others that he knows.  But really, to Aaron a vacation primarily means one thing…….food.  Particularly, restaurant food.  Snack food is right up there, too, on Aaron’s list of favorite vacation activities.  Then there’s Aunt Sandra’s wonderful cooking at her house, which is the best!  Staying in a hotel would be number three, because a hotel usually means dinner in a restaurant before bed.  Rest stops are fun, too, especially if the rest stop is a stop at a filling station……where there is food.  Plus I bring snack food, which is fun, but not as much fun as food that we buy on the road.  So you get the idea.  A vacation for Aaron boils down to one thing:  food in one form or another. 

We left for our Food Fest vacation on Thursday, the 30th.  Aaron wanted to know what time we were leaving, because knowing the precise time for everything in life is vital to Aaron.  So we told him that we would leave around 8:00, hoping that the word “around” would yield us some leeway in Aaron’s mind.  Not likely, but we can always hope that Aaron will be a bit flexible.  As it turned out, Aaron had a very rough night before our 8:00 leaving time.  I heard him having a seizure at 12:30 that morning, with two more strong seizures following during the early morning hours.  It was a long and very tiring night for him and for me, but I was thankful that by morning Aaron was able to get ready for our trip.  I was also thankful that flying had not been an option for us as it’s too expensive, because trying to maneuver Aaron in an airport and on a plane after seizures would have been very difficult. 

We were two hours late to leave, but Aaron was too lethargic to care.  He burrowed around in the back seat as soon as we started driving until he was finally comfortable, laying down and sleeping for quite a while.  He would wake up and look around some, long enough to ask the inevitable:

“Are we getting something to eat?”

“Yes, Aaron,” we would answer.  “We’ll be getting something to eat.”

“When?” he wanted to know.

“Oh, probably later in the afternoon,” we told him.

“So what time?” he asked.

“We’re not totally sure what time,” we answered.

“Oh,” was all he would say.  Until:

“I’m talking about eating in a restaurant,” he clarified.

“Yes,” we said.  “We’ll eat in a restaurant.”

“What time?” he ventured again.

And so back and forth this conversation occurred, over and over again as Gary drove us on our scenic route.  If Aaron was awake, we pointed out the farmer’s fields…..the Mississippi River……the Tennessee River…….the quaint little towns with their interesting sights……the beautiful wildflowers……

But none of it was particularly interesting to Aaron.  Part of it was that he didn’t feel up to par after his seizures.  And part of it is because none of these things held nearly as much interest to Aaron as, say, a Cracker Barrel or Applebee’s sign.  Of course!

Aaron was listening to some music on his headphones when he let us know that he needed to use the bathroom.  We told him that we would stop as soon as we found a place.

“I’m talking about a bathroom in a restaurant,” he informed us. 

HaHaHa!!!  Good try, Aaron.  We knew he must have been feeling better!

We ended that first day happily eating supper at Applebee’s, right beside our hotel in Paducah, Kentucky.  Aaron rolled in his suitcase while he carried his small backpack that held his music CD’s and his CD player with headphones.  And Aaron, who must finish what he has started if at all possible, was very pleased to put on his pajamas and then complete the task of finishing his Ronnie Milsap CD before it was time to turn off the lights and sleep.  Mission accomplished!

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We all slept very well that night.  Aaron was still fairly slow that morning, which is normal after seizures.  But he wasn’t so slow that he didn’t think about food!  He was hoping for breakfast in a restaurant, so we told him that the hotel breakfast was very much like a restaurant.  He didn’t really buy into that, but he was happy to eat again.  And very curious about the bowl of Trix that the woman in front of us had as he leaned over to stare at it, which caused her to stare at Aaron……with a smile, thankfully. 

Aaron really wanted Gary to listen to his Ronnie Milsap CD in the car player, but we told Aaron no, that he needed to use his own player.  Gary told Aaron that he just doesn’t like to listen to music while he drives, which Aaron finds totally mystifying. 

“How come you just like listening to the cars?!” Aaron asked in disbelief.

It was a welcome sight to see more and more mountains as we drove toward our beautiful Smoky Mountains, and to our family.  Aaron wasn’t greatly impressed with the pretty views of mountains and lakes and rolling whitewater rivers.  He just wanted to know what time we were getting to Aunt Sandra’s and what was for supper.

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Aaron quickly set up shop at Aunt Sandra’s, putting his CD and DVD player on the desk in the room where he sleeps.   His Ronnie Milsap CD and his Superman movies were nearby, and he was all set. 

On Saturday, Sandra took us up to see a friend who raises goats and dogs and cows.  The goats were just so cute.  Georgianna let Aaron pet and feed the goats, which he loved doing.  He really loves to feed animals……of course!  It’s food!  We ate lunch at Nabor’s drive-in, which we always must do in Bryson City……and which IS a restaurant, so Aaron was happy!  We drove around and looked at sights and gorgeous views, ending up at the grocery store……..where Aaron ended up finding DVD’s for sale, of course!!

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It was just great to see everyone over the next few days!  There were so many family members there, especially at the barbecue on Sunday.  During the days that we were there, Aaron had lots of new people to talk to about movies or about his day group or about anything else that entered his mind.  He didn’t know many names but he would usually just look at someone and say, “HEY!”  I would often tell Aaron the name of the person to whom he spoke, but names didn’t matter nearly as much to Aaron as the telling of his stories did.  So “HEY!!” it often was.

There were some moments of frustration, as there always are, but generally Aaron did very well.  To be in such a crowded environment with many people he didn’t know, totally out of his routine, is always a stretch for Aaron.  I think the time he got the most bothered, of all things, was the night that he heard Sandra and I making the noise that means something tastes good.  You know…….mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm.  The inflections in that common sound we make without even thinking just drove Aaron nuts.  He told us to stop it!  And we forgot as we stood at her kitchen island that night, sampling a few more little bites of her carrot cake.  “Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm,” we both intoned as we smacked our lips……and there stood Aaron.  He had fire in his eyes as he got very upset, told us we were weird, and then gave me a kick in my leg.  It’s just amazing to see how his brain functions, and to see what makes him totally lose control. 

One of the sweetest moments came when Aaron began to tell his cousin, Andrew, about Ronnie Milsap.  Andrew, bless his heart, got out his phone and tried to look up Ronnie Milsap while Aaron anxiously waited.  Andrew’s phone didn’t get good coverage, so I quickly found the song.  Andrew listened intently with Aaron, while Aaron rubbed his hands together in delight and laughed a lot in total pleasure.  And to top it off, Andrew went up to Sandra’s house so that Aaron could show him some more Ronnie Milsap songs on his CD player.  What a kind thing for Andrew to do!! 

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We visited Aaron’s Nana, Leo, on Monday morning before leaving town.  We also got to see Jonni and JD, and of course, Meshach……who sat in Aaron’s lap the entire visit and even wanted to leave in the car with Aaron. 

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The trip back to Kansas on Monday and Tuesday was uneventful.  Of course, Aaron had the usual food questions and where are we staying questions and when will we get to Kansas questions.  On Tuesday he wanted to know what time we would get home.  Gary told him that we would get home around 4:00 that afternoon.  As we rode, we showed him when we entered Tennessee, when we entered Kentucky, etc. 

“Is 4:00 when we come to the entrance of Kansas?” he later asked. 

Later, we were on the final leg of our trip.  It was 3:09.

“When will we be home?” Aaron asked.

“In about an hour,” I told him.

“No.  You said 4:00,” he replied.

“What time is it?” Gary asked him.

“3:09,” Aaron answered.

“Then it’s about an hour,” Gary said.

“No,” Aaron answered.  “It’s 51 minutes.” 

I don’t think Aaron even notices the quick looks between Gary and me, and the suppressed smiles.  He is so often unaware of how he affects us in a very pleasing, happy, amazing way.  He does usually know when he affects us negatively, however, but I’m thankful that the happy times occur more often than the not-so-happy times.

He went to his day group today with no problem.  That’s a huge big deal for him after being gone for so many days!  He wanted me to come in with him and tell Barb about our trip, but I told him I didn’t have time for a long talk, and Barb probably didn’t either.

“But Mom, you don’t have to tell her for a LONG time!!” he insisted.

Yet I have told all of you for a LONG time about our vacation trip, that’s for sure.  Thanks for bearing with me if you’ve read all of this.  I just love sharing a little about what it’s like to travel with Aaron……to live with Aaron……to experience new things with Aaron……to be in his world and have him in ours in the way that we have this past week. 

It’s just another glimpse into autism and into life with Aaron, which makes our lives full and rich and sometimes rather complicated.

But not boring.  Never boring. 

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The WORST Two Weeks!

Listening to all the stories of the huge winter storm back east brings back some memories of a couple interesting winter storms that our family experienced several years ago.  We endured two vicious storms, back to back, but in different states and in different ways…..neither of which any of us care to experience again.

It was December of 2004.  We had made a change of plans for our Christmas.  Dad had just been diagnosed with liver cancer the month before, so we decided to make a trip home to Princeton, West Virginia for the holiday.  We should have known it was going to be a strange trip because of what happened the evening before we left.

It was late in the afternoon and Gary was in our driveway, getting the topper put on our van.  Suddenly a dilapidated old car zoomed into our driveway and screeched to a halt.  Immediately there were probably 6 police and sheriff cars that surrounded our driveway and the front of our house.  The officers jumped out and were all over that old car in nothing flat.  Gary eased back into the garage and came in the house.  We all watched from the windows as two or three people were taken from the car, frisked, handcuffed…..the whole nine yards, just like on television.  Except this was in OUR driveway! 

In the meantime, our neighbors all around were wondering what on earth was going on over at the Moore’s house.  Several tried to walk up and question the officers, but were bluntly told to leave and go home!  This made them even more curious and worried, of course.  We were in the house still wondering what was going on outside.  We were also fielding phone calls from neighbors as well as struggling to keep Aaron in the house.  He wanted nothing more than to barge outside and find out exactly what all the excitement was about.  We wanted nothing more than for him to settle down and to NOT go outside, where who knows what might have happened.

Finally, a police officer came to our door to tell us a little about what was going on.  Apparently, for several days the police had been casing this guy’s mobile home about a mile up the road from us.  He was a suspect in some sort of drug business.  On that day, when he left his home, he soon realized that he was being followed.  He turned into our neighborhood in an effort to lose the police.  But our circle has no outlet, and when he realized that he was trapped, he pulled into our driveway and gave up.  We had to wait for the culprits to be taken away and for the car to be impounded before we could once again work on getting the van packed and ready.  It made for a long evening.  And Aaron was very disappointed that he never got to go outside and personally be a part of all that huge excitement!

We climbed in the van very early that next morning in the bitter cold.  Facing a 16 hour trip – at least – was not much fun for any of us.  Our teenaged kids especially didn’t enjoy the very long drive.  Little did any of us know what was ahead.

First of all, the van wouldn’t start.  Could anything else go wrong, we thought?  Like I said, little did we know.  Gary and Andrew jumped the battery, and off we headed, praying that the van held up on our long trip.

Things went well for quite a few hours, but as we got closer to Kentucky we started noticing that cars headed in the other direction had snow on them.  The more time that went by, and the more vehicles that went by in the other lanes of the interstate, confirmed to us that we were headed into snow.  And soon it was not only snowing, but there was ice and there were strong winds.  We were in the thick of it in Kentucky when we eventually came to a complete stop on I-24.  As far as we could see in front of us, and as far as we could see behind us, there was nothing but huge trucks and many cars.  No one was moving, not even an inch. 

Eventually, people started getting out to walk around….to talk to other drivers and families….to see if anyone knew what was going on.  But as the weather worsened, most people just stayed inside their vehicles and hunkered down.  We waited, and waited, and waited…..for 10 hours!  Gary would turn the van on for short periods in order to warm us up some.  Thankfully, we had food and water and blankets.  The guys were able to go outside to use the bathroom, but Andrea and I kindly declined their offer to hold up blankets to hide us….in the snow…and the ice…on the sloping bank outside the van.  We joked about all that, and during that long night when all we heard was the pinging of snow and ice on the van, we would hear Aaron’s deep chuckle in the back seat, from under a blanket.  He thought the bathroom business was pretty funny.  And of all things, he handled the whole miserable experience very well.  We were amazed at that!  And thankful!

Traffic finally started moving again, very slowly at first.  There were cars and trucks off the interstate all over the place, stuck in the snow and ice.  It was a terrible mess.  Gary got off at the first exit he could find. We were so thankful to see a gas station and convenience store.  So were many other ladies who probably waited like Andrea and I did.  We were all hurrying as fast as the snow and ice would allow us to get inside and stand in the bathroom line. 

Our normally 16 hour trip to West Virginia took us around 30 hours!  We still had a sweet time with family before soon heading back to Kansas.  We had only been home in Wichita for several days when word of another winter storm came on the news.  This storm was set to hit Wichita with some ice, but no one had any idea just how all the elements would come together to create a monster ice storm.  Ice fell from the early afternoon of January 4 to the afternoon of the next day.  You could stand on our porch and hear the sharp crack of branches falling from the trees, and the clink of limbs hitting each other in the wind. 

We lost our power that first evening.  Of course, it didn’t take long for us to be very cold.  Andrew sat up in bed that next morning and realizing that we still didn’t have power, and that ice was still falling, he declared, “This has been the WORST two weeks of my life!!” 

We laughed, but we certainly understood how he felt.  We had all about had it with awful winter weather!  Our power was off for five days.  Thankfully, we had hot water.  We cooked on our kerosene camp stove, we had lanterns, and life wasn’t all that bad.  We played games and read books, and actually enjoyed some great family time together.  Some friends had come over to hook us up to a generator on that fifth night.  Just when they were finishing, our power came back on.  I actually felt bad for all the work they had done only for us not to need the generator.  But oh, when those lights came on and the heat started up, we were very happy indoor campers indeed!

We really had lots to be thankful for in the midst of all the craziness of those two weeks.  We had a safe trip in the dangerous weather, time with family in West Virginia, safety in the ice storm, food to eat, warm clothes and lots of blankets, hot water, indoor bathrooms at home in the ice storm J,  Aaron did well, and so much more.

And oh yes, none of us got arrested!!  I won’t tell you how close we came a time or two. 

A Special Vacation With Aaron

Last week Gary and I took Aaron with us on a vacation/work trip back home to our families in both West Virginia and North Carolina.  It had been way too long since Aaron had been home with us, so it was nice to have this opportunity to take him along.  One purpose of our trip was to meet with my brother and sisters in West Virginia, and to go through all the items that were left in our mother’s storage unit since her death in May.  Then we went down to Gary’s hometown in the North Carolina Smoky Mountains.  We hadn’t been there in ages, so we spent more time there than in West Virginia on this trip.

Aaron is really a good traveler, which is surprising in some ways since he loves his routine and loves his things in order.  But he also loves time with us, and he loves the snack bag that I fill before we leave, and he loves the motel, and he definitely loves eating out.  He makes sure that he nails down the fact that we ARE eating out as we hit the road bright and early on the day we leave.  When that fact is established to his liking, he then seeks to determine if we’re eating IN a restaurant.

We usually stop at this particular rest area in Kansas City, which overlooks both the Chiefs and the Royals stadiums.  Aaron was only slightly impressed with that, pausing long enough for me to take the first obligatory picture of our trip…..the first of many that he tolerated as we vacationed together.

 

He was far more impressed with the Cracker Barrel where we ate a midday meal later that first day.  He loved the stuffed turkey that he and Gary found in the gift shop, and couldn’t wait for me to press the turkey’s wing.  Aaron rubbed his hands together in delight as the turkey sang, “Hey, good lookin’, what you got cookin’?  How about cookin’ something else but me?”  We heard Aaron sing that song several times that day.  And he also played the peg game while we waited on our meal, beating Gary on his first try!

 

Our server there was so kind to Aaron, smiling at him with understanding and even bringing Aaron his very own travel map.  Several servers on this trip were that way with Aaron…..showing kindness and even delight on the unique way that Aaron interacted with them.

 

Aaron quickly set up house at John and Jeanie’s when we arrived in Princeton.  We had barely said hello before he was deciding where he would perch himself and his DVD player, looking for an outlet and not at all concerned about rearranging furniture or grabbing a chair on which to place his DVD player in front of him.  He did the same thing at his Aunt Sandra’s when we got to Bryson City on Tuesday.  Never mind unimportant hugs or pleasantries.  The most necessary business was to get himself situated and comfortable.  Hellos and hugs and small talk was for the rest of us, after we helped him line up his little corner of the world just right. 

 

Aaron really did very well in so many ways on this trip.  Of course, he had times of frustration when he didn’t want to go somewhere that we went…..or he wanted to be on my tablet looking up GI Joe videos instead of going to see friends….or he was a little tired of seeing too much pretty scenery.  We had to work a few times to try to derail him from the track of frustration that he was on for the moment without becoming totally frustrated ourselves.  Then there were his loud noises which were new to many in the family.  He sure can make people jump! 

But there were very many moments to treasure, far more than the ones that we would rather forget.  He sat in our vehicle for over five hours while we went through Mom’s storage unit, watching Looney Tunes DVDs and making tons of crazy noises.  Like Mary Beth said, he was our sound effects while we worked.  I just wonder what the family down from us thought as they worked on their unit.  He hugged family and friends, he talked all of our ears off about aliens and other interests, he kept up a weird schedule, he slept in different beds, and he tolerated hours of driving. 

Here are more pictures of some of the things that were very special during this trip.

He found a fun bug at the West Virginia rest stop.
 

He was happy to finally be in West Virginia.

 

And happy to also go to North Carolina.

 

We had a delightful visit with Leo.

 

We ate at Naber’s……TWICE!!  Look at the view right there!

 

He sang for Aunt Sandra.

 

We went walking up Deep Creek.

 

And dad helped him find some little Deep Creek rocks……

 

while Aunt Sandra found a HUGE leaf!!

 

He was happy to go see Pam and Russ after a stubborn spell that day……

 

and pet and feed the horses in the pasture beside their house!

 

 
Those are just a few of the wonderful times we had on this special trip.  On the day we left to return to Kansas, Aaron had a mild seizure while still in bed early that morning.  He had another big seizure in the car on the interstate, and a larger one that night in the hotel.  He thankfully had just gotten out of the shower before that last seizure, and was sitting up in bed reading.  He hit his head really hard on the headboard as the seizure jerked him backwards, and then on the nightstand as it threw him sideways, but thankfully he was fine.  God was good to protect him, and to let him have a full week of fun and family before that seizure hit. 

It was a reminder of how fragile he really is in some ways, physically, and of how tough he is as he rebounds despite a sore head and a bitten tongue and not being able to taste food the next morning.  It jerks Gary and I back to reality, but also causes us to be thankful for every good day and special memory during our family trip. 

It may not always be easy to have Aaron come along, but it’s always worthwhile to have him along with us…..not just on this trip, but along this journey of life together with our special son. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Gary’s military career took us to many places over the years.  Many of our family were able to come visit us in the various places that we lived, including Germany.  Fort Huachuca, Arizona, was our last assignment before Gary retired.  We had lots of family and several friends that were able to come and spend some time with us while we were there, but one trip will always stand out as the trip like none other……….the trip that no one would want to re-live.
Our military housing on Fort Huachuca, Arizona
My mom and dad came out to see us in October of that particular year.  October in Arizona is usually a great time to travel because it’s not too hot and not too cold.  Since Dad didn’t like to fly, they drove for several days across country, all the way from southern West Virginia to southern Arizona.  Mom and Dad enjoyed traveling, so the long drive didn’t bother them.  They had decided to just take their time and enjoy each day.
Our backyard view –  Fort Huachuca, Arizona
Now my mother, years prior to this trip, had been diagnosed with a very rare form of colitis.  She would go for rather long periods of time with no problems, and such was the case before they left for this long vacation trip to Arizona.  She had been fine, so she didn’t even think about bringing any of her prescription medicine.  However, on the long drive across the country she began having problems with her colitis.  As soon as they arrived at our place, later that evening, Mom pulled me aside and told me that she would need to go the emergency room the next day to be checked and to see if she could get some of her medicine.  It really wasn’t a big deal, she assured me, and so I wasn’t alarmed.
The following day, I took her and Dad to the ER in the town of Sierra Vista.  She was examined and plans were made to get her unusual prescription filled there in town for her rare form of colitis.  This would take some time, though, so in the meantime the doctor gave her something else to take.  In addition, they noticed that her blood pressure was high……….so the doctor said that she would need to come back the next day to have that checked as well.
Over the next several days, we juggled Mom’s ER visits with our day trips around southern Arizona.  There is so much to see and do there, and they didn’t want to waste a minute.  Mom’s colitis, though, was not getting any better but was actually worsening.  And her blood pressure was still an issue, so back and forth we would go to the ER to have her checked.  We were also dealing with Aaron’s seizures and behaviors……but despite it all, we were having a great time as we saw the sights and went on picnics and enjoyed time together.
One day I drove us all up through the Coronado National Forest.  We ended up at the top, at Montezuma Pass, where we looked out over the gorgeous view.  On the way back to the van from the overlook, there was just a tiny little incline with very small rocks on the ground.  Dad usually took hold of Mom’s arm to help her in an area like that, but this time she had gone on by herself.  Before we knew it, she slid on those tiny rocks and fell down.  We rushed over to help her up, and she assured us that she was fine………except that her lower leg hurt.  As we drove down off the mountain, I heard her tell Dad that her leg really hurt and that she thought she should go back to the ER to have it checked.   Now Dad, who was the sweetest husband ever, proceeded to tell Mom that her leg was fine and that she did not need to go to the ER.  At this point, they had been to the ER so many times that some of the staff knew them by name.  Dad was hoping that their ER days were over, but it was not to be.
Coronado National Forest
As soon as I dropped the kids off at our house and left them with Gary, I drove Mom and Dad back to the now very familiar emergency room.  Dad and I waited while Mom was X-rayed…….and then we were both shocked when the doctor walked out to tell us that Mom’s lower bone in her leg was broken.  Broken?  Are you sure, we asked?  Yes, we’re sure, he answered.  So Mom’s leg was put in a splint, and we were instructed to be seen by a certain ortho doctor on Monday.  This was Friday, so we had the weekend to wait.  And now Mom couldn’t walk……..and her colitis was bad, which meant frequent and VERY fast trips to the bathroom.  Oh dear.
We also, for some reason that I have forgotten, could not get a wheelchair at that time.  So we would put Mom in Gary’s desk chair with wheels, and we would roll her quickly around our quarters to the bathroom when the need would hit…….which as I said, was often.  VERY often.
We also had another little complication on this ever more interesting vacation trip.  Remember that we lived in military quarters.  When the housing authorities decide to make repairs on your quarters, they don’t typically ask if they can make said repairs.  They TELL you when they are making the repairs, and you deal with it.  Before Mom and Dad’s trip, we were told that there would be a certain project that would start on such and such a day on our house.  Just a small project…………putting on a new roof.  Oh, and since they were fairly certain that there was asbestos in the old roof that would be removed, we would need to make plans to be gone from our house on that day.  Gone…….as in gone ALL day……so as to avoid the asbestos.
You can probably guess that the day of the roof removal was on that Monday……….the Monday that Mom was scheduled to go get her broken leg put in a cast.  I had planned a full day trip to Mexico for all of us so we could do what the contractors told us to do……..which was to be gone………..and so we could avoid the nasty asbestos……….and so we could show my parents Mexico and we could shop and we could eat and we could have so much fun.  Instead, we were trapped in our house with Mom in a rolling chair with her leg stuck straight out, careening up the hall like crazy people to take her to the bathroom……and contractors at our door bright and early, asking us when we were leaving.  I explained that we were NOT leaving, and these Mexicans were trying to understand until they saw Mom……….and then they knew.  So they instructed us to keep our windows closed and good luck.
Dad and I got Mom to the doctor, and she came home with a nice new cast…….and still with her colitis, as strong as ever.  I don’t even remember how high her blood pressure was at this point, but I’m pretty sure that Dad’s and mine was right up there with Mom’s.  At least now we also had a wheelchair, and so life was a little easier……..except that our quarters weren’t exactly big enough, especially the bathroom doors, for a wheelchair.  Boy oh boy!
The Mexicans were working on the roof and we had our windows closed, but we noticed the dark clouds that were rolling in over the mountains.  Surely not.  It couldn’t be threatening rain in Arizona in October.  Not with our roof off………not with Mom in a wheelchair and a cast.  Soon our doorbell rang, and one of the Mexican men stood there rapidly firing off his mixture of Spanish and English.  I knew enough to know that he was telling me that they were hurrying as fast as they could to beat the rain, but that most of the roof was still not rain-ready.  And as we stood there, they also told us to move our vehicles because they were spreading tar on the flat roof………and the wind was whipping up because of the approaching storm.  So now we had very little roof and we had blowing tar.  Yes, blowing tar.  The tar didn’t get on our vehicles that we moved, but it blew all over our yard and carport……..and it seeped into our storage room………..and it got tracked all over the inside of the house.
Then the rain came………a hard, blowing rain.  The workers all left………..and we were left with drips coming out of our ceiling all over our quarters.  We used trash cans and buckets and bowls to catch the water.  Which meant that now we had Mom with a broken leg in a cast and with colitis………bad colitis, remember………being pushed quickly up the hall to the bathroom while dodging buckets and bowls and trash cans……….and somehow making it with our help to the toilet.  Soon after this rain fiasco started, I heard Mom in the bathroom laughing.  There she sat on the toilet, with steady drips of water landing right on her head.  Well, at least it was one drip that didn’t need a bucket.  We just kept the toilet lid up to catch the drips, and handed Mom a towel to hold on her head whenever she had to go.
The next day the workers returned and I tell you no lie………the same thing happened.  It rained yet again!  We had to laugh at this point.  I was so thankful for Mom and Dad’s good attitude, especially Mom’s.  Dad was getting a little stressed, of course, as he worried about her and wondered how on earth they were going to get home to West Virginia.  Finally, the decision was made.  My sister, Jan, flew out to Arizona in order to ride home with them.  I picked her up in Phoenix, and on the drive down to Fort Huachuca she asked if I could stop to let her use the bathroom.  On down the road a short way, she asked me once again to stop.  When she got back in the car, I asked if she was OK……..and she sheepishly said that her colitis had flared up.  OH NO!!!!!  She made me promise not to tell Mom and Dad, and she said the next day that she was fine……….and off Mom, Dad, and Jan went to drive back to West Virginia.
From what Jan told us, the drive back across country was pretty much a nightmare.  One day she told me that she stopped counting at 27 the number of times they stopped for Mom’s colitis attacks.  Many bathrooms were not wheelchair accessible.  Some hotels didn’t have any handicap rooms available.  It took at least 5 days to get home………..maybe more………..neither of us can remember.  I do know that Jan said by the time they got home, Dad was totally exhausted and he looked grey.  Poor Mom was wiped out………pardon the pun, but she would totally love that.
But things were not over.  Nope, not by a long shot.  When they got back home, Mom ended up in the hospital with pneumonia!  Yes……..colitis, broken leg, and now pneumonia.  But wait……….there’s more.  While in the hospital with pneumonia, she developed a blood clot and had an embolism.  She was in the best place for that to happen, although it was still a miracle that she didn’t die.  Of all things, this was her second embolism.  She had one years earlier after toe surgery.  She must be some sort of statistical miracle for sure!
This long story is just to show that through it all……….through this absolutely horrible vacation……….Mom and Dad stayed calm and strong.  Especially Mom.  Her strong will and her sense of humor kicked in, and she never acted like she was down or distressed.  She joked about everything and made the whole situation easier.
And most of all, as she lay in that hospital bed after the embolism, she said that God comforted her by giving her the verse that became her verse.  I wrote about that verse yesterday.  Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God.”  She said she lay there and just let her mind dwell on that verse.  She knew that God was in charge of all this craziness, and in charge of her health………..and that if she died, it would be fine………..and if not, then she would remember that He is God.
Tomorrow is Mom’s 87th birthday.  She has Alzheimer’s and has forgotten more than she remembers now.   I bet she can’t remember that disaster of a vacation…….and maybe that’s best.  But I’m thankful that the rest of us can think of it and remember what a testimony she was through it all.
We love you, Mom!  And we think of what you always said when you had these colitis episodes……”It’ll all come out OK in the end.”   HaHaHa!  That’s my Mom!