The Normal Road

As I drove Aaron to his day group one day this week, we passed a big traffic accident in the other lanes of the highway we routinely travel.  We took our normal exit, only to discover that the exit we usually take when getting back on the highway was closed due to the accident.  I told Aaron that I would need to go another way home after I dropped him off.  This concerned him but I assured him that it was no big deal.

All was clear on the highway and the exits when I picked Aaron up later that afternoon.

“Mom?” he immediately asked when he got in the van, “can we go up the road we’re normal with?”

It took me a second, but then I understood what he meant.  He was very happy as I turned into our exit that we could go up the road that we are normal with.

Aaron was completely unaware that he had just perfectly described his life with autism.  And he had especially given the perfect picture of why our recent trip to Texas was full of our usual Aaron ups and downs.

Aaron wants to stay on the road that he is normal with.  Any variation of that road will most certainly be full of potholes and unexpected detours. 

The road that Aaron is normal with is only at home.  It is only his room…his bed…his computer…his games…his food…his bathroom…his day group…his routine.

His desire for his normal is why he wants to take as much of his normal with him as possible when he travels with us.  He takes more books than he will read in three years.  More music than he will listen to in the week that we are gone.  Way more food than he will eat and way more games than he will play.

And he takes way more out of all of us than we feel that we can give.

Patience and understanding are our goal on every trip, but they are often stretched very thin.  If only my scales would show how thinly I am stretched!  😊

One evening we were setting the table for supper at our daughter’s house.  I gave Aaron one fork just like all of us were using.  But look at his place at the table after he ran back to the kitchen and corrected my silly mistake.

Always, always, Aaron will take two forks and two spoons and two knives.  He doesn’t use them but what we need to understand is that for some reason he does NEED them. 

Again, here is a perfect description of living with autism – this time in picture form.

You can see Andrea’s one fork beside Aaron’s multiple pieces of silverware. 

Aaron needs more.  He can’t even tell you why he does but he indeed must have more.

He must have more than the rest of us in so many areas of his life.  Sometimes it’s hard to remember that.  It’s hard to be patient with him and understanding of a need that we don’t have.  A need that seems so unreasonable. 

But the complexities of autism are not to be trifled with. 

There are many ways that we as parents can guide and train Aaron, and we have.

But we must be wise in choosing our battles.  Some battles we will always lose, and such a loss is not worth it.

The road that Aaron is normal with is also a road that Gary and I travel right alongside him.

I guess you could say that over the years we have a new normal…one we could never have dreamed of having.

Some days the trip is long, and we feel near empty.

Then we see a view like this, and our hearts are full again.

Aaron’s Note

I have another funny note story to share.

When we were in Houston last month with our daughter and son-in-law, we also got to see our other son, Andrew.  He was in town because there was an NHRA drag race there, and he works on one of the teams.  

Andrew was able to come over to Kyle and Andrea’s one evening for supper.  While he was there, Aaron ran inside and came back with something for Andrew.  It was a pack of Juicy Fruit gum.  Random, I know, but Aaron loves giving things away and this is what he grabbed for his brother. 

This past Monday morning we got a text from Andrew.  He was getting ready to leave for the track in Richmond.  He sent this picture:

“Tell Aaron I’ve been chewing his Juicy Fruit every morning when I leave for the track.  I’m almost out.  Guess he needs to send more.”  😊

Aaron jumped on that in a flash.  He pulled out his three-pack of unopened Juicy Fruit gum and said he wanted to send that to Andrew.

“Mom,” he directed, “you put it in a box, and I’ll sign a note.”

The plan was made!

I got the box, placed the gum inside, and gave Aaron a piece of paper for him to write his note. 

This is what I later found. 

How I laughed!  But not in front of Aaron. 

Remember my last blog about the note he wrote to Cody?  Here was another note, this one to his brother, and this one also flat and factual with nothing personal added.  Nothing endearing.  Not even a “Love, Aaron” to be found.

Yet this note IS very endearing because it is so very Aaron.  I could have dictated to Aaron what to say, but then it wouldn’t be Aaron’s words from Aaron’s heart and Aaron’s unique ways. 

And those unique ways are what make Aaron endearing in his own right. 

Believe me, there are plenty of times that Aaron’s words and ways are anything but endearing.  But these moments that are totally Aaron are moments that make us smile and make us thankful that we can share in his very special ways.   

What’s In Your Shoe?

Aaron has developed a special relationship with the nurse practitioner at his day group.  Megan is gentle and kind with Aaron.  She listens to his endless talking and shows interest in his latest interest…interests that are more like obsessions on Aaron’s part.

Right now, Aaron is all about space and planets and galaxies and moons and stars and the sun and YouTube videos about all of these and more.

Megan has told her son, Cody, about Aaron and shares with him some of the space “facts” that Aaron so happily shares.  Cody has written Aaron three notes, thanking Aaron for sharing what he’s learned and for telling him about the YouTube videos he should watch.  It’s really very sweet.

Aaron LOVES these personal notes.  The first note made it home with Aaron, and he happily shared it with us. 

The second note, however, was somehow lost.  Aaron thinks it must have fallen out of his pocket.  He was very sad to have lost that note.

Two days ago, after I picked Aaron up from his day group, our van started over-heating.  Gary met us and took the van to the shop while I followed in his truck.  In all the excitement, Aaron forgot to mention that he had another note from Cody.

 Aaron and I sat in the waiting room at the shop while Gary talked to the manager.  Suddenly, Aaron took off his shoe.

“Aaron,” I said, “don’t take off your shoes in here.  Wait until we get home.”

“But Mom,” he answered, “I wanted to show you this.”

He reached into his shoe and then handed me a damp folded piece of paper, which I wanted to hand back.  Yuck!  😊

“Cody wrote me another note, so I put it in my shoe because I didn’t want to lose it!” Aaron explained.

I read the note while Aaron broadly grinned.  Once again, Cody was thanking Aaron for sharing info about Saturn and the beautiful rings.  I finished reading, and then Aaron refolded the note before putting it back in his shoe for the ride home. 

Aaron talked and talked about that note as we went about our evening.  So, I finally told Aaron that he should write a note back to Cody.  He thought about this for awhile and then went to his room.  Before long, he handed me his note that he had written.  Now it was my turn to grin broadly.

Look at the first planet.  Mercenary!  😊 😊

But even funnier is the fact that his note is just full of facts.  Nothing personal at all. 

This is SO Aaron! 

When he talks to his brother or sister on the phone, this is exactly what he does.  He never ever asks them how they are doing or what is going on in their lives.  He instantly launches into his latest book or game or movie.  He loves facts and information and trivia.

It’s why he loves reading his Handy Answer Books on different subjects but has never liked stories that involve dialogue and relationships.

This element of autism is exhibited in every area of Aaron’s life.  When he and I went to pick up our van yesterday, Aaron immediately started telling the employee there all about Saturn.  I finished paying just as Aaron decided to move on to Venus, but I ushered him out the door as I told him that on our next visit he could give the Venus lecture.  I noticed the huge grin on the face of the waiting customer as we left. 

Tomorrow Aaron will take Cody’s note to Megan.  We are putting the note in an envelope.  I don’t think an envelope will fit into Aaron’s shoe.  I hope not, for Cody’s sake.

I’m sure his mom has a pair of latex gloves he can wear, though.  😊

Don’t Try to Change Me!

The word “change” is not a welcome word to many who deal with the issues of autism. 

You can phrase that concept any way you want.

“Come on, just roll with the flow.”

“Be flexible!”

“Try it.  You’ll like it!”

I have told you how Aaron won’t eat his popcorn at the theater until the actual movie begins.  The commercials before the movie are NOT the movie.  Neither are the sometimes endless trailers that are then shown.  Trailers are NOT the movie!  Aaron will continually look down at his big tub of popcorn that he has placed on the floor beside his feet, waiting expectantly to dig in when finally THE movie begins.  Then he will pick up his popcorn and visibly relax as he begins to eat. 

Aaron does the same thing at home.  When we sit down to watch a show, he will lay his snack close to him, but he will not begin to eat it until the show actually begins.  He will sit through opening credits.  He will sit through a long intro such as Blue Bloods has.  You’re not going to fool Aaron.  He knows that these programs are tricky and that they have opening music that hasn’t played yet, so don’t EVEN try to get him to eat until all the preliminaries are over and done.  Ice cream may even start melting, but Aaron doesn’t care. 

Aaron has carried this “waiting for the actual event to start” idea over to his music that he listens to in the van.  This past Thursday we started on our way to pick up our food delivery for Meals on Wheels.  We had been listening to Brad Paisley.  I pushed the button to start the music.

Aaron pushed the button off.

I pushed the button back on.

“MOM!  I don’t want to listen to music right now!”

“I know you don’t, but I do,” I replied.

He pushed the button off.

I pushed the button back on.

“MOM!!” he protested, “I said I don’t want to listen to music!”

“It’s not just about you, Aaron,” I responded with more patience than I felt.  “I do want to listen to music.”

Aaron was still and quiet for a few seconds.  Then off went the button again. 

I sighed a very deep sigh.  My lungs are in such great shape, living with Aaron.

“Aaron,” I began, “you want to wait until we actually start delivering our meals before you turn on the music, right?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“But we can listen to music now.  It won’t hurt anything to do that,” I told him.

I pushed the button back on.

I could feel the pressure building in Aaron, just like my pressure cooker at home.

He pushed the button off.

“Mom,” he began, “uh…you know…uh…”

And thus began Aaron’s attempts to start a conversation under the guise of wanting to talk instead of listening to music.  I just decided to let it go.  Hey, that’s a song!  It should be my theme song!

Bless Aaron.  I know he can’t help it, but really…!

Later that afternoon, Aaron was very happy that Gary was going with us to Nellie’s Pond for a walk.  But there was that issue of Aaron wanting to sit in the front seat of the van because that’s where Aaron sits when I drive and he and I are usually in the van by ourselves so the front seat is his and that’s the way he likes it and that’s the way it should always be…..

“Mom!” he began as he was processing his plan, “I know.  Dad can ride in his truck and you and I can take the van!”

“No, no Aaron,” I said with a laugh, “that’s not the way it’s going to be.”

But Gary, in order to give Aaron a perfectly happy experience, sat in the back seat while I drove, and Aaron sat in his front seat.

Just the way it should be, in Aaron’s world.

And sometimes we do put ourselves into his world…actually, lots of times…so that he can relax and have total fun.

Walking through life with Aaron…balancing discipline with the rigidity of autism…is certainly an exercise in patience and wisdom. 

Gary and I do not possess either of those qualities in the abundance that is usually needed but I am so thankful that God gives and also forgives.

So often, too, I find that it is me who needs to do the most changing.  God knows that all too well!

I wonder how often I am the Aaron in God’s life.   😊

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 have 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 teenaged 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 Texas Trip – Part 1

I heard an old George Strait song yesterday that could have been Aaron’s theme song leading up to our trip to Texas.  The song is titled “I Hate Everything.”  And oh boy, did Aaron ever!

The night before we left saw us reeling under all Aaron’s verbal blows.  He was livid at having to go with us, far preferring that we hire a caregiver to watch him while Gary and I went alone.  We were definitely with him on that as the evening wore on and we were worn out. 

The next morning was no better.  Aaron didn’t like us, the trip, the car, the snacks we took, Texas, Andrea, Kyle, their dogs…nothing.  The only thing he liked was his idea of staying home and that was NOT going to happen, so we were stuck with lots of “not likes” and plenty of anger. 

“I hate this vacation!!” he declared as we drove down the interstate. 

Aaron does not enjoy leaving his room, his house, his routine, his bed…his normal.  These things are such a part of what makes Aaron function in his normal that the process of uprooting, even for just a week, is nearly more than he can bear. 

Aaron accepted his inevitable doom as we drove farther away from normal.  Gary and I left him to his games, his music, and his movies as we quietly recovered.  How draining it all was!  I texted and messaged friends and family to please pray.  What a comfort it was to know that we were being brought before the Lord!  I know that many of my fellow bloggers were also praying, and I thank you so much for that. 

We stopped a few hours down the road at our favorite Oklahoma City rest area.  And there Aaron found a cute little stuffed owl that we let him buy.  He rubbed his hands together in his happy way as we paid, and Gary and I felt like doing the same as we saw a lifting of Aaron’s anger.  A chocolate milkshake and onion rings from the nearby Sonic gave him further reason to smile. 

It’s a very long drive to Houston, and then even farther to Andrea and Kyle’s house in League City.  Aaron had lots of time to think about the upcoming week of change and uncertainty that he felt waited for him there.  We saw occasional outbursts from him about how he still didn’t like this vacation. 

Finally, there it was…the Houston skyline.

And not too long after, we were pulling into Kyle and Andrea’s driveway.  We could hear their 3 adorable dogs barking as we got out of the car.  Soon we were sharing hugs and doggie pats, settling our things in our rooms, and sitting down to the pizza that was waiting for us.

What a relief it was to see that Aaron was relaxed!  He had immediately given the dogs their treats and toys we had brought to them.  As we sat around the table, I was so touched to see the total attention that Kyle and Andrea paid to Aaron as he talked non-stop. 

That attention to whatever Aaron is saying is one of his major love languages.  The things he talks about can be mind-numbing to us but not to him.  Listening, commenting, answering his many questions…that means more to Aaron than we often stop to recognize.  But Kyle and Andrea know Aaron, and they love him, and they showed it by listening with great interest to his talk of…whatever it was he was saying.  😊

Later, as we were getting ready for bed, Aaron had me fill his water bottle that he keeps by his bed to drink while he reads a book before he goes to sleep.  Got that?  Because that little fact is very important.

I gave Aaron his pills while he was getting in bed.  Not having any other water, I told Aaron to just drink some of the water from that water bottle. 

“No!” Aaron told me.  “I can’t drink that water to take my pills.  That’s the water I drink while I’m reading in bed!”

I was so tired.  I sighed, and Aaron heard me.

“You don’t understand,” he said, with some anger returning.  “No one understands me!”

It was like some of that water splashed me in the face as I was hit with a fresh look into Aaron’s heart.  Try as we might, sometimes it truly is very hard to understand Aaron. 

Or maybe we understand on paper, when things are calm, but in the middle of the moment when we’re stressed it can be very hard to slow down, take a breath, step back, and see the world through Aaron’s eyes.  Feel it with his senses. 

This whole trip was like going to Mars for him in many ways. 

“Please, Mom,” it was like he was saying.  “Don’t also make me use my bedtime water bottle for taking my pills.  Don’t you understand?!”

My rising frustration was immediately replaced with empathy for this son of ours who didn’t ever ask to have autism.  But he does ask that we try to understand him as he lives with the rigidity that autism causes. 

Just understand.

Push aside my exhaustion, my frustration, my expectations – and simply give him a separate glass of water for pill taking.

What a gift that was to Aaron!

And to me as I once again saw him relax.  I knew that I, too, had spoken Aaron’s love language.

I have so much to tell you about our time in Texas.  It was the best trip ever for all of us!  I’ll share more later, hopefully soon, in my upcoming blogs.

Bless all of you for reading and for caring!  Good night and sweet dreams.

The Autism Two-Step

Gary and I are planning a trip to Houston next month.  We’ll stay with our daughter and son-in-law (Kyle and Andrea), and then get to see our other son (Andrew) who will be there for an NHRA race. 

Happy, happy fun times are ahead!  YAY, YAY!!

Wait.  I forgot to mention that we plan to take Aaron. 

Angry, angry times are ahead!  YUCK, YUCK!

That was Aaron speaking.

As many of you know, getting Aaron to travel happily is a stretch.  We want to include him for the obvious reasons, especially the fact that he IS family and should be a part of family times. 

We’ve been making the hard sell and thought we were well on our way to traveling success.  But yesterday morning…

Aaron stood behind me early as I sat at my quiet time desk. 

“I am NOT going to Andrea’s!!” he angrily spoke.

First words out of his mouth did not bode well.

None of my soft words softened him at all. 

I ended up on our patio, coffee in hand, where Aaron soon found me and exposited further on the reasons that he will NOT make this fun, fun trip.

I escaped in the house for a few minutes.  When I looked out at the patio, Aaron was gone.  I didn’t see him anywhere.  Where could he have gone?!

Soon I saw him, across the yard sitting all dejected on our bench.  Sorry for the grainy picture.

He soon moved to the front porch, sadness all over his posture and face. 

When he rejoined me on the patio, he was crying.  When Aaron cries, he is truly and deeply upset. 

“I don’t want to leave this house!” he exclaimed, as if we were forcing him out forever instead of just taking a trip.

But to Aaron, home and the familiarity it brings is of upmost importance to him.  It’s a huge stretch to ask him to go someplace else and just “be happy.”

Aaron reacts to all the stimulation outside of himself in a far greater way than you and I do.  A long trip, another house, an unfamiliar bed, more people around, a different bathroom…just everything about traveling is huge and very uncomfortable to him. 

And if Aaron is uncomfortable, then everyone within range of his voice will be most uncomfortable, too.

It’s so easy to say he should just go and have a good time.

SO, SO hard for Aaron to do that very thing, starting with the “just go.”

Later in the morning, like a light went on, Aaron calmed down and became happy.  It wasn’t because finally, he came to his senses!

It was because he remembered the Indonesian submarine that sank.  Really.  Not that the sinking and all the death makes him happy, but all the facts of that incident have filled his fact-loving cup to the brim.

He talked about the submarine incessantly on Sunday.  He talked about it until the moment he turned his light off that night and went to sleep.  So yesterday morning, when he paused from his travel grief long enough to think of something else, his mind went back to the submarine that had so consumed him yesterday.

Ahhhhh, a subject that pleased him, odd as that sounds! 

Autistic persons are often brought back to their comfort zones by slipping into whatever groove is safe to them and meets their unusual interests.  As strange as it seems to us, Aaron was able to lay aside his angst about our upcoming trip by finding that groove, which on this day was the sunken submarine…

And then Trandoshians…clones…launch codes…Republic Assault Ship…Wookies…

It’s just the most fascinating and often frustrating thing!

Yet Gary and I must lay aside our desire to lecture as we slip with Aaron into his groove, talk about the very unique subjects that permeate his mind, and be ready for the next onslaught of travel anger.

It’s a delicate dance that we know all too well, accompanied by the music of Aaron’s world.  The band isn’t always in tune, at least not to us, but Gary and I had best just dance along and let Aaron lead.

It’s the Texas Two-Step!  Except for us it’s two steps forward…on a good day…and at least one step back.  Often more.

Last night, as Aaron still processed all things travel related, his face lit up.

“MOM!!  Can Kyle tell me all about the submarine?  Because if he can then I’ll go to Houston!”

So Kyle, who has a degree in maritime studies but has never worked on a submarine, has been given an assignment for which to prep before we come.  And his dad, Kent…who served in the Navy on a sub…will no doubt be invaluable.  Andrea said we should just have Kent waiting in the driveway when we pull in.  😊  😊

It’s good that we can all laugh. 

All of us except Aaron, who takes every bit of this very seriously. 

Time for me to get our day going.  Gary and I are taking Aaron to the zoo, which is close and does not require travel but also does not…to my knowledge…have a submarine.  Too bad!

Looks like it will be a beautiful day for a dance. 

Listen to The Music

The self-checkout at our nearby Dillon’s grocery store plays music when it’s time to take your receipt.  Only about four notes play over and over until you get your receipt.  It’s just another automated reminder and no big deal.

Unless you’re Aaron! 

Aaron is absolutely fascinated by the little electronic jingle.  Most of us would barely notice it or would brush it off as annoying. 

Again, not Aaron!

Every time Aaron and I go through the self-checkout line, he leans way over the scanner when he knows that I’m done.  He wants to clearly hear the music.

I took a picture of him a couple weeks ago as he listened to the notes.

There he was, a grown man with his long flowing sweater on, leaning way over the scanner. 

He did not care one bit about how he looked.

He did not care one bit about who thought what.

Here is something I have learned in our life with Aaron.  I have learned that it’s best if I also do not care one bit about how he looked.

And it’s best if I do not care one bit about who thought what.

Aaron doesn’t just march to the beat of a different drummer.  He marches to the beat of a whole different symphony!

He will stop to listen and observe and comment about things that most of us don’t even see.

He takes the time to listen to the music of life around him in ways that most people do not. 

So when he leaned over the scanner this last time, instead of being embarrassed and looking around to see who was staring at us, I just laughed and joined in the fun.  I didn’t grab my receipt right away so that the music would play a little longer and Aaron could totally enjoy it.

And you know what?

I totally enjoyed it, too. 

Looking at the world…and listening to the world…with Aaron, in his way, really is such beautiful music. 

At least it is most of the time.    😊  😊 

Too Much Love!

I guess the best way I could describe Aaron and the subject of love is this: 

Aaron holds love at a distance, admiring the concept but not wanting or able to become too involved in the process.

Welcome to how autism colors every single aspect of Aaron’s life, and therefore ours as well…or anyone who is associated with Aaron.

Valentine’s Day has been on Aaron’s mind since soon after Christmas when all the red hearts and cute stuffed animals and boxes of candy appeared on store shelves.  Aaron flits from one shelf to the next, holding up items and laughing as he very loudly says, “MOM!!  Look at this!!  Can I have it??!!”

It’s all great fun as he zooms around finding lots of treasures.  This idea of love is safe as Aaron, ever hopeful about his quest for “things,” attempts to score a bag of candy or a cute trinket to tuck away in his room.

Aaron does love showing love, but on his terms.  Aaron’s terms are dictated by his inner workings and thoughts, deeply affected by the effects of autism. 

At our local Dillon’s just down the road, we have come to know Jody.  She is a joy with a warm and loving heart.  Jody has personal family connections to special needs.  She has come to know Aaron and loves to interact with him.  Jody knows that sometimes Aaron enjoys buying flowers there that he gives to certain people, often ones in his day group, Paradigm.

One recent day, when I was in Dillon’s without Aaron, Jody asked me if I thought that Aaron would like to give flowers to his friends at Paradigm for Valentine’s Day.  Dillon’s donates flowers to all sorts of local places like hospitals, nursing homes, etc. 

I thought that was a wonderful idea, so we made our plan.  Barb, Paradigm supervisor and second mom to Aaron (though she’s too young to be his mom!), gave me numbers, and Jody did the ordering, and Aaron and I did the picking up. 

Perfect, right?

Wrong.

Aaron and I were eating lunch after our Meals on Wheels delivery the day before the flower pick-up and delivery.  The day before the big Valentine party at Paradigm.

Aaron does not handle parties and celebrations well…at all. 

Aaron does not handle expectations well…at all.

“Mom?” he began as we ate our lunch, “you make me feel like you think I need to be in love with the clients.”

I knew we were in trouble with all this business of flowers and parties and LOVE.

I explained, much more than once, over the remainder of that day about the purpose of the flowers.  I knew I was fighting an uphill battle, though.

I especially knew this when yesterday morning, Valentine party and flower delivery day, Aaron stood by my desk early…eyes droopy with sleep…and spoke his first words of the morning:

“Mom, I feel embarrassed by this love thing.”

Sigh.

Over the course of the morning, I told him that I would take the flowers…that he didn’t need to go…that it was fine for him to stay home from all the party stress…and so forth and so on.

But no, Aaron felt compelled to go…to give this difficult day a try.

Later, as we picked up the big box of beautiful roses from the Dillon’s florist, one of the ladies there very happily looked at us and said:

“You’re delivering some LOVE!!!”

Bless her heart, she had no idea.  I don’t think she heard Aaron’s reply.

“No!!” he simply said.

But that simple reply told SO much!

I made it to Paradigm with grouchy overloaded Aaron.  He was showing anything but love, except to Barb when he gave her a gift he had made.  He managed a smile for a picture.

He fell on the floor when he backed up into a friend in a wheelchair (neither were hurt).  But that certainly didn’t help his love feelings.  The party atmosphere was loud and just too much for Aaron, but it always is, so we left and headed home…with Aaron feeling terrible about the fall and the unmet expectations.

The flowers were beautiful and made the clients, especially the girls, feel loved and happy.

Aaron enjoyed seeing a picture of his happy friends that Barb sent.  But again, seeing it from a distance was best for him.

Gary and I took Aaron to lunch at a small local Asian restaurant nearby.  This made Aaron happy.  He processed the morning as he talked about it with us. 

He also made us laugh and laugh at his reaction to only having ONE fork.  To Aaron, one eating utensil is never enough!  This is Aaron’s norm:

But he handled that one fork very well, which was an accomplishment worthy of note to me and Gary. 

Small victories are pretty big to us. 

Aaron’s happiness is big, too. 

A trip to Wal-Mart after lunch.  Some Red Hots and a new game for Valentine’s Day.  All these things made Aaron very content and happy.

We know to do life Aaron’s way when we can.  Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. 

Seeing Aaron’s reaction to his one fork held a world of meaning to me and Gary. 

I’ll hold that in my heart on this Valentine’s weekend.

We love you, Aaron! 

Up close or from a distance, depending on Aaron – of course! 

Our Man Kid

A couple weeks ago I was talking to our daughter on the phone.  Almost always, when she and I are on the phone, Aaron will come bounding up to me and without lowering his voice he will ask if that’s Andrea.  I shake my head yes and so the hovering begins as he waits for HIS turn to talk to Andrea.  I finally let him have his time, knowing that if I don’t he will most likely linger close by until I do.

“ANDREA!!” he begins.  “Guess what game I’m playing now?!” 

And he’s off, talking about everything under the sun that has to do with his world.  He never asks about her life or how she’s doing.  Never.  But she understands that about her brother.  She laughs with him and talks to him about all his games and movies and answers his unusual questions about unusual things as seriously as if she’s talking to a lab manager about the proper way to conduct a molecular test. 

A couple weeks ago, she and I were talking about how Aaron is and how he must appear to others.  His conversations, his approach to life, his characteristics that others observe when they first see Aaron or if they know Aaron well…everything that makes Aaron who Aaron is.  Andrea said that he really is just a kid in a man’s body.

Then later that same evening, Aaron and I were talking to a neighbor and her young son out on our driveway.  This little boy just looked up at Aaron as Aaron went on and on about whatever.  Aaron was talking rather loudly, as usual, and all the time he talked he kept working his fingers together the way that he does. 

Finally, our young friend was able to get a word in…a question, actually.   

“Are you a man kid?” he asked Aaron.

That question went completely over Aaron’s head as he just barreled on with his topic of interest at that moment.

But it stopped me in my tracks. 

“What a perfect way to describe him!” I quietly told his mother. 

And how interesting that Andrea and I had said that same thing, yet not as precisely, just that afternoon.

A man kid. 

There stands Aaron, looking every bit like a man…and he is.  He has a man’s voice, a man’s physique, a man’s facial hair, and even a man’s balding head.  😊

But he acts so much like a kid!  And to other kids I know it’s a process to try to figure Aaron out.  We’re so used to him that we don’t often mentally step back and think of how it must be for children to understand Aaron.

Tomorrow is Aaron’s birthday.  Our son, who is a man, turns 36 tomorrow!

Our son, who is a kid, is exuberantly excited about his birthday.  He always is, every single year. 

If you ask him how old he will be, he pauses as he tries to remember his new age.  That number of “36” means nothing to him.

But oh, his birthday means everything to him.  Just ask our neighbors, some from around our circle that we don’t really know.  If Aaron is outside and he sees someone walking by, he briskly heads to the street.

“HEY!!” he yelled the other day to a couple of ladies.  “It’s almost my birthday!!”

They laughed and congratulated him as they went on their way.

And our man kid stood there rubbing his hands together in delight, with his deep chuckle bubbling up, his sweater flapping in the breeze, and joy all over his face.

Remembering that Aaron is a man kid helps us enjoy him.

But more importantly, it helps us understand him…and understanding Aaron is crucial in how we live with him and deal with him.

Happy Birthday, Aaron!! 

We love you, man kid!!