Some Best Gifts

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.  It’s nice to have a day to declare our love for the people in our lives that mean a lot to us.  I’ll admit that I have loved every flower and card and box of candy that Gary has given me over the years.  But in the past few days, I’ve once again seen that the best gifts my husband gives is what he gives of himself, over and over and over, as we walk this life road together with our Aaron. 

Gary and I love Aaron.  We have chosen at this point in our lives to keep Aaron at home with us.  It’s not always easy, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.  However, there are two attitudes that help tremendously as we care for our son.  The first one is humor.

I’ll be honest and say that I like it when I pick Aaron up from his day group, and hear him say, “WHEW!!  I’m stuffed!!”  He then tells me what he ate for lunch that day, usually something on the large side.  So I casually ask if he wants supper and he often says no. 

Now, I don’t mean to sound mean, but Gary and I do enjoy eating dinner alone.  Just the two of us, enjoying casual conversation and pauses of quietness……blessed quietness.  Because if Aaron is with us, he loves to talk about his day and his recent activities and what he ate and what he said and how he was just teasing this person and how he got in trouble and what movie he’s watching and what aliens he’s interested in and what game he’s playing, etc., etc.  He watches for the slightest pause in Gary’s and my conversation, or maybe not even a pause at all, and will jump in quickly. 

“AND……guess WHAT?!!” he’ll interject.  And he’s off and running with another tale that he knows we MUST hear.  There is a time and a place for us to hear from Aaron, but we also enjoy each other’s company at least a few times a week.

The other night Aaron wasn’t planning to eat with us.  Gary came home to two place settings on the kitchen table.  We soon sat down to eat, just me and Gary, when we heard that all too familiar sound of Aaron’s heavy footsteps on the stairs.  How does he do that?  How does he just KNOW that we are sitting down to eat? 

Gary asked the blessing as we held hands, with Aaron hovering there between us.  As soon as the “Amen” was said, Aaron launched in.  “DAD, guess what?!”

“Aaron,” I interrupted.  “I thought you said you weren’t going to eat.”

“I’m not,” he replied.  “DAD, guess what?!”

So there we were, Aaron’s captive audience.  It’s always a struggle for us to know how blunt to be with Aaron.  We don’t want to make him feel like he’s not wanted with us.  But, really, we didn’t want him to stand there the whole meal and talk up a storm……and he would.  He was well on his way to doing just that. 

Finally I said, without terrible bluntness, “Aaron, now you’ve talked enough.  You need to let us eat.” 

“OK,” he said.  He walked over to the counter, picked up a pineapple that he noticed, and brought it over to us. 

“DAD!!  Look at this!!  Mom got a pineapple today!”

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In Aaron’s mind, he WAS letting us eat.  I didn’t want to be so blunt as to say, “AARON!!  QUIT TALKING!!”  So I told Aaron to let us eat, and he WAS letting us eat while he continued to talk.

Gary, also not wanting to be too blunt or hurtful to Aaron, looked at me and said, “Your clarification of your wishes would greatly enhance your desired results.”

Aaron had no idea what Gary was really saying.  Gary and I laughed and laughed, which made Aaron think that we loved what he was saying about pineapples……so he continued his talking while he let us eat, just like I had told him to do. 

Next to humor, patience is another important gift that Gary gives as we live with Aaron…..or he lives with us. 

Gary ordered two updated Star Wars games recently for Aaron’s computer.  He installed them for Aaron on Saturday.  Then came Gary’s strict instructions to Aaron about not changing settings or doing any other things to mess up what Gary had taken time to do.  We have lots of experience with Aaron doing just that.

Gary and I came home from church the next day to find Aaron telling his dad that something wasn’t right about the games.  Without even looking, Gary knew…..and he was right.  Aaron had tried to put some codes in or something…..it’s all Greek to me……and he had jumbled things up.  Gary had to sit down and re-do much of what he had just done the day before. 

It was a resounding GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR moment, for sure.  And Aaron knew it…..knew he had blown it and knew we were frustrated.

Aaron finally came in my room and said, “Nobody forgives me!”  Can we spell the word D-R-A-M-A?

The game was eventually back up and running.  Gary had slipped outside to take Jackson, our Dane, for a walk.  The walk was, I’m sure, doing more good for Gary than for the dog. 

Enter Aaron……into the kitchen, looking for Gary.  Gary, who was nowhere to be found.  Aaron asked me and I couldn’t lie, so with resolute steps Aaron was out the back door and striding across the grass to catch up to Gary and Jackson.  I felt badly for Gary.  I knew he wanted some alone time. 

Soon I looked out the window, watching them come from behind the tall evergreens into my view.  They walked slowly, Gary and Aaron, with Gary talking and engaging with Aaron.  It warmed my heart, as I am quite sure it did Aaron’s as well. 

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Gary’s love for Aaron is a great gift to me.  His humor and patience often come at times that we both need them the most.  Often when I am tired…..done…..ready to check out emotionally……Gary will step in and save the day for me.  Those are some of the very best gifts that he gives me, and they’re not just on one special day or two a year. 

Of course, I do still love flowers……just in case he reads this, you know.   🙂

 

 

 

Be My Valentine

Aaron climbed in the van this afternoon when I picked him up from his day group.  I talked to Katie, his staff, about his day…..which she said was excellent, with Aaron being kind and funny.  What awesome news!!

Aaron was settling into his seat and buckling his seat belt as Katie and I finished talking.  I had noticed that he walked to the van carrying two things in his hand, so before I drove away I looked down at the two items that he had placed between our seats. 

“What are those things?” I asked him.

“Well,” he replied as he held up a cup.  “K asked if I would be her Valentine, so she gave me this.”

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K is a client, one that Aaron doesn’t see a lot, I don’t believe.  But I guess she wants to be Aaron’s Valentine, so she hopefully sealed the deal with this gift.  It made me smile.  But it was the next thing that I saw that had me laughing.

The list.  She wrote a list for her new Valentine.  You know, just to give him a few gift ideas so he could seal his end of the deal.

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This girl has been schooled, let me tell you!!  HaHaHa!!

And good old Aaron, who loves to give and to share, asked if he could give those gifts to K.  I explained, as we drove home, why these gifts were out of the question.  Aaron was disappointed, and surprised, that he couldn’t buy K what she wanted.

At supper, Aaron showed Gary his gift from K, which made him smile.  And then he showed Gary the gift list, which made Gary laugh out loud just as I did.  Aaron was stoic, still disappointed at our reactions. 

“You mean I can’t get her those gifts?” Aaron asked with a straight face.

“No, Aaron,” Gary replied.  “You don’t have that kind of money for all those expensive gifts.  Why, even your mother wouldn’t expect to get those kinds of gifts.”

Wait.

What did Gary say?!!

Why is he laughing?!!

🙂  🙂

The Meat Goes ON the Rice!

I stood in front of the greeting card display a couple weeks ago, locating the various categories of Valentine cards that pertained to me.  Husband….sons…..daughter…..friends…..special ones.  I paused at the “mother” category, and then skipped over it as I continued my search for just the right card for each person on my list.  Sometimes it takes forever to find just the right sentiment, and today was one of those days.  I decided on several cards, but there were still some unchecked names on my list.  “Well, I would just have to go to another store and see what choices they offered,” I thought as I went on my way.

I later made a new list in my “brain notebook” that sits in my cool ThirtyOne notebook holder.  It’s the notepad that’s just like the one Mom used…..the one she called her “brain”……..with all of her lists and her scribbled notes.  Just like Mom.  Like my mother used to be.  And there she was, once again, in my life and in my memories……although she is still living, but not like we all knew her. 

My new list consisted of items that I hadn’t been able to find on this day of shopping, and among them were three Valentine cards yet to be chosen.  As I looked at those names, I knew that one was missing, and I felt guilty.  My mother was not on that list.  I had overlooked that section earlier that day, on purpose.  Why get a card for my mother?  She is now deeply affected by Alzheimer’s.  She doesn’t know any of us.  She doesn’t even know that she has children at all. 

Not only that hard fact, but my mother doesn’t know what Valentine’s Day is all about.  It wouldn’t affect her one bit to not receive a card, and it wouldn’t affect her one bit TO receive a card.  And further, my mother doesn’t even know what a card is or what it is for.  It’s all tragic and sad and completely impossible to believe that this is true of my mom.

 
My mother was beautiful, and she was gifted in so many ways.  She was an extremely hard worker, and organized to the max.  She even washed her dishes a certain way, and taught her four daughters to do the same.  I thought of this fact one night last November when our dishwasher sat broken and useless in its place in our kitchen.  I filled the kitchen sink with hot, soapy water and began to place the dishes down in the suds.  I smiled as I thought of how Mom taught us to wash the dishes in a certain order and even to put them in a particular place in the sink.  Obsessive?  Maybe.  But it makes sense, the way she taught us, and I thought as I washed my dishes that night…..in my mother’s order……that I bet each of my sisters would load their dirty dishes into their sinks exactly the way that I was placing mine that night. 

My mother’s teaching and her influence go far beyond how to load the kitchen sink, certainly, but it’s in those practical ways that I find myself often drawn to her.  One of our favorite stories about Mom that make my family laugh is the one about the time that Mom and Dad had all of us over for dinner when we were visiting.  Mom had cooked beef in gravy with rice on the side.  She set the line up as a buffet, and she watched carefully as either Bethany or Martha….don’t remember which……put their rice on the plate and then put the meat on their plate separately from the rice.  Mom pulled herself up to all of her maybe 5’2” frame and announced loudly, “The meat goes ON the rice!”  We all wanted to burst out laughing, and we did roll our eyes when she wasn’t watching……but we all loved her for it.  That was Mom.  “The meat goes ON the rice!” is now one of our favorite sayings.

Now Mom doesn’t even know what rice is…..or meat…..and often doesn’t know what to do with the meat and the rice that might be on her plate.  Jan sent us a video last night of a recent visit with Mom.  She wasn’t sure that we would want to see it, but we told her yes……please send it and let us see our little mother.  It was heart wrenching and sad to see her so completely unaware of anything and anybody.  To see her showing fear, shaking and scared.  Our mother is gone.  The woman who bore us and raised us, and instilled in us so many amazing values that were her own, is now gone.  But her body is here, and she is loved by all of us……and excellently cared for by Bob and Jan, and John and Jeanie.

It’s all we can do…..love her and care for her and definitely to pray for her.  And for me personally, to buy her that card.  Yes, I added her name to my list and I went to the “Mother” section of the Valentine cards.  I found just the right card, surprisingly enough…..one that talked about what my mother had done, not what she was doing now.  And what she HAS done is plenty!  All of her children and grandchildren are reaping the benefits and blessings of all that my mother HAS done in her life well lived. 

I really know that I sent her that card, not for her, but for me.  I needed to remind myself of all that my wonderful little mother was, and of all that she is still doing in my life today.  In that way, I honor her, though she is unaware of that. 

Remember now:  The drinking glasses are washed first, then the plates and the silverware…..with the silverware in front and the plates behind them….

And the meat goes ON the rice, for crying out loud!
 

The Nightie……..Retold

 

While in Wal-Mart the other day, I noticed that they are in full Valentine’s Day mode.  Candy, cards, flowers, clothing………..which sends a little shiver up my spine.  Not because I’m so wild about all the Valentine’s Day commercialism, but because of what happened when I was in Wal-Mart with Aaron several years ago.  I decided to share this story again because I realize that many of you haven’t read about that little incident.  Plus it’s good therapy for me to write about it……to let it out.  I’m actually not in therapy, but after reading this story you may think that I should be.

 

Aaron and I did our typical entrance into Wal-Mart on that particular day…….which means that Aaron stopped dead in his tracks in the middle of the crossing as we headed to the entrance.  He then held out both arms, like a policeman stopping traffic, which garnered all sorts of attention and stares.  I told him to stop like I always did, and he told me that he just wanted to be sure the cars stopped, like he always did.

 

Once in the store entrance, while I got a cart, I looked over and saw Aaron staring up at the security camera.  He had a huge smile on his face and was flashing the peace sign with both hands, while I’m sure the security personnel were busily trying to ascertain Aaron’s threat level.  Oh brother.  I whisked him on into the store, where I gave him the list of do’s and don’ts as he decided to head by himself to the video section.  It was mostly don’ts.

 

Aaron, don’t make the passing gas sound.  And you know why.  People think it’s you passing gas for real, or worse yet, when I’m with you they think it’s ME.  No, it’s not funny.

 

And no fox whistles.  That could get you in some trouble with boyfriends and husbands.

 

And lastly, as he took off down the aisle, I told him not to run.  There he went, walking briskly with both arms swinging furiously and his rear end swaying back and forth.  Quite a sight.

 

I picked up a few things and then headed over to electronics to pick up Aaron.  He was going with me to the grocery section.  I saw him looking at videos, and after a brief look at whatever new movie he wanted, I took off down the center aisle with Aaron close behind.   I wasn’t paying much attention to what was displayed beside us as we walked………right there on the side of that main aisle.

 

Valentine nighties.  Lots and lots of little nighties.  Red ones……black ones…….animal print ones.  Some with feathers, even, and others with sequins.  My internal alarms should have gone off.  You see, Aaron is attracted to the unusual……..and these tiny nighties were most unusual to him.  But no, I was focusing on peanut butter and tea bags and frozen mixed vegetables…….not on little, very interesting Valentine nighties.

 

But Aaron noticed them.  Oh yes, he did!  Something else I didn’t notice was that Aaron had lagged behind me……..quite a ways behind me.  Suddenly I heard his unmistakable loud voice saying, “MOM!”

 

I turned around in the middle of that very wide aisle full of very many people…….and there stood Aaron, a huge smile on his face……..and holding up a little tiger print nightie.  A very tiny tiger print nightie.  Things seemed in slow motion from that point forward.

 

“MOM!” he repeated.  “YOU NEED THIS!!!!”

 

I just stood there, sure that most of the people passing me were thinking, “No, young man.  Your mom does NOT need that.”

 

I wished that I was Korah.  You remember Korah, of Old Testament fame, who sinned against God and was swallowed up by the earth as punishment.  I would have welcomed that.

 

But there was no escaping my large, very happy Aaron standing there holding this unique very tiny tiger nightie way up high for me and all the other hundreds of people there to see.  OK, there weren’t hundreds but I sure felt like there were.  What could I do but tell him to hang it up, and turn and walk once again toward the groceries?  I couldn’t wait to stick my head in amongst the frozen vegetables to cool my flaming face.

 

Aaron couldn’t understand my embarrassment at all.  He thought that this was a very funny moment but not awkward.  Why wouldn’t mom want to look at this cool tiger print little thing?  I just told him to trust me on this, and I was very thankful when we were headed home.

 

No way was I going to tell him that I liked the red one with the feathers better.