Aaron’s Story – Part 1

I realize as I write these posts that there are many of you who really don’t know much, or anything, about Aaron’s history – his story.  I hope that I can briefly share a little of who Aaron is so that you will know him better.  I will begin by sharing that I remember so well laying in my bunk bed in my college dorm room and talking late into the night with my dear friend, Janet.  One topic that sometimes came up was how we would raise our children some day.  After all, at this point we were experts, you know!  I mean, we babysat and even aced our Child Development class!  Oh, little did we know.  But I do know that it never crossed my mind, crossed my lips, or even crossed my radar that I would one day be the mother of a child with special needs.  Permanent, life-long special needs. 

Gary and I had been married for five years when Aaron was born in November of 1984.  Gary was a military pilot and we lived in Colorado Springs, CO.  Aaron was born in the old WWII army hospital on Fort Carson.  That was an experience in itself!  Our baby Aaron was perfect!  I had the most beautiful baby of any of the babies born that night!  I had the most beautiful baby of any of the babies EVER born – ANYWHERE!  You new mothers know exactly what I mean.  He truly was a blond haired, blue-eyed doll who loved to talk; to explore; to eat; to wrap us around his little chubby fingers. 

Gary was getting ready to go to the field for several months just before Aaron turned 2 years old.  He and Aaron were in the den when I heard Gary calling me to come.  I thought something was wrong and hurried downstairs to find Aaron sitting on Gary’s lap and Gary holding a magazine.  Gary told me to look and he proceeded to point to random letters in the magazine article’s headline.  Aaron knew each letter and said it clearly!  We were astonished!  He wasn’t even two yet.  He loved Wheel of Fortune and loved his magnet letters on the frig but we had no idea that he really knew his letters.  That became our new fun game with Aaron. 

We moved to Hanau, Germany and were there for three years and then to Mannheim, Germany for another three – with a 6 month stateside stay in between for fixed wing school for Gary.  One Sunday in Mannheim, when Aaron was in the first grade, he came down with a virus.  That afternoon as I stood with him in our kitchen and he threw up in the wastecan, he fell back into my arms and started having a Grand Mal seizure.  It was a terrifying experience for us.  I had never seen a seizure and didn’t understand what was happening.  The ambulance came and off we went to the clinic, and then downtown to the German Kinderklinic, where he stayed for nearly a week.  He was diagnosed with Epilepsy there.  I remember coming home, finally, putting him into his own bed and then sitting at my desk crying out to God and crying my heart out for my Aaron.  It was the only time I allowed myself to have such a long crying spell.  I knew that it was time to move on and to trust Aaron into God’s hands.  My trust in the God I knew never wavered, not because of any great person that I am but because of the great God that I know. 

We moved to Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1993.  The next year Aaron was weaned off the seizure drugs because he had been seizure free for two years.  Soon after that, though, he had another Grand Mal seizure and also began having other kinds of seizures as well.  He was put back on the meds and has been on them ever since.  As Aaron grew we noticed more and more odd behaviors but attributed everything to the Epilepsy or to the anti-seizure drugs.   He had tactile issues and couldn’t stand things to be tight or scratchy against him.  He refused to wear jeans, for instance, and would tear tags out of his shirts if they rubbed against his neck.  He couldn’t tolerate certain noises or loud voices.  He would sit for hours outside, breaking little sticks or leaves and putting the pieces into a container.  He would clap, very loudly, or make odd noises with his mouth.  He had a very hard time making or maintaining friendships.  Yet he taught himself cursive and was very sharp with math skills. 

Life was more and more frustrating for Aaron, and for us.  We thought that these behaviors would pass as he got more mature, but maturity never seemed to come and the behaviors only increased.  We then wondered if his seizures were the cause, or possibly all the anti-seizure drugs that he was taking.  No doctor ever mentioned any form of autism to us and that thought never entered our minds.  Then came a new duty assignment, a new home, a new life, and a new doctor.  And puberty!  I’ll continue that part of Aaron’s story later. 

A NEW Wal-Mart?!

Like I said, Aaron LOVES Wal-Mart and was so excited yesterday to see that there’s a new store, the Wal-Mart Market. He came bounding in the house and said, “Mom! Did you know there’s a NEW Wal-Mart?!” And so I broke the news to him that I don’t believe it has DVDs – or at least not many. He was crestfallen and said, “Well, that’s not much of an important Wal-Mart for me.” Whew! One less store he’ll want to go to!  Maybe. 

Another Nightgown Gaffe

While we’re on the subject of nightware, before I put it to bed, I’ll tell you what Aaron did several months ago.  I had my nightgown on and was almost in bed when I heard him call me from his room.  I know better than not to check on him, so I walked down the hall and into his room.  I don’t even remember what he wanted to tell me, but it only took a minute and we were done. 

The next day when he came home from his day group he was filling me in on what he had done that day.  He likes telling me about conversations, too, and so soon he said, “Mom, I told everyone that last night you came in my bedroom in your underwear.”   WHAT????!!!!!!   And so I explained that what I wore was a normal, MODEST, nightgown – NOT underwear, for crying out loud.  He was totally unaffected.  “Oh”, he said, “I thought it was your underwear.”  And he went happily on his way as I stood there wondering what his staff and friends thought of Aaron’s weird mother.  The next day I told him word for word what to say to clear it up and clear my name!  I can only hope he did.  And now I also hope that this will be the end of our bedtime nightgown stories.  And they lived happily ever after.

The Nightie

Aaron loves, loves, loves to shop…………as long as he’s getting to look at things that interest him.  That would primarily be DVDs and food.  Definitely not clothes.  Unless you count that one time that he and I went shopping at Wal-Mart – the time that’s burned into my memory.  He had gone to the DVDs (of course) while I looked at a few things, and then I went by the movie section to get him so we could pick up a few groceries.  We proceeded to walk down the very large aisle, headed for the grocery section, and my mind was on what items I needed to look for.  I didn’t even notice that Aaron was lagging behind. 

I remember that it was near Valentine’s Day.  I remember that there seemed to be lots of people in this particular area.  I remember seeing the sexy nighties that hung next to the aisle, on my right.  And then I remember hearing Aaron, large and loud Aaron, very largely and loudly yell, “MOM!!!!”  I turned around and there he stood, quite a ways from me, holding up a very sexy tiger-print nightie.  And he very largely and loudly said, “MOM!!  YOU NEED THIS!!”  I was frozen – except for my face, which was becoming very red and hot.  I was wishing for a sink hole at that moment, right under my feet. 

Then I saw the delight on Aaron’s face.  I mean, these nighties were very unusual for him and he’s always been curious about the unusual.  He had absolutely no idea that this would embarrass me.  Aaron really thought that it would be great if I got one of those nighties with the cool tiger print.  I can imagine that most of the people observing this scene were hoping that I would NOT buy it, but who cares?  I just smiled at Aaron, told him that I did not need it and to hang it up, and proceeded to go cool myself off in the frozen aisle.   Besides, I liked the red one with feathers better. 

Lessons From the Battered Plants

On Thursday evening we stood helplessly at our windows and watched as the hail fell and the wind blew ferociously. The hail wasn’t huge but was relentless and seemed to go on forever. When the storm was over I stepped outside and felt very disheartened at what I saw – leaves that had blown off of trees and plants were plastered everywhere; branches were snapped and smaller twigs were scattered all around; flowers were shredded; newly purchased hanging baskets were twisted and broken; our vegetable garden partly flattened and mangled. I didn’t even want to deal with it after weeks of planting, nurturing, and then beginning to see the fruits of our labor that we noticed even as we walked around the yard and garden minutes before the storm started.

Today I stepped out on the back patio, gathered the hanging baskets together, and started trimming the dying and drooping limbs. I then turned to the two flower beds in the back to do the same there. And I noticed something amazing. In the midst of the damage there was new growth. There among the pock-marked leaves and shredded blooms were new blooms waiting to open, new leaves unfurling, and bees buzzing about. Life!! And you know why? Because these plants were not uprooted. Their root systems were intact, receiving nourishment from underneath the ground as well as stability to remain standing. Sure, they bear the marks of the storm, and some look very tattered and worn. But there is growth; there is an anchor in the soil; there is hope.

How many times I’ve been battered by the storms of life! All of us have endured the sting of trials in so many areas of our lives. Many trials are prolonged and seem to never end. I’ve felt beaten, defeated, discouraged, scared, tired. But through it all I know in Whom I have believed. My roots are firm in the God Whom I trust. Jeremiah said it very well in Jeremiah 17:7-8: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is in the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.” I may bear the marks of the sufferings of this life but as I remain rooted in God my life can continue to grow, to prosper spiritually, to yield the peacable fruit of righeousness, to have peace and usefulness. I have hope as I anchor my roots in Christ – “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and stedfast…..” Hebrews 6:19.

And so I pray that I will bear the marks of my trials and hardships to the glory of God. I pray that I will continue to grow, to bloom, and to bear fruit despite the scars that may mar my leaves. I pray that through the heat and fierceness of the storms to come I will remain rooted in the Lord with no fear or worry, being fed by Him, and looking forward to the sure and stedfast hope that He provides!

Do NOT Touch!

To enroll Aaron in the job skills school that he attended for two years involved weeks of testing through our local high school.  We had home schooled Aaron for 8 years and so there was the process of also enrolling him at Goddard High School so that they could refer him on to the special school.  Finally everything was done and Aaron was ready to go.  He hopped on the bus – his first bus! – and seemed completely at home.  I was a mess! 

The testing had taken longer than planned and so Aaron was a few days late in starting his new school.  On his first day, the staff assigned a student to be Aaron’s shadow all day.  She was to help Aaron learn the ropes and understand his new routine.  Ashley was a very nice girl, but Ashley was also very bossy.  Aaron doesn’t do bossy.  All day long, this is what Aaron was hearing:  “Aaron, don’t sit there.  Aaron, sit here.  Aaron, don’t pick up that pen.  Aaron, don’t put that in your pocket.  Aaron, put your notebook here.  Aaron, don’t go in that room.  Aaron, be quiet!  Aaron, don’t go outside.  Aaron, don’t eat that!”   As the day wore on, he was becoming more and more agitated until finally he started flicking Ashley on her arm with his finger and thumb.  Those little stinging reminders to Ashley were Aaron’s way of telling Ashley to please hush and leave him alone!  The school called me that afternoon, telling me the situation, and reminding me that what Aaron was doing was considered assault.  Assault?!  Oh my!  We had some work to do. 

That night as we ate supper, Gary and I asked Aaron all about his day.  He was not impressed with his experience, mostly because of his bossy shadow.  We tried to smooth the situation and then we told Aaron over and over during supper, “Aaron, tomorrow do NOT touch Ashley.”  All evening, at every opportunity, we reminded him, “Aaron, tomorrow do NOT touch Ashley.”  Before he left on the bus the next morning my parting words were, “Aaron, remember, do NOT touch Ashley.”  Amazingly, I didn’t receive a call from the school that day and so we were very hopeful.

We were anxious to hear all about Aaron’s day as we sat down to eat that night.  We didn’t want to harp on the negative and so we listened to Aaron describe the events of his day.  Finally, I asked the question – “Aaron, did you touch Ashley?”    He quickly answered, “No!………………….but I hit her with my notebook.”  Oh, my literal Aaron!  We didn’t tell him not to hit her with his notebook.  It’s hard to cover all the bases with such a black and white, literal thinker.  And so we had to change our instruction to, “Aaron, don’t touch Ashley with your hands or ANYTHING else!”  He and Ashley were never good friends.  Go figure. 

Bugger!

Aaron really doesn’t like being “bossed.” This morning he was on the verge of being grouchy – thankfully he leveled out and was fine. Anyway, I had to direct him a few times about what he needed to do and he commented that he didn’t like me bugging him. Later he wanted me to come downstairs and so he said, “Come on, Bugger!” I have to smile. He gives us names based on how he’s perceiving us at the time. Today I’m Bugger. Wait til Gary gets home and I have someone else to bug!