Jacob’s Aunt Shellie wrote today’s post.
I was 18 years old when I found out that my nephew, Jacob, was diagnosed with autism. I remember feeling terribly devastated for my sister and her husband, Mike. And, for our entire family. Back then, autism was a foreign word. I had never heard of it and I’m not sure my sister had either. All we knew was that this sweet baby boy wasn’t going to have a normal life. The hopes and dreams that my sister and brother in-law had for their first born son were changed in an instant with a diagnosis that seemed hopeless.
I found this hard to deal with as a young adult. I was scared of the unknown. I didn’t understand autism and I definitely didn’t understand what having a child with autism would be like. I very seldom kept Jacob. Mainly because he was non-verbal and I was terrified of not knowing what he wanted or needed. It was a struggle to have a ‘relationship’ with him because he didn’t show any signs of affection and didn’t make eye contact. I loved Jacob but didn’t really know how to show him or how to love on him.
Over the years, Terri and Mike have had sitters to keep him for them to be able to have a life outside of autism. They had planned a trip to visit their other son, Josh, and his family. When at the last hour they found out their sitter was sick and couldn’t help with Jacob, as planned.
My sister reached out, asking if I would be willing to stay with Jacob that particular weekend. My first thought was ‘oh gosh, I don’t think I can do this’. However, I immediately felt, in my spirit, that God was telling me, yes, I want you to do this. My hesitancy was not because I didn’t want to stay. But, that I was nervous about being responsible for making sure Jacob was happy and felt secure.
One of the characteristics of autism is routine and structure. Jacob doesn’t like crowds, loud noises, and any changes in his everyday life. He can get very upset when he’s frustrated. Being non-verbal, he can’t tell you what he wants. And, frankly, it can be quite scary not knowing what to do when he is upset. I knew I had to be obedient to God leading me to do this and I knew that I could trust God to be with Jacob and me every moment of the weekend.
I arrived at their home and Terri had written out a step by step guide with instructions and great details for any possible scenario. It was meant to, hopefully, provide me an answer to every question and give me the confidence that I’d need to take care of Jacob.
One of the instructions was to make sure I removed Jacob’s sound machine every morning once he woke up. He loved to hide it from his caregivers so he could be entertained as they frantically looked high and low for this machine that he HAD to have to be able to sleep.
On the last day of staying with Jacob, I woke up early and peeked in to check on him. He was fine and content. I made my way to the kitchen to make him breakfast. All of a sudden it hit me! I had not put the sound machine away! I made a mad dash back to Jacob’s room to find him sitting on his bed acting as if nothing had happened.
But it had ……the sound machine was NO WHERE TO BE FOUND! I panicked looking high and low and everywhere in between to find this valuable object. I knew that my sister would be back that afternoon. Knowing that they would be faced with a search to find where he hid the machine, well, it stressed me out……. I looked and looked and looked some more to no avail.
When Terri and Mike returned home, I had to confess that, indeed, Jacob found the opportunity to hide the machine and it was nowhere to be found! Luckily, they had played that game before and, yes, it is obviously a game to Jacob. He enjoys watching us play hide and seek with whatever he has decided to hide! In his little solemn face behind those deep blue-green eyes, I believe Jacob was laughing! Because he was able to ‘pull one over on us’!
Another part of his daily routine noted in the instructions, was for one or both of his parents to say prayers with him at night. My eyes fill with tears as I recall this special memory with Jacob.
I had gotten him ready for bed and told him it was time to go to sleep. And then crawled in his bed to say a bedtime prayer. Out of the blue, Jacob reached over and grabbed my hand. With tears, I whispered a prayer thanking God for the opportunity he had given me to spend the weekend with Jacob.
You see…… my intention was to help Mike and Terri by keeping Jacob so they could go out of town. But in an instant, I saw clearly that it wasn’t just about staying with Jacob for a few days. God gave me the opportunity to see that although Jacob was born with a disorder called autism, and at times it seems he doesn’t understand or relate to everyday things, he showed me, with a little gesture, that he loved me being there. That he felt comfortable with me staying with him. But more importantly, he showed me that he knew the beauty of the moment….talking to our Heavenly Father, our maker and creator.
This happened over 10 years ago and it will always be one of my most favorite memories of Jacob.
But, I have to share one more blessing that happened this year. Jacob was visiting his grandparent’s house and I went back in his room to tell him hello. As I leaned over to talk to him, he leaned in and kissed me on the lips! THIS absolutely thrilled my soul.
As I stated earlier, at times Jacob doesn’t show emotion and he doesn’t like hugs. Ordinarily, one really doesn’t know if he even knows you are there. But this one time, THIS time, he decided to kiss me! My heart was so blessed!
Thank you Shellie for sharing these unexpected blessings! Your story will bless others.