Be careful what you hope for . . .

Nearly two years ago to the day, our Bishop, Sean Noble, came to the house to talk with Evie and I about Ethan receiving the priesthood and being ordained a Deacon. . .

If you are not familiar with those terms, let me explain. The priesthood is simply put, authority to act or function in the ordinances of the Gospel. For instance, as an LDS or Mormon family, we believe that men must be ordained to the Priesthood before they can assist or perform the ordinances of the Gospel, like baptism or administering the sacrament-known outside the Church as Communion, or the Lord's Supper-to members of the congregation. We also believe that young men, starting at age twelve can be given the priesthood and be ordained Deacon's. It is the Deacons, in fact, who are primarily responsible for administering the sacrament to the members of the congregation.  Nearly every Sunday during our meetings prayers are said over the broken bread and water and those items are passed to members of the congregation to partake of and renew covenants they made at baptism. It is the primary purpose of meeting together on Sunday, and is considered a sacred opportunity.
As you know, or have come to know by reading my blog, Ethan has Autism. Even as he approaches High School, he is on equal ground emotionally, and intellectually with a third-grader. To give you an example, and I share this only to give you perspective, here is the cover he made this year for his 8th grade poetry book.

. . .  so, Bishop Noble came over to discuss Ethan being ordained a Deacon. We sat on the couch, and explained in detail our feelings about Ethan and what we knew about Autism, and where on the spectrum he fell. He is "high-functioning," has good motor skills, and can communicate, meaning he can talk and interact with people verbally but comprehension, and understanding were questionable at best. He certainly has the ability to visually identify situations and then pull from his vault-like mind, those images he has categorized as fitting into the situation at hand. (I explained this in greater depth in a prior blog you can find here.) We discussed the fact there is no known cure for Autism, and that we anticipated that Ethan would be our life long companion. We spoke of meltdowns; what they are, what they look like, why they happen, etc. We talked about everything. We even told him our greatest concern was that a meltdown would occur during the passing of the sacrament!

Well, as we sat and discuss this for nearly an hour, Bishop Noble said (and I'm paraphrasing), "I think we should ordain Ethan. Not just for him, but for the ward. I think it would be a great thing for the ward to be able to see him passing the sacrament and experience him. In fact, I hope he does have a meltdown while passing the sacrament..."

Are you kidding me!?!

That's right,  

"I hope he does have a meltdown while passing the sacrament."

He went on to explain, that he thought it would be great for the members to witness first hand his special needs, as it would help them place their lives in perspective as to what is truly important. He also thought it would create a greater bond between Ethan and the ward members as he served them by giving them the sacrament.

Since that day we have had our share of interesting experiences with Ethan during sacrament. We've had him...

...wander off while passing the trays to give a hug to a dear friend,

...pat kids no the head as he passes to their row of pews,

...pick his nose,

...wave to people across the chapel that he recognizes,

...seen him get frustrated when little kids don't put the water cup in the tray when they are finished,

...reach down the back of his pants, clear to his elbow, because something on his shirt tail was bothering him,

...throw a leg up on the arm of the pew, like he's a cowboy sitting on a corral fence, waiting for the members in the the pew to return the tray,

...drink all the remaining cups of water out of his tray before he returns it,

...we thought we had seen it all.

Not until today!

It was obvious Ethan was upset when he came into the chapel. He was crying, you could see he was frustrated, and wanted nothing to do with Evie. I stepped down from the stand and went to the pew he was in, motioned for him to come to me and then sat down next to him to discover the problem. He was too frustrated to tell me, so he and I got up and walked out of the chapel to sit in the foyer.

While in the foyer I learned that he had dropped a piece of his toy . . . Sorry, my bad, a piece of "the Mighty Morphin Power Ranger" specifically the "Red Power Ranger's body." (Note to self: Remember to never compartmentalize, must be more specific.)

After emptying every toy out of his pocket, which amounted to approximately the parts to four complete Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, including the 75% complete Mighty Morphin Power Ranger Red Ranger who was missing his body, we came to the agreement that after Sacrament meeting he and I would go look for it in the car, and if we did not find it we would search for it when we got home.
Now, so you don't think Evie didn't have this exact same conversation with him, she did! In fact, having experienced this numerous times, I guarantee she said nearly the exact same thing I did, and had offered him the same arrangement. Sometimes it's not what is being said, but who is saying it. As the turmoil started with Mom being there, only an uninvolved third party could offer an acceptable solution.
So it was agreed, and together we walked back inside, holding hands. I walked him up to the front to his seat on the front row, which by now was full. I directed him to sit in his spot, and His Scoutmaster Steve, got up to make room for him. Meanwhile I made my way to the stand to take my seat next to the Bishop.

Just as I was making my way up the two steps to the podium, I saw Ethan backhand Garrett, another 12-year-old Deacon, on the shoulder and say, "Get out of here!" Garrett (who is a hero of mine for the way he dealt with what had, and what was about to happen) simply slid over freeing up a spot for Ethan. Ethan sat down and started crying again, and began making ugly faces.

I was able to make eye contact with Ethan and got him to take several deep breaths for me. These helped calm him down, but only a little. Following the prayer on the bread, Ethan quickly stood, pointed towards where the Priests were waiting to hand out the trays of bread, and loudly told Garrett, "Move it you $h--!" Luckily it was only loud enough for those on the stand, including the Bishopric, and President Merrill from the Stake Presidency, and the first four or five rows in the chapel to hear.

The young men moved, got their trays and proceeded to pass the bread to the waiting congregation. When Ethan got to his rows of pews he passed the tray of broken bread, and repeatedly said, "Here you $h--s!"

Evie, who fortunately sits in that section of pews, got his attention and scolded him for saying those words. He apologized, finished passing the bread to the remaining few rows and went to the foyer to pass the bread to any late arriving members. Once in the foyer however, Ethan's frustration grew to the next level and he began calling the people in the foyer "SOB's."

Michael, hearing about this notified Evie, who quickly went to the foyer to get him. Ethan, upon seeing mom, ran back inside the chapel to where the deacon's gather before returning the trays to the Priests. Thinking he was on "free base," he was now back in my view, and not knowing what had just transpired in the foyer, I observed him sticking his tongue out to somebody (Evie) who was apparently just out of view in the door way. Garrett finished his rows of pews and took his place in line along side Ethan. Garrett, however, was apparently standing too close to Ethan, and got a shove from him.

Ethan, who was now crying again, and the other boys, returned the bread trays and took their places for the next prayer (at this point the Bishop leaned over to me and whispered"it's okay."). After the prayer was said the boys passed the trays of water to the congregation, which apparently happened without any further issues.

Following the conclusion of the sacrament being passed to the congregation the boys returned to sit with their families in the congregation. It is at this point in the meeting that our speakers began. We first heard from Drake L. who gave a great talk on being kind to family members, then we heard from "Cookie" Cox who spoke about forgiving others and not judging. How ironic!!

About half-way through her talk, from the corner of my eye, I saw Ethan dashing up the aisle to the stand. He quickly climbed the few steps to the stand and was making his way towards me. As he walked up he loudly announced, "Sacraments over dad, can we go now?"  I pulled him towards me, whispered that it wasn't finished yet, and asked him to sit with me. He sat down on my lap threw his arms around me, hugged me, and laid his head on my shoulder. (I certainly could have used a larger chair today.)

After calming him down, I had him move to a seat just behind me and off to my right side so I could keep and eye on him. There he sat for the remainder of the meeting, quiet and content, for the most part. After a few minutes he realized he was sitting next to Garrett. Ethan loudly announced, "Sorry I called you a $h--!" Reached out his hand for a handshake and shook Garrett's hand. Garrett smiled, shook his hand and said, "It's okay."

It wasn't until later that Bishop Nobles words rang crisp and clear in our minds.

Following Sacrament meeting Evie, who was aware of the foyer episode took it upon herself to apologize to all who were present and may have been the brunt of the verbal barbs he was throwing about, while I proceeded to contact those she hadn't reached who had received his verbal assault in the chapel. When she approached Allan B to apologize, he told her somebody in the foyer asked him if Ethan had Tourette's, Allan just smiled and said, "No, Autism." Immediately, upon hearing Ethan had "special needs" any hard feelings people may have had disappeared.

I found Garrett, and apologized to him for what had happened, and thanked him for being so kind to Ethan. He simply said, "It's okay, I am here to help!"

Later, as Church was ending, Scoutmaster Steve's wife, Melissa, approached Evie and pulled her aside. She said she had been watching Ethan during the meeting and had observed his antics with Garrett, and those members in the front pews he had passed the bread to. She said, at first she was struck with dismay by what was happening, and what he was doing, but then watched him walk up to the stand.

It was then she realized. Here was a "special" little boy with "needs," in a young man's body, towering over his dad as he sat on his lap and hugged him. She said she did the only thing she could do, she just melted into tears!

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