The Most Obvious Things Are Not Always the Right Things!

Let me start by saying that we have had a busy spring and summer. Really busy spring and summer. As I sit here typing this, our brand new car just went in for its second service appointment at the dealership because we hit 10,000 miles in less than three months. That’s a lot of driving! However, before I proceed to bore you with a mile-by-mile recap, let’s back up a bit and give you a bit of background. Warning: THIS IS A REALLY LONG READ!

The Bravest Little Girl I Know!
Autumn and I have a seven-year-old daughter, Trinity.  When she was nine months old she received a brain injury. She was in intensive care for about two weeks, during which time she had seizures and ended up blind for about six weeks. After exhaustive testing it is still unknown what exactly happened. The short version is that somehow her brain was deprived of oxygen and/or blood flow for too long. She has fairly significant scarring in her brain, mostly in the back part. No I don’t know the medical term for that area. I could Google it but haven’t. The good part of all this is that, except for the brain injury itself, she’s a very healthy little girl with dozens of tests to prove it! Many of you already knew this, many of you didn’t. I don’t mention this to draw attention to the event itself. I bring it up because it has (eventually and rather circuitously) led us to where we are today, which is looking to relocate our family.
The reason that we are looking to relocate is simple: Trinity, thanks to her past, learns differently than most people. She needs, more than anyone else I know, to have an education that is very specific to her needs. As parents, Autumn and I are fairly certain that this level of attention simply isn’t available in a public school setting. If we thought that there was a chance of that, we probably wouldn’t be looking to relocate. The fact is that we have been very happy with all of the teachers, aides, administrators, therapists and paraprofessionals that have been involved, whether it be directly or indirectly, in Trinity’s educational path. Haines Elementary and Baker School District faculty and staff have worked tirelessly to give Trinity the best education possible; that has been clear over the past years. But still Trinity has struggled in school.

This summer Trinity spent eight weeks in Portland at a learning center. She worked with instructors one on one for four hours a day, five days a week. But the crazy thing is that we noticed a difference within two or three days. Autumn was over there with Trin for the first week and mentioned how something was different about her. I started noticing it as well, even over the phone. She started speaking with more sophistication. She started asking follow-up questions. She read road signs. She wanted to know what they meant. All of these things were not really happening prior to Portland. It was as if this system that was being used at the learning center had opened a door in her mind, or flipped on a breaker that had been switched off long ago. Let me be clear, she’s still the same girl. She isn’t all better now. But we have hope that there is a path to follow and its end is undetermined. As Trinity’s parents, that has been an amazing gift to receive. But with that gift came a very serious question: what next?

About two weeks before the end of the Portland trip, we were talking with the folks at the learning center about next steps after we returned home. They had mapped out a plan for follow up in hopes of maintaining the tools that Trinity was now in possession of. But there’s a hitch here: the help that Trin was receiving wasn’t coming for free. Quite the opposite in fact. Let’s just say the well would run dry quickly if we were to continue in Portland too much longer. In fact, the cost of the follow up work, which was a fraction of the cost of the in person instruction, would pay for a very healthy private education. Which is exactly what we are looking to do.

We (mostly Autumn) have searched all over the country to find schools that might work for Trinity, that might give her the education and environment that will enable her to be as successful as she can be, to become the best and most capable Trinity possible. We have spoken with many schools all over the country and have learned a great deal about schools that specialize in teaching kids with learning differences. Even within this community there are many different types of schools and many of them are specific about the kinds of learning differences they are focusing on with their school. What we discovered is that kids with brain injuries fall outside of the parameters of many of these schools. Yes, each child with an autism spectrum disorder is unique, but the autism spectrum is a known quantity. Not so with brain injuries, since each one is caused by a specific (and different) event with a million different possible set of consequences. All that means, however, is that there are less schools out there than we thought. But in a way, that’s a good thing because we only have a few choices. Which brings us up to the present day, sort of.

There are other factors that have influenced our search as well. In the search for schools, we have found some of them that cost up to $60,000 per year. That’s simply out of our price range, no matter how good the school is. So that narrowed the search. Also, our family has four people in it, not just one. Sure Trinity is the main reason we are looking to relocate, but the move really has to work for the entire family. That means making sure that we are giving Teagan as good an education as possible also. Fortunately, his needs are not as specialized, but we recognize that he also needs opportunities to excel and explore. Of course job(s) play a big part as well, as does cost of living, etc. Which is why we were in Minneapolis, MN and Madison, WI over the weekend. Autumn and I visited three schools over there to see if they might be a good fit for Trin. The week before last we went to Bozeman, Montana for the same reason. Lucky for us, all three locations offer opportunities that could work for our family! And that folks, is where we are. Well, we’re still technically here in Baker City. For now.

Sadly, the decision has been made. Our family will be relocating to (insert location here) on (insert date here). Honestly though, we really don’t know which of the three locations we will choose or when we will be moving. It is bittersweet for us. Autumn and I love living in Baker and up until a few weeks ago had never thought about leaving at all. I thought we would retire here and live out our days picking mushrooms and huckleberries. And although that may happen someday, it will not be anytime soon. Even typing those words hurt. I think that I have already started to grieve the loss of Baker, at least for myself. But it goes deeper than that. Autumn talks a lot about the dreams that she had for the kids here, for our neighborhood. That all has to change now and it’s going to hurt. It does hurt.

As I talk about this to more and more people, I realize how many ties our family has to this town, to this community. If you’re reading this then we’re tied to you and that bond will stretch as we leave. Many ties will not just stretch, they will break. It’s a natural consequence of what we’re going through and it won’t be easy. But I know that those bonds have and will strengthen us and for that we are so grateful. I know I’m getting sappy and rambling a bit now. So it goes.

The title of this post has a little story behind it. Autumn and I were at the Minneapolis airport, waiting for our flight. Autumn was approached by an elderly lady who asked if maybe we knew the airport better than she did. Autumn answered no, but that she would help if she could. The lady was looking for a particular terminal and Autumn thought maybe it was to the right, because it looked as if the terminal ended to the left. The lady thanked her but also mentioned that she would ask a gate attendant, which she proceeded to do. A couple of minutes later, she came back over to us. She was smiling and said, “You know, the most obvious things are not always the right things!” and proceeded to tell us that the terminal she was looking for was indeed the opposite way we had thought. The lady hobbled off, telling us to have a wonderful life. I have to say that it was a peculiar experience.
After the lady walked off, Autumn and I looked at each other and laughed a little. What if God was speaking through this old lady, giving us a priceless piece of advice in the midst of such a monumental decision. Then we laughed again because none of the choices in the path before us was obvious. I think we were just hoping for a little help, for a little clarity. No such luck. So it goes.

So there you have it, the latest and greatest from the pages of the Swarrell Life. I’ll let you know if anything becomes obvious.


  1. Aaron, your post was amazing. You and Autumn have the most amazing compassion for your daughter and your family. So many hugs and blessings to the Swarrells.


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