During a recent family dinner son in law, John, came to the table where big Walker and I were seated and told us he had a message from Walker III. “He says to tell you that it’s too hard being an uncle and working full time, so he wants to retire like Da.”
I called Walker over, and his eyes were teary. “I was afraid to tell you, but it’s just too hard,” he said with a definitive tone to his voice. I never pursued why he had trusted John, his greatest nemesis most of the time, with his concerns, but he did and I was glad. I'm not sure what had been going on that made being an uncle a particularly demanding job at that moment, but he does take his responsibilies very seriously so we just dealt with the employment issue. I'm still not sure whether something at work might have precipated this meltdown or if it was the chaos of living in a house with five kids for a few days, but something had definitely blown his world apart.
I had recently been notified that Walker’s income needed to be reduced by about 50% or about half of his gross pay would have to be paid to the State of Tennessee. If he worked two less days a week the net loss in income would be zero. That fact, coupled with my increasing uneasiness about the nature of his job requiring him to battle the heat and cold and rain and wind on a daily basis made me much more open to his idea than I might have been a couple of months ago.
However, I still don’t think it would be healthy for Walker to spend every day sitting in his room sorting his Polaroids or trying to recapture his childhood with watching old television shows and eating junk food. He’s not a child anymore. His fitness level at the moment is as good as any person with Down Syndrome I’ve ever seen, and I know that would not be the case were he any less active. The other reservation about allowing him to become a hermit totally dependent on the public dole was the lack of social stimulation he would experience. His dad and I are pretty boring pretty much all the time.
Walker and I visited a really nice day activity center recently in hopes of finding a social outlet, but after we left it, he said, “I really don’t want to go here.” He would have adjusted if I had insisted, but the truth is that he really doesn’t need that kind of activity.
I find us now at a bit of a crossroads with no direction markers. I’m not sure I know what he needs.
More discussion has followed.
We left open the possibility of cutting his hours and talked about other job opportunities, perhaps a more indoor kind of job. “Would you want to be a stocker,” I asked? He declined immediately. “I wouldn’t make as much money.” True, his tips and salary exceed even the slightly higher pay rate of a stocker. I pointed out how flexible the grocery had been about his scheduling (11-6 four days a week) and that another job might mean an earlier start, or working at night. “Un uh, No Way! I’m not doing that.”
On Monday he went back to work after a long weekend vacation. He announced yesterday that he was keeping his job, at least for a week or two.
The matter has been tabled for a while, but I know it’s something that we need to really stay on top of.
I hope Walker builds confidence in his voice when it comes to his needs. I hope we’ll always allow him as much freedom to make decisions as he’s capable of handling. I really hope another opportunity for a safer, indoor job, might materialize. It’s always liberating to have choices.