Monday, August 22, 2011

Birthday Wishes

I haven’t written much about Walker lately, mostly because our life together has settled into a mostly predictable routine. We see each other more often for breakfast lately, because his tastes are maturing and the two sausage biscuits he has made himself for breakfast for years no longer appeal to him. That’s a good thing…we’re both eating more healthy choices now. After work, he spends a little time with us before dinner, and religiously watches Wheel of Fortune while it’s cooking, solving way more puzzles than his dad or I do. But then, he disappears upstairs until the next morning. Today was a bit different.

A couple of months ago I got all excited about Polaroid offering a new portable printer that turned digital photos into old timey Polaroid prints, something Walker still grieves for after their discontinuing production of his favorite, and very expensive film. I showed Walker a small article about the device from the Sunday paper months ago and he excitedly shared the news with his sisters and brothers in law, and anyone else who was around. Last week, as his birthday approached, I began letting my fingers do the walking and shopping. Well, Amazon had what looked like the same device, but there were precious few reviews, and all of them made me doubt my choice. So back to square one.

Walker usually has a list made by the 4th of July with explicit expectations from each family member as to what they are supposed to find for him. Sometimes the searches are time consuming and the found items too expensive, so he ends up getting gift cards, which he accepts with gratitude, if not a whole lot of enthusiasm.

For some reason, the pattern was altered this year, and this morning I had to remind him that we really needed a list. As he walked off from me, he muttered something I didn’t understand, and I began my usual somewhat preachy plea for a repeat, this time facing me, so I could understand him. Walker absolutely hates it when anyone does that, but in spite of years of really good speech therapy, his speech is only completely intelligible when he focuses and projects carefully…which is still only about half the time.

I went back to the topic of gifts while he waited as I cooked his requested scrambled egg, this time within hearing distance of my aging ears and facing me. “How about the gift of understanding,” he replied with a sassy look on his face and his hand on his hip. Going into mom mode, I reminded him that understanding was a gift for him to give the rest of us…that we can only understand if he helps us out. An impasse with Walker is usually handled with a shrug on both our parts, but this time he made me start thinking about my responsibility to understand others.

I try, I really do try, to understand people who irritate me, and the older I get and the grumpier I and the world becomes, it seems that there are more and more of them. I look for an innocent reason the sales clerk is on her cell phone while the line builds behind me and I stand there tapping my credit card, but often the evidence is that he or she is simply chatting and trying, unsuccessfully, to do their job while maintaining social contacts. I try to understand why the used paperback I ordered on Amazon is packaged in such a way that multiple implements are required to get into it. I know, the people are afraid you’ll make a negative comment if it’s not packaged sufficiently to prevent damage. I try to understand when I am required to navigate an endless phone tree to reach a person who called me to begin with, and whose business probably isn’t of concern to me anyway. I try, I really do try.

But today, I’m wishing I could require of others the same things I require of Walker, that he make more effort and accept some responsibility for making our interaction a positive one. If he can do it, I think others can too. In the meantime, I hope I’ll be able to give the gift of understanding to Walker and others.