Walker had a birthday this week…a fact he begins reminding everyone he comes in contact with about a month ahead of time, which is kind of strange, because his material wants are so few, but that’s not really the point for him. It’s his big day, and it’s anticipated with glee for quite some time. He had specific ideas about his cake (lemon with a rainbow) and got lots of gift cards, his preferred gift, conserving his cash, and invited his best friend Caroline over for a swim and dinner with the family. He was a happy man.
This has been quite a year for Walker in terms of growing up. His speech therapist has been working on improving his communication skills for about ten years now, and it’s still a struggle for him to give simple, straightforward answers to simple questions like, “What kind of ice cream do you want?” The answer is likely to be clever, but in the form of a riddle…”You know, the kind you bought last May.” There is a standing bet among the kids that the one who can get a yes or no answer gets a dollar…it’s rarely collected. This year, I’m seeing a lot more direct answers, although a nudge is often required, and he has turned into a regular chatterbox on car trips. Sometimes it’s silly, he’s a master of puns and plays on words, but he’s initiating conversation and asking questions about things he’s wondering about, and gathering useful information. On one car trip he asked about the huge machinery that they use to load containers at a facility near the airport, and of course I launched into a diatribe about Memphis being a transportation hub and how those containers are on the trains that pass by our house, then moved onto trucks that bring boxes of groceries to the store where he works, and then the stockers unload them and put them on the shelves, and he actually listened fairly attentively without too much eye rolling.
The biggest break through this year, though, was our trading in his old flip phone for an i-phone…something that I expected to be met with great resistance. He and his driver had done some shopping though and by the time he and his dad actually went to complete the transaction, he was really excited about it. His niece and nephews have been helpful in helping him learn about apps and use the camera functions and I’ve struggled through getting itunes music on it for him. Soon he discovered texting and was running up the bill on our family plan just like any young person would. I was astounded that he would actually take time to type on that teeny tiny keyboard, but I’m realizing that he has been spending a lot of time alone, and that he was ready to reach out to people he loves and trusts, just on his own terms. We’ve had to lay down some rules to keep him from driving people crazy, especially his favorite frienemy, Brother-in-Law John, but he’s a rule-follower, and he’s to be trusted once he understands what the rules are.
Then came Facebook, and much to my amazement, he was soon posting photos of his favorite things (snowglobes and his award for running the 5K) and shouting out to the world about being the “best Believer”, whatever that means in his world. He loves when people “friend” him, and has asked some folks to be friends, although it really confused him that relatives could also be “friends” on Facebook. It’s a learning curve, but he’s catching up to it.
When we talked about his birthday, and the fact that the next one would be a big one…FORTY…he basically freaked out, pretty much like most of us did once upon a time. “Oh no, I’m not ever turning forty…Oh no…” And that was the end of the discussion. So here’s to Walker, thirty-nine forever. It’s a pretty great age to be.