If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a thousand times- “Oh, kids like him (meaning kids with Down Syndrome!) are so loving” and probably like most moms, I silently have a complicated emotional response to that overly simplistic observation. In the “early years” I found that oft-repeated statement offensive. However– as the years have flown by and my son Walker, at 19, has now lost three grandparents to their inevitable passages to the next life— I more and more see the rock solid truth in that “overly simplistic observation.” I see it in the never ceases to amaze me love that Walker has for every human being he encounters, but even more– a passion– for his family. In the past few years, Walker has become very focused on our departed family members. Particularly his grandmother- my mother- who is our most recent loss. I don’t think a day has gone by since my mom’s death last year, that Walker hasn’t said to me- at least once- “I miss my Grammy- you miss you mom?” And Walker still frequently announces to folks (like those stuck behind us in slow-moving lines!), “I miss my Grammy. She die. She my FAM-I-LEE. My mom- her mom die. You mom die yet(Always a nice conversation starter)?”
I love the way Walker says family- FAM-I-LEE– long and drawn out and drenched with love. My mom showered Walker with one of his very favorite thing: MAIL IN THE MAILBOX!! No holiday was too insignificant for my mother to scour up a special card to send Walker. And she’d often send little packages- and I mean little- a Goldenrod Peanut Butter Kiss, a McDonald’s Happy Meal Toy, stickers, and his favorite: A ONE DOLLAR BILL. YIPEE! The sight of the dollar bill tucked in the card never failed to make Walker joyfully screech, do some strenuous fist pumps and ask for my phone to immediately give my mom a call. He loved her dollar bills and she loved his phone calls.
Walker misses his Grammy every day. Her death seems to have affected him the same way it has affected me- he seems now to have an even deeper love for the people he loves- especially his family. In fifth grade Walker played the Fiddler in Fiddler on the Roof and for years afterwards always wanted to be lustily toasting with whatever drink he had- orange juice, milk, a juice box. He’d smash his drink against the other person’s drink and shout (as best he could!)” L’Chaim” just like they did in his school play! But now– Walker is even more into toasting- no drink too small for a toast. And now when he toasts he gets this sort of solemn yet dreamy look (he’s nothing if not dramatic) on his face and shouts- with vigor- “To FAM-I-LEE!!” Walker and his Grammy are still the best kind of family- no distance too far for the love to still reach.