Joey was different from the rest of us. Because he was deaf and none of us knew sign language, we tried to avoid him with a polite wave. He seemed to understand that he couldn’t communicate with us and just waved back with a smile. Perhaps I felt a bit guilty and that is why I occasionally sent him a plate of cookies that I baked. I always asked my oldest daughter, Sara, to deliver them, making sure a friend went with her. She seemed to have no trouble communicating with him in spite of his disability.
“Mom, he’s nice,” she would say after her and her friends had made the trip to his house.
I realized that but I didn’t have time in my already packed schedule to befriend someone I couldn’t talk to. I know other moms along our street felt the same because of the way they would hurry along when they saw Joey out for a walk. It was as if they were afraid that he would try to stop them for conversation. He always carried a clipboard to write on but never stopped any of us.
The summer turned to fall and then to a harsh winter like we hadn’t seen in years. I seldom saw Joey except on occasion when he would be carrying groceries on his bike home. I thought about asking him if he needed a ride to the store on the coldest days but I never followed through. I was always running behind as it was.
Right after the first of the year, Jack, my husband, left me. It was a shock; I thought our marriage was doing fine.
“I need to find myself,” he told me.
I survived the rest of the winter in a haze. In March, I was served with divorce papers. We shared joint custody of Sara and Kyle and only saw each other when he picked up the kids or dropped them off. I became a hermit and only went out to go to work. I avoided my friends; I didn’t want to talk about my failure.
Joey started walking again. I waved to him out of habit and he waved back. The soggy April evenings didn’t keep him inside. They must not have depressed him the way they did me. One day he handed me his clipboard. 'April showers bring May flowers' it read.
“I don’t have May flowers,” I said, knowing he couldn’t hear my grumbling. I took his pen and wrote 'they will be beautiful then' and handed it back to him with a half-smile.
He waved goodbye and went on down the sidewalk. I stood there wondering how he could be so happy when he was missing out by not being able to hear. I certainly couldn’t be happy with what I was missing.
One Friday evening in mid-May, I was late getting home from dropping the kids off for their two weeks vacation with Jack. I was near tears and just wanted to go inside and feel sorry for myself. As I got out of the car, I noticed Joey bending over my flower bed. He looked up to wipe his eyes and saw me. A big grin was on his face.
Not today, Lord. I don’t feel like being nice.
Joey came up to me and took my hand. There in the flower bed, he had planted beautiful petunias and pansies. It was a rainbow of color. He handed me his clipboard. 'Now you have May flowers' I read. He had heard my comment by reading my lips, I guessed. Tears came to my eyes.
“Thank you,” I said clearly so he could understand.
He nodded. He wrote some more. 'Everyone needs some special attention some time'. How had he known?
Joey took his clipboard and waved goodbye. I went inside, changed my clothes and headed for the kitchen to bake a plate of chocolate chip cookies. This time I was going to take them myself.
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