Of all the legacies Steve Walker will one day leave here on Earth – which include his three fantastic children, The Walker name and history, his vast mental catalogue of stories, and his love of the Holy Trinity of Baseball, Film, and Television – perhaps none will leave a greater impact that his strict adherence to Shutting It Down.
When Jessica and I were in the early stages of wooing one another with a variety of jokes and winks, Jessica casually mentioned that her father liked to Shut It Down. Drew, who we were hanging out with, asked: “How often does your dad shut it down?”
“Every night,” Jessica replied.
“Every night?” Drew asked.
“Every night,” Jessica confirmed.
Shutting It Down essentially entails a systematic dial-down of all emotional and physical dials, and it can mean a different set of actions depending on the person. The sweat pants (or pajamas) may go on. The TV might be turned on. The chair may get reclined. Beverages might be set to “open” mode. Phones may be switched to “vibrate.” And when you shut it down, you’re not simply going to turn it back on again.
In fact, not long ago, Jessica DID have to turn it back again, for some reason that I cannot rightly recall – and it was a pretty big deal. Monumental, even. She had to change back into her jeans, fix her hair, put her shoes back on, and get ready to face the world after she’d already Shut It Down. It’s a wonder she survived, and it’s not something I ever recommend attempting. I think we wound up in the emergency room.*
*Not really, but we probably should have, for all the psychological damage it inflicted.
As you can see, the proud tradition of Shutting It Down has become a fixture in our little two-person family. Jessica, who has begun her emotionally fulfilling but physically draining career as a teacher this year, has fully adopted the ritual and now shuts it down 5 or 6 days out of 7. She relies on it for emotional calm, and looks forward to it. She’ll often come home from a long day of teaching and evening classes, drop her bag down, and declare:
“OK – that’s it. I’m shutting it down.”
I have now begun to do it as well. There’s something really comforting about the finality of it, about embracing the fact that you are Done For The Day, putting on the comfy clothes, and essentially checking out until the next morning. It’s a small reward to yourself for a day well spent, the psychological treat of shifting into low gear as you coast down the gentle grade of the evening’s downhill slope.*
*Was that too clunky? It’s almost right. I’ll work on that one a little and get back to you
When Steve is a grandpa to our kids, he and Terri – and my parents – will have a lot to teach them and share with them. They can secretly let them have cookies when Jessica and I say no, and tell them tales of a simpler time when MP3 were called ‘records’ and Blu-Rays were called ‘going to the movies.’ Among many other things, my dad can teach them how to make Donald Duck noises and how to identify plants and trees; my mom can teach them animal sounds in French and how to paint; Terri can teach them how to make giant chocolate cakes and about nature through gardening; Steve will tell them fantastic stories, and (as Jessica tells me) put them on his lap and pretend they’re riding a horse.
And, I hope, he’ll help us instill in our children the value of shutting it down. Because that’s as much a family heirloom as any jewelry or quilt.