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Birthday surprise

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Celebrating a present of connecting with friends.

The list goes on and on: the musical letter matching pad, the remote-control Brio train; the DVD complete with dance pad; the 18” remote-control robot that danced, burped and farted; the glowing, spinning sphere controlled by an iPad. We even wrapped up the Wii console and gave it to him (not that the rest of us wanted it!) hoping that would create a feeling of ownership.

Fourteen birthdays and fourteen Christmases we have wracked our brains and emptied our wallets searching for a fantastic present for Deane. The relatives who have everything are simple to buy for in comparison.

The problem is we’re not just looking for another How to Train your Dragon book or SpongeBob video – something we know he will eventually enjoy. When we buy a present for Deane, we are looking for the silver bullet – the thing that will engage him, that will allow him to participate with other people and, yes, something that might build physical or mental skills.

This past Christmas we hit a homerun. Deane, with assistance, unwrapped a box slightly smaller than a shoebox. Inside was a rather nondescript metal rectangular object. This elicited little reaction. When Dad quickly plugged it into an iPad, it projected Deane’s favourite Rush video on to the wall – larger than life. Deane jumped out of his seat.

Unfortunately, that was the exception. For the last couple of weeks, we were faced with the familiar dilemma of what to get Deane for his birthday. There was no obvious solution like the projector.

Today is Deane’s birthday. We never did come up with big gift opening ideas. There was nothing to unwrap. We did not give him anything.

We took a risk. We arranged a series of phone calls and Skype chats with some of his favourite people. They took the time, arranged their schedules, interrupted tourist visits and camping trips to wish Deane a happy birthday.

It may not sound like much, but what Deane enjoys the most are the people in his life. On Christmas Day, Deane is more interested in who we are going to see than what’s under the tree. We had finally learned to follow Deane’s lead and give him what he enjoys most.

Did our experiment work? As he went to bed, Deane said he had had a good day. I guess we finally got it right. It only took us 15 years

Happy Birthday, Deane!

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