Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Escalation of Expectation

It was reminiscent of watching a televised shopping spree where one lucky shopper had just 5 minutes in a store to grab as much merchandise as possible. His eyes could not stay fixed on any one thing as he ran haphazardly up and down the toy store aisles like a frantic clerk taking last-minute inventory of every item on the shelves. He held one thing after another, always seeing something better, or at least more desirable. Yet, at two years of age, and despite his frenetic pace, he learned quickly and became surprisingly discriminating. First he latched onto items displayed prominently at the end of aisles, like the miniature overnight suitcase complete with the Toy Story characters, Woody and Buzz Lightyear, emblazoned on it. Next, there were the myriad of trucks and cars ranging from cheap plastic generic vehicles to perfect miniature models of Porshes, Mustangs and Ferraris in enamel-painted die cast metal. It ended in some tense and teary moments as Grandpa removed his reluctant little body from the seat of a pint-sized, electric-powered, black Cadillac Escalade he had chosen from the line up of designer vehicles.

It had sounded like a good idea at the time. Having missed PJ’s second birthday we thought that going to Toys R Us stood the best chance of finding something he liked. We had under-estimated the human inclination of wanting it all, the escalation of expectation. We wanted to give him a choice. Instead, we created in his mind a kind of pre-Christmas chaos, his own overwhelming "Black Friday" (the retail sale day after US Thanksgiving when shoppers gorge themselves on deep-discount bargains and retailers determine whether the December buying binge will be a bonanza or a bust; "black ink" or red).

It seems to me that we are all much the same. As children we develop a sort of greed for gifts. Once we have acquired one thing, we look for something better. Modest appetites evolve quickly into avarice. It seems to be a rule of human nature that as soon as we have something we begin to take it for granted. And the Christmas season can often be the worst. We can move from gluttony, masquerading as Thanksgiving, to self-indulgence disguised as Christmas giving. As soon as we celebrate what we are thankful for, and before our gravy-stained fork hits the dishwasher, we begin to lust for what we do not have. By December 1, every medium screams its message, "Buy! Buy!", until we are caught up in its noise and impatience. It can become pandemonium, literally.

To have Parkinson's disease is to experience the reverse process: the de-escalation of expectation. PD is an affront to our expectations. When we were younger all of us had anticipated a carefree, healthy retirement or, in my case, working until I decided to do otherwise. But now the shelves that once held so many shiny new opportunities and adventures are more modestly stocked, and sometimes out of reach. We have to think more carefully, plan more seriously, and anticipate the likelihood of a less glamorous, action-oriented future. Life must become simpler.

But is this all bad? I think not.

Isn’t it a completely artificial world that promises the best of life only by continually adding "new & shiny toys"? While I may have been blessed with extraordinary benefits and experiences, I try to see life for what it really is, a spectrum, a continuum of choices, a series of seasons. I hope to learn to accommodate and live with the cold and heat, abundance and need, healthiness and disability.
And since grandparents are not responsible for teaching these difficult lessons to 2-year-olds (yet), we did leave the toy store with several new toys. A fire truck, complete with siren, motor sounds and the ability to spray water (I look forward to when he figures that one out), the "Toy Story" suitcase and a few toy cars. However, common sense did also prevail. We did not buy the $500 Cadillac Escalade. Someone else can feed that escalation of expectation!


  1. Grandpa your good...Fire truck with noise... the water will be the least of mom's worries...the noise however will be a reminder to send him to grandpa and grandma's house to get a break from the noise.....although I love buying the grandchildren the toys that will bring them the most fun, I often wonder if I am buying them the toys I wished I would have had as a time try the has two gears and even reverse! Carrol

  2. Yes, with maturity I think we slow down the lust for things. I know i haven't bought a new piece of furniture in several years, even though two of my recliners on the sofa are stuck "out". We've adapted.

    As a realtor I see that the homes with less 'things" around are the most appealing to buyers, and then we do estate sales and it is depressing to me to see a couple's complete life of accummulation put out for strangers to go thru, rummage, throw aside, find a "real buy" and get what took the couple years to afford for next to nothing. Crystal going for 25Cents, clothes for a buck, books you almost give away (and yes I have a ton of books, that's my guilty pleasure) dishes for pennies. I always come home to my hubby and say, "We've got to get rid of some of our stuff and not leave it to the kids to have to do an estate sale." So whether you are seeing things this way because of PD or just because you've matured, you decide. I don't have a physical problem, but my buying and splurging days have almost come to an end. I hold that dollar a lot more tighter than I use to.