by A.M. Day
This is the time of year we are supposed to gear up for what we’re thankful for and with Thanksgiving only a few weeks away, there are so many things we can give thanks for today. One, the ability to be able to see and read this blog post. Our sense of hearing, smell, taste and touch. What about the ability to walk, run, play, laugh?
This Thanksgiving, I will be reflecting and giving thanks for my past, present and future. Dwelling on the best of holiday memories, especially, Thanksgiving 2010. It was extra special because we were also celebrating my parents 50th Anniversary and the fact that I was about to get my debut novel published the following spring. And then my world came to a halt the very next day. I learned that my best friend (we’ll call her L) had been admitted to the hospital, subsequently to a nursing home. Whoa, wait a minute! We’re far too young for nursing homes, I thought. When I think of a nursing home, I think of a place where the elderly go when they have no one to take care of them.
I’ll never forget the look on her face. It was so blah. When I looked closer, her eyes told a different story. They still had hope shining through them, behind the fear of what was happening to her body. Her prognosis…bleak and what we thought was a stay for physical rehab turned into a nightmare with the need for long-term care. Multiple sclerosis had rendered her crippled. L has had relapsing/remitting MS for the past twenty plus years and sought little to no treatment–always spry with the thought she’d bounce back after the relapse as she has before. But this time it would last longer and possibly be a permanent state. She hadn’t seen a doctor in several years prior and stayed locked away in her parents house.
L begged me to get her Power of Attorney. I refused, opting to be a secondary on it instead because we lived in two different states. After hearing about the lack of care she was receiving and sending my family to visit her for Christmas, my mind was slowly tipping towards stepping in.
I did the next month. When I arrived at the nursing home and the sitting area where she was, my heart broke from what I witnessed. Everyone looked so sad and lonely. L was sitting in a chair clutching a wax paper bag with vanilla wafers in it. It was true what my family told me about her frail, wasting away appearance. She had only eaten 1-2 boiled eggs a day the two months she was there and a few vanilla wafers. We knew it was her choice. She had grown picky over so many things from food to toothbrushes to the color of clothes she would wear. With MS a shift in mental capacity can occur and it did in her case. Still, ever heard of Ensure, nursing home folks?
In short, got her Power of Attorney and brought her home with me. Luckily, I had a team of doctors, specialists and physical therapists on stand-by when we arrived at the ER a week later. Everything was going as planned. Finally, there was a small glimmer of hope. She was doing great in physical therapy, getting stronger and gaining weight back. And then that glimmer disappeared along with her progress, changing her condition to worse.
In between taking care of my kids, L, the dog, the house, writing and book details, I was almost a blubbering mess. There would be no book release for me in 2011. What there was was at least 7-8 strangers in my home a week, doing assessments and such. I knew I had taken on a mountain of responsibility, but this was my best friend and she had no one to take care of her.
I was on a path to something. That path was the discovery of giving thanks daily…over and over again. Thank you! I can use my hands and my feet. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This did not come easy at first. My emotions went on a roller coaster ride of angry, sad, hurt and compassion. Gratitude set in shortly after. Gratefulness of having her in my life and showing me how not to take something as simple as walking to the bathroom for granted. She has always looked up to me. And now I look up to her as she hangs in there not cursing her illness and disability. Her eyes still have it. My childhood friend is in there. My high school buddy, who I used to cut class with to go downtown and see the holiday displays, my friend who spent two nights at the hospital with me while I was in labor with my first born. If I look hard enough I find glimpses of her former, healthy self more often and it makes me smile warmly…inside out.
The doctors don’t hold much hope for improvement and the future is uncertain for L, but I won’t give up. I won’t stop believing in miracles, in her. Every now and then, she’ll ask me if I think she will ever stand or walk again. And I reply, “Maybe. Nobody can say you’ll never stand or walk again. You could get up tomorrow for all we don’t know.” While I am thankful for so many other things, I am most thankful for L.
Thank you for enriching my life, L. You are an inspiration!
What are you thankful for? How will you be Putting the Give back In Thanksgiving this year and everyday?