Thankful Just to Be Here
I have a confession to make: I have always hated Thanksgiving. I dreaded it every year as a child. My father would force me to rake leaves in our yard. My mother would spend the whole morning cooking, the whole afternoon cleaning and the whole evening complaining that she’d spent the whole day cooking and cleaning. We never invited anyone over and nobody ever invited us. I always envied my friends with big families that got together with grandparents and cousins every year. As an adult, I have either spent the day with my own family, or feeling like an outsider at someone else’s happy family gathering. For the last 3 years, I’ve gotten takeout and spent it alone, which is very, VERY depressing.
But there’s nothing like a near death experience to fix your attitude on life! This year, I have SO MUCH to be grateful for. Things I never imagined I would actually count until they were all almost taken away from me.
I am thankful just to be here. I’ve never been one of those sunny, optimistic people. I hated the question “How are you?” because let’s be honest: nobody really CARES how you are. They’re just being polite. For years, I would answer that question honestly with a litany of complaints about just HOW AWFUL my life was. Crappy job. Lack of money. Physical ailments. Overbearing mother. Neglectful husband. Then one day I realized that people’s eyes would glaze over while I was talking and I forced myself to just stop. I started answering “Hanging in there,” which was honest without giving details. But I came so close to not seeing the new year. I know 2020 has pretty much sucked for everybody but I spent the first 2 months of it in a hospital so the rest has been awesome in comparison. Now, when people ask me how I am I can honestly answer “Great!” Because any day I wake up on the right side of the dirt is a good day.
I am thankful for my job. My attitude about work has always been “If it were FUN they wouldn’t have to pay you to be here.” My day job isn’t particularly exciting or glamorous. When my alarm goes off, my first thought is never “Oh boy! I get to go to work today!” But my employer kept paying me through my illness. They’ve even allowed me to work from home during this pandemic so that I don’t have to risk dying a second time.
I am thankful for my friends and family. Before I got sick, I thought most people didn’t care if I lived or died. But getting sick showed just how many people care about me. I am thankful for my sister, nephew and cousin who drove all the way down from South Carolina to see me. I am thankful for my friends who drove all the way to midtown to visit me (especially those of you who smuggled me food!) I am thankful for all the cards and gifts. Most of all, I am thankful for my friends Quill and Steve who cleaned my house and put away last year’s Christmas decorations! And especially for my friend Tracey who fed my cats every day for 3 months!
I am thankful that I can walk. When I woke up in the hospital, I was essentially paralyzed. I was so weak, I couldn’t even push the buttons on the TV remote. A therapist came to evaluate me, and when I asked her if I would recover she responded “I don’t know. Maybe.” That was the scariest part after surviving. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t write. The ventilator left me with a speech impediment. I couldn’t eat or drink. Even after I got home I was still in a wheelchair. Now, I’m fully recovered. And I will never again take for granted the ability to get myself out of bed, dress myself and get to the bathroom without assistance!
I am thankful that I can breathe. You think that mask is uncomfortable? You don’t even want to imagine being connected to a ventilator. I was afraid I’d be hooked up to an oxygen tank for the rest of my life. But I’m not.
I am thankful that I won’t be getting my Thanksgiving dinner intravenously. After being hooked up to a ventilator, I had lost my gag reflex. They wouldn’t let me eat or even drink anything. My whole mouth was like sandpaper. I was so happy when they finally let me have ice chips. My friend patiently spooned out a cup full of nugget ice to me. It was awesome. One of the worst things about lying in a hospital bed all day unable to eat solid food was watching all the commercials on TV all day every day for foods I couldn’t eat! And then when I was finally allowed solid food, it was HOSPITAL food and it really sucked. So, I am thankful that I can chew steak!
I am thankful for hot showers. You trying going 2 1/2 months without a shower and you will never take hot water for granted again.
There are so many things in my life that I am grateful for now. Little things that I’ve always taken for granted. I am thankful that I can see out of windows again. In the hospital, time stands still. Is it sunny? Is it raining? Is it still daylight outside? Who can tell. I am thankful to be sleeping in my own bed, with my comfy sheets and soft mattress. I am thankful for my local library for providing me with reading material. I am thankful that we got football this year. I am thankful that this wretched election is finally over. I am thankful for grocery delivery, Sprite Zero, fuzzy slippers, Netflix, Facebook, drive through windows, online shopping, manicures, pizza, Chinese takeout, flowers and television! And of course, I am thankful for my cats who love me and missed me and get separation anxiety now every time I leave the house.
So, this Thursday I’ll be getting takeout Thanksgiving and eating it by myself, and it will be awesome.