Thanksgiving dawned and brought a knot to my stomach.
I was nervous about how Abbie would handle her first outing in her wheelchair since the surgery. Ray, Kyle, RJ, and Matt would be leaving for Ohio directly after dinner to attend Ray’s grandmother’s funeral..a mom’s mind always races with “what ifs” when her children and husband board a plane without her. And, then, there was just the pain a holiday always brings – -a concrete marker of just how long we’ve been at this…praying, hoping, working, and a lot of days spent just hanging in there.
I was starting to get bogged down in this muddle of emotions and tears were closing in when Ray called from the other room, “Kevin is here!!” Our good friend and his wife recently had a baby, so I hoped they’d come for a visit. Hurrying into the room I said, “Where’s the baby??” Kevin replied, “No baby today, but my pick-up’s outside…go pick out your Christmas tree.”
My mind tried to switch from thoughts of little toes to green boughs, but I had to ask him to repeat what he’d said, while Ray (who was in on this) just grinned. Kevin walked me outside to see five, huge Noble Fir trees in his truck. NOW tears filled my eyes as the scent of Christmas filled my nose. I’m an Oregon girl who’s lived with an artificial tree for 12 years, ever since moving to North Pole, Alaska and finding out, ironically enough, they have to ship in trees from Oregon, making them an expensive luxury.
I was so moved by Kevin’s generosity, and the thought of having a real tree, that I couldn’t really speak much the rest of time he was there. But, as I thought about it later, it seems so incredibly fitting for Christmas. As I was about to break, unexpectedly, in a way I couldn’t have imagined, a free gift arrived..a gift of life…just a tree, but so much more.
I was on such a high that when friends called suggesting we meet them at a beach club in the afternoon I thought, “Sure! Why not try out Abbie in her chair before dinner!!” It was a postcard-worthy day..sapphire seas meeting a turquoise sky, balmy breezes — but not even thoughts of my waiting tree could bolster my heart. As we arrived we found out the other two families had a great spot, across the sand where we couldn’t wheel Abbie. So, we all sat at the snack bar instead. Then, they all went to the roof to play volleyball — I couldn’t get Abbie up there, so I remained seated talking with my sweet friend, Loan. But, I was jealous…of parents who could take their kids out onto the sand, into the waves, up to the courts
Abbie was fussing, so I got her onto my lap to feed her. An hour of feeling sorry for myself elapsed before Ray came down to lend me his eyes. “Hey! Look at her sitting so comfortably on your lap, with those beautiful knees!!”
He was right. I was holding Abbie like all those “normal” moms I’d been thinking about. She sat with her back against my chest, knees folding right over mine. I didn’t need any pillows for support or positioning for the first time in a very long time. Sweet indeed.
We got Abbie home and changed into her pretty Thanksgiving dress (pics are in Kyle’s camera, in Ohio…) She slept through much of dinner, which was great for all of us. After getting most of the family off to the airport, Chase and I brought her home, changed her again and then walked over to a friend’s house where we stayed, talking and laughing, until midnight.
As I look back at that day one constant pops out: friends. Kevin bringing the tree, Ray (my best friend) helping me to see, and the Arce and Jaegger families who helped me smile instead of cry. What in the world would I do without all my faithful friends…and I mean those of you who only read, who think you are “lurkers” here…your hearts are known to mine, even if your names aren’t!
The rest of this long weekend has pretty much been lost in a blur of sickness. Abbie is struggling with vomiting, diarrhea, and high temps. I’ve been alternating between caring for her and trying to get better myself. Independently, Chase has decorated our house, inside and out, for Christmas in an amazing manner! I am going to have to take notes, since this will be my last year to have him do this.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned that he has received a 4-year Army ROTC scholarship, and has decided to attend Santa Clara University next fall. Ray and I are both ROTC grads, and had never mentioned it to him as an option. As I told Chase when he initially raised it, “I’m not an officer anymore, I am a mom…how about the Air Force??” So, while I am terrifically proud of him, the reality of this being a year of “lasts” is beginning to set in. I also think about how he, and each of the boys, will keep a relationship with Abbie after they go away to school. I am comforted by illustrations I’ve received lately that remind me that family ties always remain, no matter distance or time.
I suppose one of the heartaches this week of not being a “normal” family was not having the whole family go to Ohio for Ray’s grandmother’s funeral. She was a precious woman who never, ever missed sending a card for birthdays, holidays or events. I so wished that I could have been there to express my appreciation and love to her family — if you are reading this, know that my heart was there with you, and my tears are falling just typing this.
To end this on a happy note, let me share one funny story Ray related to me today. RJ and Matt are tickled to have the chance to play in snow. Today, at their great-grandfather’s house a snowball fight quickly escalated into all-out wrestling in the snow. However, they had forgotten one tiny, but very important detail. Great-Grandad has a dog. As they entered the house, “Eau de Fluffy” preceded them. The clothes came off much more quickly than this lesson will leave their minds, I suppose. Rolling in snow is fun, rolling in poop is not.
May you be blessed as the Christmas lights go up…the Light of the World has come that we may always know joy, can there be any better reason to be thankful each and every day??