November 22, 2004

Over the River and Through the Woods... A Thanksgiving Carol

Thanksgiving is coming. I talked to my sister on the phone today. It was nice to chat with her. She was in a good mood, which is surprising because it was in the morning. She usually keeps vampire hours and is not awake in the morning. When she is, it’s usually not pretty. She has worked second or third shift since she started working. Today she sent me a new photo of her with Kevin to put up in the photo album. She hated the picture that I had of her before.

I love the holidays. I love Thanksgiving. This year we are going to go to my Grandfather’s house. I think he will like having the holiday at home. It is amazing that he doesn’t get sad when he goes back to the house. He has a good time and when he gets tired, usually around dinnertime or shortly after, he asks to go back to the assisted living place. Throughout this year, when his health started to decline, he has shown remarkable resilience and determination. I never knew he was that strong. He came close to death. It was a long road back to a stable condition, with lots of relapses along the way. He never gave up. He is determined to do what he can to keep up his strength so that he can walk for as long as he can. Walking with a walker is better to him than always depending on the wheelchair. He is 91 years old and not finished living yet.

I personally don’t know how hard I would fight to live at that age. I want to live as long as I’m healthy. The only thing that scares me about aging is being ill for a long time. Living with failing health takes so much courage. When I was working as a personal care assistant, I took care of an invalid couple. They were both bed/chair ridden. They were very ill and incapacitated, but also very much alive. They met at a dance; he was a musician in the band. His real job was construction and he built much of their furniture. Together they raised 5 children who were now helping to take care of them. Listening to the old dance music on the radio show each Saturday morning still made them laugh heartily. He reached over and held her hand across the empty chasm between their beds. She took great joy in planning the holiday baking. We would do all the work, but she was in the kitchen directing everything and going through her recipes from 50 years ago. When she had been in the kitchen too long, her husband would call in from the living room or the bedroom. Where are you? Aren’t you going to come to take a nap? It was hard to get around their small bedroom with 2 hospital beds, a hoyer lift for transferring them in or out of bed, dresser, TV, and side tables full of medical supplies. But when they had been in separate bedrooms, they were miserable. It was humbling to see such grace, love, and courage.

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