While sitting in the doctor’s office waiting room yesterday, I started a conversation with the man across from me—he and I were the only two people there. After a couple of minutes of discussing our own health problems and why we were there, we began discussing our families and in the course of maybe five minutes at most, he put me on a path of gratitude that was mildly equivalent to a bitch slap. His daughter, he told me, had Williams Syndrome…never heard of it, I said. It’s apparently a rare genetic disorder that fucks with a child’s development and painfully enough to a parent, it occurs randomly. It causes delayed speech, ADD, feeding problems that include regular bouts of vomiting, learning disorders, slack joints and a million other medical problems that have no cure…just treatment. His daughter has had 10 heart surgeries, a host of other procedures and then suffered a massive stroke due to the negligence of a hospital. She now takes 13 medications a day and can’t even hold her head up on her own. She’s 10.
He went on to tell me that he went to Medicaid for help, but because he’s a construction worker that makes a halfway decent living, he doesn’t qualify…he makes too much damned money. Add to that the fact that he’s suing the hospital where his daughter had the stroke and that halfway decent living is pretty much gone. He’s 42—just two years older than me—but he managed to smile with the unburdened ease of a child as he got up to leave, wishing me a great holiday.
In that moment, I suddenly felt like an ass for all the pissing and moaning I do (all inside my own head, mind you) about my family’s problems. The medical issues we have, the financial issues…the rocks that life has thrown in our path…all seemed suddenly manageable and pebble-like in size compared to his troubles. I know there are plenty of people that go feed the homeless on Thanksgiving, or go visit hospitals and prisons, and it all serves two purposes: taking care of those less fortunate, and keeping the well-doers mindful of what they are grateful for. I always understood it, but now I get it.
I spent most of yesterday cooking, and as most people who wind up hosting a holiday, you bide your hours of cooking with thoughts of what still needs to get cleaned, what you might forget to serve, and when the hell you’ll be able to order a pizza so you can sit down with a fifth of booze and the DVR, and forget that the holiday is almost upon you. Soon enough you’ll blink and there will be a mountain of dirty plates and pans in the kitchen, your floors and tables will no longer be shiny and spotless, and you’ll be looking for what’s left of that fifth of booze as your left eye starts to twitch.
But yesterday’s conversation changed me. I’ve still got a bunch to do today, but I’ll do it when I’m ready because I’m thankful for the snorefest in my home right now that grants me the ability to write in peace. I’m thankful for having to clean my bathroom to the point of being able to eat on its floor, because it means that my mother is alive and healthy and coming to my home to be fed. I’m thankful for the enormous grocery bill that spit out a receipt longer than my arm, because it means I can grant everyone’s culinary wishes today. I’m thankful for the dirty floors, the scattered instruments and the noise, because it means I have beautiful, healthy nieces and nephews that know how to party. And I’m also thankful for that mountain of dirty dishes and pots…
Because it’ll keep my husband busy while I quietly steal away with what’s left of that fifth of booze.
Have a great holiday and be well.