Gratitude Is an Understatement

November 2012

It’s 8:15 AM Thanksgiving morning, and Edgar is still sleeping.  What this means to a parent of a child who has epilepsy, especially a child whose trigger for seizures was often the transition from sleeping to waking, is that anything can still happen.  However, the sensible part of myself doesn’t believe I’ll jinx anything by writing about it now.  So  I will.  What a difference a year makes.

November 2011

Edgar woke up last Thanksgiving morning–newly diagnosed with epilepsy, on plenty of medications, and still having active seizures–with a fever and a rash.  He went to the emergency room with his father and his bag of prescriptions and came back with even more.  He had strep throat and consequently muddled through the holiday in a sort of torpor while we held our collective breath.

Three days later he was back in the doctor’s office in my arms.  He couldn’t walk.  He could barely speak or stay awake.  The amount of medicine in him had reached near-toxic levels.

And our journey only continued from there.

This Thanksgiving I believe Edgar will come downstairs happy, healthy, and ready for action in the way only Edgar can be.

If you had asked me a year ago to explain what is meant by gratitude, I think I could have done an admirable job.  But today I understand that there is no single word that can ever encapsulate what I feel when I look at these pictures, when I think of my son, when I contemplate the depth of my worry, my love, my admiration for him, when I consider what my heart feels as I watch him work to regain his strength and his health.

Happy Thanksgiving.  May your journey and good fortune leave you speechless.

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Whimsy Makes Way for Understanding

I was eight years old when I started questioning, too.

I was just beginning to understand how time worked, how long it took to accomplish tasks, how vast the world was.  I was learning my multiplication tables.

With my head upon my pillow, throughout most of November 1976, I calculated that if Santa spent ten minutes at each child’s house, he could visit six children each hour.  Over the eight overnight hours, that would be only 48 children–two classes’ worth.  In my own school alone, there were twelve classes.  What about the other schools?  The other towns?  The other states?  Even with the different time zones factored in, it just didn’t make mathematical sense.

Oscar asked me a little over a week ago if Santa were real.  I was driving.  I told him I needed to pull over and look at him while we had this conversation.  So, I did.  And we did.  He asked, and I answered.  He then asked about the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.  He wanted to know if these counted as “lies.”  I responded.  He then received his requisite instructions regarding not sharing this knowledge with other children, with his brothers.

He then looked at me, and his eyes misted over.  I asked him if he were sad now that he knew for sure.  He said, “A little.  But really what I’m thinking about is that if it wasn’t Santa and the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny all these years, then it was you and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa.”

He paused, then continued.

“That’s generosity.  You let us believe it was Santa, and it was you.  You guys did it all, and you didn’t care about the credit.  That’s Christmas, isn’t it?”

He may no longer believe in Santa but he understands what the Christmas spirit is and means.

Sounds like a good trade to me.

Different but Better

“Kids are different today, I hear ev’ry mother say . . . ” —Rolling Stones, “Mother’s Little Helper”

While I’m certain the band was leading to a different conclusion from the one I’m about to reach, the sweeping assessment about children somehow being different today is a refrain often heard no matter the generation, and, of course, one often interpreted pejoratively–that kids are changing with the times and not necessarily for the better.

However, Oscar and Edgar this week reminded me that while kids may be different today, the change may be anything but unwelcome.

Cut to my car, the scene of many a fascinating conversation with my children.  Oscar has been concerned of late with what he wants to be when he grows up.  He is decisive: a marine biologist.  Nothing else will do. He checked out a book from the library to research what’s involved and the kind of living he stands to make.  He has decided that he will be nothing if not a “world-famous marine biologist.”  And in the car he deduced that this would mean–you know, with book deals and movies about his life–an ample living with plenty to spare.  And it was at that moment he said:  “You know, I probably don’t need THAT much money to live.  I think when I’m a world-famous marine biologist, I’ll donate $1,000 a month to our adoption agency.”

And last night as I read How the Grinch Stole Christmas to Edgar, he sat pensive during the scene with Cindy Lou Who.  After the Grinch got her a drink and put her to bed, Edgar sighed.  I asked him what he was thinking.  He told me he thought that this showed the Grinch had a good side.  I asked him to explain.  He said that the Grinch gave the little girl water and put her to bed.  I told him that most people see that as the Grinch trying to get her out of the way so he can continue with his diabolical plan.  He said that may be true but that he didn’t have to be so nice and the fact that he was nice means there is good in him.

I’m pretty sure when I was eight and the idea of money rolled around, my thoughts geared toward how many Barbie doll outfits I could purchase.  Philanthropy was not something that entered my covetous eight-year-old consciousness.  And in terms of character analysis . . . well, let’s just say it began and ended with my wishing I had hair like Jan Brady.  Anything deeper than that was not happening.

Kids might be different today, but I would argue they are much more aware.  And while there are assuredly two sides to this coin, the precocity with which we so often have to contend is balanced and then some by their burgeoning sense of understanding and compassion.

And if nothing gives you hope for the future, that alone should.

Plenty to Do and More to Be Grateful For

I haven’t written a post in three weeks.

The reasons are many and varied and could be delineated here; but, honestly, they’re the same impediments that plague us all.  And even with the extra hour we’ll garner tonight when we set back our clocks, I find myself wishing for more.

It’s National Adoption Month.  And more than just my daily Facebook posts debunking myths about adoption, there is so much more I wish I could do.

It’s also Epilepsy Awareness Month.  And more than just highlighting our family’s journey, I wish I could shout from the rooftops all that epilepsy is and is not and the magnificent work of The Matty Fund.

My professional life is hectic, and I find myself wishing I simply had more time to linger, to talk at work.

My coursework is intense and leaves me with little time to contemplate the important ideas with which we are grappling.

And, of course, there is the rest of life–the avocations, the hobbies, the paths we pursue for the good of ourselves and others.

But it’s also November.  And I need to remind myself of all for which I am grateful–not the least of which is the fact that when my oldest son asks me to check out the comic he’s drawing, I can; that when my middle son asks me to help him create a magical amulet, I am there; that when my youngest son wants to show me his latest dance moves, I am able to stop and be completely captivated.

I am officially and unabashedly exhausted, but these beautiful young men inspire me to do more with my life than I ever thought possible.  For that, for them, I am and remain eternally grateful.