Friday, December 21, 2007

Greatest Gifts

It wasn't shaping up to be a great Christmas. But why should it, the year hadn't produced the miracles I so desperately wanted.

Two thousand and seven had been a tough year. Not just the war and government leadership disasters, and economic worries, but this has been the year when I had to face that my husband who can do anything. ANYTHING! Well, I had to face that he just might not be able to shake off the disease that has him in its clutches.

The clues have been piling up -- shortness of breath, weak muscles from head to toe. But when he suggested that he should get a wheelchair, I knew he had accepted that the doctors were probably right. It was time to give him quality of life, as good as technology and substitutes for his body could provide.

So a deluxe power chair sits in our garage and next year we add the ramps, the custom fit van and whatever else we need to make it possible for him to perambulate wherever he wants or needs to go.

He was a tough linebacker in middle school when I first met him. He played through high school, college and went semi-pro, relishing the challenge and the physical clash as a pigskin warrior. He continued with the game as a referee, running up and down the field in a striped shirt and white knickers, armed with whistle and flag. When the season ended, he exchanged the knickers for black slacks and refereed basketball -- his second love. He was always doing -- helping with sports, mentoring kids in 4-H. He particularly adored the rocket projects. He and the other leaders were as enthusiastic about shooting projectiles in the air as any kid.

He still loves the Three Stoodges and at this time of year, wipes a tear whenever Tiny Tim declares, "God Bless Us Everyone." Now he's beginning to identify with Tiny Tim a bit more than we ever expected and I don't see some redeemed Scrooge coming to save the day. But I haven't totally given up hope.

You see gifts keep appearing in the strangest places. Yesterday was a prime example. I opened my emails to find a YES from an editor in a dream market I'd been hoping to sell to. Yes, yes, yes. And she offered me the most I have ever received in payment for an essay -- it should just about cover Christmas expenses. (Whew! Ordering online is too easy.)

Then, last night, after a delightful Christmas party at work, a day spent among friends and smiles and laughter, I came home to tidy up before Derrol's friend came over to watch, what else, the football game.

When the doorbell rang, I expected to see his smiling face. Instead a gigantic poinsettia greeted me in the voice of our neighbor, John. He peeked his head out from behind the plant and grinned, "Merry Christmas. I'm playing Santa." Then he swallowed and thrust the poinsettia into my arms as he said, "God bless you and Derrol. God bless you."

And I knew he was seeing us on that day a couple of months ago when we first took Derrol's wheelchair out for a walk around the neighborhood. John had been working in his yard and it was his first clue that things were not well with us. It was a shock to him to see his sturdy neighbor sitting in a wheelchair. I could hear his words from that day ringing between the lines of his Christmas wish -- "I'll be right here -- whatever you need. Just let me know." So when I see this huge flower dwarfing my dining room table, I know it is John's way of saying, "I'm still here -- whatever you need."

Derrol's friend showed up and he came bearing gifts. To my surprise one was a gift bag for me. I opened it to find a lovely pressed glass candy dish -- how did he know I love all things glass? And beneath it was a bag of Derrol's favorite candies to put in the dish. But, he gave me one more gift. He turned to me and said, "Merry Christmas," and then he gave me a hug.

As my husband weakens, Tom has been there working in the yard, helping at the office so Derrol can stay employed, being a friend, never saying anything, just doing. That hug told me, he understands that Derrol's not the only one having a tough time.

If anyone doubts that there are angels on earth -- they just need to come to my house. I'll introduce you to two of my favorites: John and Tom. Two of my greatest gifts this holiday season -- and all year long.

Of course if I were to list all of my angels, it would take a much longer blog. You know who you are I hope -- Mary, Deb, Peggy, Linda, my brother and his wife, Lyn, Kathi, Gary, Joyce M., Mona, ... you all prop me up when I need it, keep me balanced and smiling and I couldn't last one day without you.

1 comment:

Ruth D~ said...

How blessed you are to have the support of so many to lean on when things seem headed down the wrong path for Derrol. Why must it be the tough situations in which we learn the most, and from which the most blessings flow even with the sorrow? Life can be so hard and beautiful at the same time, as you well know. I hope this year brings abundance and you meet the goals you've set, Dawn.