What I'm Thankful For

The task of giving thanks seemed daunting at first. I’ve felt spent, weak, MS-attacked, IBS-attacked, angry and defeated for most of 2018, so thinking up such a list would require me to put on a fake cheeriness until the real thing kicked in. As it turns out, fake cheeriness alone was enough to lift my spirits and help me emerge from the dark side. So.

I’m thankful…

That I lived through another year.

Some of it was pure luck. I didn’t get hit by a gravel truck, not even close. Some of that is due to driving defensively, but most of it is that I was in the right place — where there are no gravel trucks — at the right time — which was pretty much all of the time. By the way, there is a gravel pit a few miles north of me so this thing isn’t entirely fanciful. I had to put in a tiny bit of effort to avoid their route on Evans St. In fact, I didn’t even get a cracked windshield from flying gravel like I did in previous years. I don’t drive much anymore, so that probably contributed.

Living through another year might not seem impressive. For most, MS will not kill us off in the flower of youth but will hound us to our graves. It’s just that I’m at an age when people can start dropping dead of cardiac arrest with no history of heart trouble. My brother had a stroke last year and there’s vascular disease in our family history. So is lung cancer. The shadow dog is pursuing us and it isn’t our imagination. Never a superstitious family, we’ve pocketed rabbit’s feet and tiny Buddhas on key chains this year just for a little boost of reassurance. The shadow dog will nip at our heels and eventually gain on us, but I’m betting that won’t be this year. Key chain Buddha is smiling at me. He always smiles, but lately his smile is a little bit broader. I’d swear to it.

For relearning how to play canasta.

This is no trifling thing. A canasta game with one other person counts as a social event, something I’ve not had enough of for a long while. There are four people in my life who know how to play it, so, having nowhere to go but up, this can only mean my social life will improve next year. Is it cynical to suggest that people won’t visit me as often if all I do is talk about my MS life — but a rousing game of canasta might lure them here more often? It’s okay, I like playing hostess, making good coffee and having biscuits or crackers and cream cheese on hand. Heck, I bore myself a lot just talking or thinking about my body. Games are a welcome distraction.

For having family, friends, and health care so close to my home.

Surely I don’t need to explain this to a community of MS patients — but I will anyway. I live in a small town in southeast Michigan separated from other small towns by crops of corn, soy, and alfalfa set in a picturesque landscape near the Irish Hills. Big cities lie to the north, south, east and west of me and are equidistant at about 30 miles — or, as we measure distance by minutes here, 45 minutes in any direction. Not many specialists in my county, so I feel extremely fortunate to have all but one of my doctors’ practices within 2 or 3 miles of my home. I now have two siblings living close by, a couple of friends, too. It’s hard to feel totally isolated under such circumstances, but I do manage to feel it more often than I should.

For my elderly neighbors and how they made me love them.

If you told me five years ago that I would find happiness among 30 women age 85 and older I’d probably have snorted at you — but it’s true. I lost my mother in 2014 and six months later moved into their midst. Somehow having them near has cushioned my grief. They’re funny, smart, kind, and very huggable. Maybe after staying alive for eight decades plus, they figured out how to truly live in the moment. They don’t talk much about the past. I want to be like them when I grow up.

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