Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Feeling awfully grateful

Today, I spent the day at the Children's Museum with both boys. It was the first time I've really been out and about with Eli since he's been toddling all around so it was great fun to see him actually "play". He has started "playing' quite a bit lately (as opposed to just inspecting whatever toy someone happens to hand to him). One of his favorite playthings is the remote control. We have four identical remote controls in the house. Only two work (one for the living room and one for the bedroom). I have "given" Eli the two that don't work. But wouldn't you know it...he's not interested in the ones that don't work. How does he even know they don't work!? I even left the batteries in so the little red light would come one when he pressed a button...but still, he's only interested in the actual working ones. Humph. Picky little child. Wonder where he gets that from.

So this morning, he was in the living room and had a hold of the bedroom tv's working remote and I sat watching him for a bit and saw that he was pointing.it.at.the.tv.and.pressing.buttons. Seriously. The kid isn't even 15 months old yet and he's already figured out what to do with the darn thing. Frightening. I've got to watch that one. Closely.

Our trip to the museum was such fun, though I spent most of the time chasing after Eli and then searching for Ethan and panicking slightly until I found him (which was usually in the exact same spot that he was in when I turned to chase after Eli). Except for one time. He was RIGHT in front of me. I reached over to grab Eli away from getting his eye poked out by a toddler wielding some PVC piping and turned to talk to Ethan and POOF! Gonzo. Crap. I turned around and couldn't see him immediately. I’m calm. Got up and walked over to where I thought he must've gone. Not there. Still calm, but crap. Went over to Ethan's favorite truck. Definitely not there. FREAKING CRAP! So I dart around trying to keep calm but can hear my voice rising an octave as I'm calling Ethan's name and getting more and more anxious. I try to calculate if it will be a better idea for me to run up to the front of the museum and let them know he was lost or if my time would be better spent trying to actually find him. And then I wonder exactly how I will break the news to Adam that I've lost Ethan. And then I look up and there he is. I think this whole episode lasted maybe one whole minute but it really felt like one whole hour.

I am filled with instant relief and then run over to Ethan. I am so relieved to see him that I immediately begin to scold him (what is it about relief that makes it instantly turn to anger???). He looks like he might cry and I grab him and hug him super tight, so tight that Eli starts to screech because I've squeezed him too tight in the process of squeezing Ethan. (I'm finally catching on to the demands of being a mother of two.) And something tells me I ought to relay this story to Adam before he reads it for himself. Sometimes he surprises me and actually reads my blog.

But finding the "missing" Ethan is not why I am feeling grateful tonight. (Of course I'm glad he wasn't lost but I made the story of how he was lost sound much more dramatic than it really was). No. Tonight I am grateful for just being able to sit here and watch tv. And have a snack. And just be normal. Just be.

I was studying for my class catching up on my recorded Oprah episodes (Another topic for another day...reasons why I hate to love Oprah. Yes, that's right. Hate to love. Not love to hate. But another day...) Michael J. Fox was on and he was talking about living his life with Parkinsons. I was going to write his "struggle" with Parkinsons, but he doesn't seem to treat his diagnosis as a struggle . He talked about living his life in the moment. And being grateful for what he has today. And there were clips of him setting next to his wife on the couch while they were being interviewed at their home and she looked so....happy.

Watching them together, talking about his health, made me think back to Adam's heart surgery. Which I try not to think about anymore (but am entirely unsuccessful at). But really, it's over. What more can I say about it, think about it, blah, blah, blah. Really, it wasn't the worst thing that could've happened. I know that. I knew that then. He wasn't diagnosed with a terminal and incurable illness. But yes, there were times where I (and I know Adam, too) wondered if I'd be bringing up the boys alone. Nights leading up to the surgery that I laid in bed while my three-year-old slept upstairs and my unborn baby tumbled around in my tummy while I stared at the ceiling wondering if I'd be able to get a job at my old company if I had to go back to work to support myself and our boys. Wondering how I would manage a newborn's nightly feedings with no help. Wondering if I could be happy again if "something bad happened". Wondering who would be in the delivery room with me if Adam couldn't be.

I'm not trying to be dramatic. I’m really not. I never spoke any of these thoughts out loud. But the reality was that his surgery, though thoroughly common...well, was open heart surgery. And they had to use a machine to pump his heart while they sliced up arteries and sewed them back together (I'm sure I'm simplifying the procedure just a bit here). And then they had to make sure that the bypass actually worked. The surgeon would have to take a step back from the operating table and watch as Adam's heart pumped blood through the new passageway he created to make sure that the graft could hold it's own from the force of the blood pumping through it. And what if the graft blew? So while my thoughts might've been a wee bit dramatic, I also knew there was the possibility (however slight) that they could be my reality.

While in the ICU waiting room during the first few days of Adam's surgery and initial recovery, I saw surgeons give so many people devastating news about their loved ones. I was so fully aware that I could've just as easily been the one getting pulled into the family conference room and having the door closed behind me. Each time I left the hospital, I said a prayer of thanks for letting me leave without hearing bad news. I felt like I just slipped by, unnoticed and undetected through some stroke of dumb luck. And I still feel that way. I just feel so lucky. Because I so very easily could’ve been so unlucky.

But we were lucky. And believe me, I get it. While that was a really, really shitty time for us (and especially for Adam), it wasn't horrific. Once the surgery was deemed a success, we knew Adam would get better. He would get better. And that is what I am feeling grateful for tonight. I am grateful that we don't have daily struggles. That there aren't weekly trips to the doctor, periods of panic, despair, grief. Life has gone on for us. And I'm grateful.

Does that mean that Adam is "cured"? Sort of. Sort of not. I know he likes to think so. And so do I. But the truth is, there is no cure for heart disease (and yes, Adam is considered to have heart disease.) But these are two words we do not speak in our home. We do not speak them. Because it sounds worse to us than it really is and usually, the idea of having a husband with heart disease is pretty insignificant. I'm not being flippant or calloused here, even though it may sound that way. But, he takes his meds, goes for his biannual checks with his cardiologist, eats carefully, exercises almost daily. I believe most of his future, health-wise, lies in his own hands. And I know he believes that too based on the passion and seriousness with which he has embraced his new, healthy lifestyle. Not to say that we were unhealthy before, but we are pretty choosy about what we will and will not put into our bodies (Adam, admittedly, is definitely more careful than I am, but I try my best to follow his good example. I give in to a nasty fast food craving every once in a while and will indulge in some Doritos or a milk shake, but not Adam). Brown rice, grilled veggies and chicken is a typical dinner in our house while breakfast is usually some sort of low fat cereal or cereal bar with skim milk and orange juice (and coffee with fat free creamer for me). Don't get me wrong...we're not exactly the poster family for a heart healthy lifestyle but we do pretty darn well. We eat the occasional pizza and perhaps some red meat once every month or two. And get Chinese food delivered. And I hit a fast food place with the kids once a week after Ethan's Tae Kwon Do class. But mostly, we are pretty careful.

I have to say, that for the most part, I don't think of Adam in terms of being sick (because he’s really not), rather I think in terms of keeping Adam healthy. I've told Adam on a few occasions that I spend almost all of my time thinking of him when I'm at the grocery store that food shopping has become an act of love...I'm always reading labels, checking the fat and cholesterol content, trying to plan healthy meals. In our house, I've told Adam, unless I inform him otherwise, everything I buy is Adam-friendly, meaning it is low-fat, low-cholesterol and low(ish)-sodium. I feel good doing this for my husband. And really, he feels he's doing this for me and our boys. Which is another thing I am grateful for. I am grateful that he loves me enough to want to be around for me 30, 40, 50+ years from now. I love that about him. He wants to take care of himself for me (and for the boys, of course!). It speaks volumes to me. It shows respect and commitment. Maturity and diligence.

Day to day, other than the healthy lifestyle I try to help Adam live, life is as usual around here. Every so often, though, I am reminded that he isn't "cured". We were on a ski vacation in Utah a few weeks ago and as we were getting ready to head out on our first day on the mountain, he asked me where his keys were. For the car that we left in Atlanta. "What do you need the keys...?" And trailed off as I realized. He has a little case on his key chain that has a nitroglycerin pill that he is to take if he feels funky. And by funky I mean if he feels like he's having a heart attack. "Check your carry-on bag," I said and then tried to quickly leave the room before he could see that my eyes had filled with tears. "Shit," I thought, "I almost forgot." And then I turned and went back in our room and said, "I'm sorry you have to think about that. Does that make you sad?". "Yes," he said. "Me too," I said. And that was that. Off to the mountain we went.

Our second day of skiing, we were all heading down one trail and a few of us veered off and onto a different trail that met up at the same spot. Adam went one way with one group and I went the other way. The group I was with was sitting at the bottom of the hill. For a while. A long while. And as time went on and there was no sign of the other group, we all thought it was a little strange. "Maybe one of them fell," someone said. And the longer we waited, the knot in my stomach got tighter and tighter. Did Adam remember his keychain that day? Would he be able to get to it in time if he needed it? I didn't say anything but I almost cried when I saw Adam skiing down the mountain totally fine. As I figured he likely would be fine. But still, those thoughts do creep into my mind every now and again, usually when I'm not expecting it.

But, I am grateful. I am grateful because this is manageable. Maintainable. Easy, in fact. And I do not take "easy" lightly. I LOVE that life is easy right now. I think about it every day. I am grateful for an easy life every single day. Does that mean that I don't get stressed, overwhelmed, bogged down, negative, and well, I'll say it, downright bitchy? Heck no. In fact, I may have even been a teensy weensy bit bitchy tonight. Over something small, but irritating (not unkind, not earth-shattering, just annoying). And my first thought was to discuss it. And then I thought "Who cares? I'm just glad to have a husband around that irritates me!" In the end, I did bring it up and was met with a gracious apology...but there was still that nagging thought in my head that said, "Was that worth it? What if this was the last day you had together? Would that be what you said?". Probably not. So was it worth it? I don't know. I absolutely felt better after hearing his sincere apology...but could I have lived without complaining? Probably. Will I keep complaining. Eh. Probably. So no, I haven't learned my lesson. But in a way, I'm kind of glad. Because the fact that I have time to spend bemoaning the little things means that there are no BIG things. And for that, I am grateful. Ever so grateful.

p.s. I am also grateful for italics. I really like to use italics.

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