This year I am thankful.
And it is easy to see why.
My girl is strong and healthy, beautiful and vital. She is growing, moving, eating, giggling, babbling, cuddling, sleeping not quite enough.
And she is here.
But I learned so much about gratitude here:
I learned about the gratitude for the great—he came through surgery, he teetered on the brink of death and survived.
I learned to about gratitude for the minute—a ventilator setting moved on notch closer to extubation, the twitch of a leg as the paralytic wore off, the eyes popping open if only for mere seconds.
I was thankful too for the support, the meals and visits, the cards and emails.
Each night, when I lay on my plastic covered mattress in the tiny dark space in a room allotted for parents of ICU kids, I'd ask for Henry to get better. I'd ask to bring him home. But first I gave thanks. Some days it was easy—he smiled, he came off the ventilator, a fever broke. But other days, I struggled in the darkness to find any bit of light.
I was not particularly virtuous. I looked for the good and gave thanks because I needed to find the good some days. I needed to cling to the threads of hope, however thin.
I watched Magie's mom through the glass separating the rooms as she swept in with her coffee to watch the Macy's parade with her daughter. I squeezed the stuffed turkey that made gobbling sounds for Henry and I fretted about leaving him. There was no doubt in my mind that I needed a break from the hospital, but how do you spend your son's first Thanksgiving without him—even if he is too little to know? Magie's mom and I stood in the hallway in our coats. Next year, we agreed, would be Magie and Henry's first Thanksgiving. Next year when undoubtedly they would both be home.
That Thanksgiving I avoided my cousin and his baby born a month after Henry. I sat at a table after dessert with the other moms of little kids and had nothing to say.
Being there was hard, but I didn't want to leave. Brian convinced me to stay overnight, while he returned to Henry. That night I climbed quietly into bed so as not to disturb my grandmother already asleep in the same room. And then I sobbed for all I wasn't thankful for, for all I was missing. I cried for my baby who was so sick. I cried not knowing if I would ever bring him home. I cried for myself because he wasn't there, because none of this was what I wanted or had expected. And from across the room, my grandmother said in her funny no-teeth in voice, "My heart aches for you, Sara." And then I cried harder.
Thanksgiving 2008 I was thankful to be pregnant again, but sad and anxious too. There were three of us pregnant that year. Me almost done, two of my cousin's wives in the early stages. It was a second pregnancy for all of us. But they were both chasing a toddler around.
There were a bunch of little kids running around, and in the chaos, my cousin kept saying, "Just think—next year there will be three more." And I wanted to scream at him to shut up, not to jinx us, not to jinx me, because I no longer lived in a world where I could count on that. I lived in a world where there should have been one more toddler adding to the hubbub that year, but he wasn't there.
Thanksgiving 2006, I announced that I was pregnant. Three years later, I finally had a baby at Thanksgiving dinner. Kathleen ate turkey and mashed potato, peas and squash, turnip and green beans. She loved it all. She wore a an Indian headdress and I carried her out with the other kids in their headresses and Pilgrim hats in the procession that has been going on since I was a kid. She was there, and I was thankful.
I am grateful for the girl I have here today, the baby who is moving quickly toward little girl. I am thankful too for the boy who is no longer here with me. I am grateful for each smile and every snuggle and what he taught me about love and being a mom and slowing down and taking each day as it comes for what it is.