This Year, I’m Thankful that I Can See the Good in Difficult Times

23 Nov

Thanksgiving is, traditionally, the day when you’re supposed to take stock and give thanks for all that’s good in your life. Even in difficult times, there’s always some good, and we should be grateful for those things.

That kind of perspective is a lesson my father taught me a long time ago. His positive outlook is a trait he’s passed down to me, and I’m so thankful to him for that. Especially this year.

That’s because it has not been an easy one for my family as my father’s health has declined. “Good” days for him are rare; most are tough. Some are very tough. (These past few days, for example.)

In short, the physical and mental effects of Parkinson’s Disease have been really challenging. It’s a predictably unpredictable disease — except that it just keeps getting worse and worse, and we know it won’t ever get any better. My father isn’t the same man he used to be. There is risk in every day. In a word, it’s heartbreaking.

So, in the last 14 months, my sister and I have both traveled down to Florida multiple times to help out. When there, we become caregivers, walking with my dad around the house and to and from stores and restaurants, running errands, waking up in the middle of the night when he does to make sure he’s alright, helping out around the house, taking some of the load off our mother, and doing what we can to boost their spirits. 

To be completely honest, there were many days this year when I didn’t know how much longer my dad would be with us. After I had a very scary and traumatic visit in February, it seemed as if he might not even make it to his birthday. But he did. He made it to Father’s Day, too. He made it to his and my mother’s 50th wedding anniversary over the summer. Then he made it to Rosh Hashanah. And now, though he’ll be spending the holiday in the hospital, he’s made it to Thanksgiving.

As my dad himself said last fall, “Every day, I get another chance.” And it’s true. Every day now is a blessing. We’re taking it one at a time.

Meanwhile, my mother has shouldered most of the load in terms of taking care of my dad. She’s managed all the doctor’s appointments, made sure my dad took all his meds, cooked meals for both of them, got him dressed, done multiple loads of laundry every day, prepared my dad for bed every night, and much more. It’s a lot.

But she’s had her own health issues this year — including when she tripped and fell last month while coming into the house, fracturing her arm and winding up in a splint. Her health scares have been concerning, too. They’re a reminder that I should never take either of my parents for granted, and that something could happen to one or both of them at any time.

Suffice it to say, I am so grateful that my mother and father are both still with us, and that they still have each other.

Which brings me back to that sense of perspective my dad taught me. While it has not been an easy year, and things are not good right now, I do have so much to be thankful for where my parents are concerned. 

I’m thankful that I’ve been able to go down to Florida as often as I have this year (six times) — both that I can afford to do so financially (especially those times when it was an unplanned, last-minute trip), and that my job is a remote one, so it doesn’t really matter where I work. (Though, I do wish my folks lived closer.)

I’m thankful that I have the kind of relationship with my parents where I want to go to Florida to help out.

I’m thankful that I have such a good relationship with my sister, and that we’re partners in supporting my parents, each taking on different tasks and complementing each other’s strengths, availabilities, and dispositions, and being there to talk and debrief during and after visits and during more stressful situations.

I’m thankful for my brother-in-law, too, and not just because he’s a doctor and can provide information and insight that my folks might not share or might not understand themselves. He’s a source of calm and support that is much needed these days.

Of course, I’m thankful for all my mother has done to take care of my dad. I don’t know how she’s done it — literally and figuratively — and I don’t know how much longer she’ll be able to do it. But I’m thankful for what she’s done so far.

I’m thankful for all of my father’s doctors, as well as the nurses and the physical therapists. 

Honestly, I’m also thankful for the waiters and waitresses, and the hosts and hostesses, at the restaurants my parents frequent, who know them and take good care of them. (Especially you, Ryan at Vignetos.)

I’m thankful for those times when my dad’s sense of humor and positive spirit shine through, and that in spite of everything, he still takes pleasure in simple things like cookies, ice cream, and baseball games.

I’m thankful that both Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole passed them by.

I’m thankful that when things got really bad, it was after we were all vaccinated and not during the peak of the pandemic, so I could travel as easily and as much as I’ve been doing.

Speaking of COVID, I’m thankful that when my parents (and my sister and her family) tested positive this year, the symptoms were generally mild and it was all manageable.

Perhaps most importantly, I’m thankful for all of the extra time I’ve had with my parents these last couple years. We talk or FaceTime nearly every day, and as noted, I’ve spent a lot of time with them in Florida. I look at all of this as “bonus” time, and a chance to give back, in a way, for all they’ve given me over the years. I try not to hang up the phone or let my dad go to bed at night without telling him that I love him. I do what I can to let my mother know I care how she is doing, too, so she doesn’t feel like she’s in this by herself. And while my trips are always emotionally exhausting, and leaving to go home gets increasingly more difficult every time I do it, I have no regrets about any of my visits.

So, yes, right now, I’m choosing to see the positive in these very difficult times. On this Thanksgiving, I know that I do, indeed, have a lot to be thankful for.

But that’s not all. Here are a few more things I’m giving thanks for this year, in no particular order:

  • Unseasonably warm temperatures
  • That I’ve still never tested positive for COVID
  • That I was able to travel to Chicago and Cleveland last month, and that I could celebrate special occasions in the lives of good friends in both cities (and I’m looking forward to more celebrations still to come for other good friends in Boston in the coming weeks)
  • That my upstairs neighbors finally moved out late in the summer and their condo remains empty and unsold all these weeks later (it’s been so quiet and nice)
  • Warm, fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies
  • Seeing the Lone Bellow live
  • Friends who check in with me regularly and who ask how my folks are doing
  • Abbott Elementary
  • Lazy Saturday mornings
  • That many of the relationships I’ve built using social media transcend Twitter … just in case
  • After-movie chats
  • Wordle … and Framed and Heardle, too
  • That I was able to buy tickets for Bruce Springsteen’s upcoming tour at face value, before “dynamic pricing” kicked in
  • Smartless, and that I finally — finally! — decided to catch up
  • How wonderful the Marcel the Shell with Shoes On movie is
  • Dock Talk
  • The blondies from Sandwich Works in Newton Centre
  • Fandango’s policy of allowing you to get a refund or credit on tickets purchased — even if your plans change minutes before showtime
  • Restaurants where I can sit at the bar or a counter
  • That day early this summer when my nephew Ian told me I was his favorite adult (not including his parents). And of course, I’m thankful for my niece, Abby, and my other nephew, Marc, too.
  • Vaccines and boosters, and the people who get their shots
  • The return of Crumbs cupcakes
  • That I got to stand inches away from Jennifer Garner earlier this year and tell her that I love her (even though she didn’t hear me)
  • That there wasn’t a “red wave” during the 2022 midterms, and that much of the extremism of the last few years was rejected by voters
  • The auto-pay option for paying bills
  • “Normalcy,” and that there’s been much more of it this year than there was last year
  • You, for reading this blog post all the way to the end. I don’t write nearly as often as I used to, but it’s nice to know that when I do, people still care. Thank you so much for that.

Happy Thanksgiving!

11 Responses to “This Year, I’m Thankful that I Can See the Good in Difficult Times

  1. Monica November 23, 2022 at 10:47 am #

    Nice reflections; thank you for sharing. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Martin Lieberman November 23, 2022 at 3:53 pm #

      Thank you for the comment! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, too. 🙂

      • Monica November 23, 2022 at 5:52 pm #

        You’re welcome; and, thanks!

  2. Katharine Dahl November 23, 2022 at 1:06 pm #

    Appreciate your reflections this time of year. Hope your Dad is feeling well and enjoys Thanksgiving! Also, I too love Abbott Elementary!

    • Martin Lieberman November 23, 2022 at 3:52 pm #

      Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, as well. 🙂

  3. Steve Alter November 23, 2022 at 4:07 pm #

    Marty! Thank you for this post. I wish you, your parents, and your sister and her family a Happy Thanksgiving, and I will add your parents to my thoughts and prayers. Let’s catch up soon… it’s been way too long (and sorry we weren’t able to visit with you a couple of weeks ago). Sending warm hugs!

    • Martin Lieberman November 23, 2022 at 4:08 pm #

      Thanks, Steve. I’d love that. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, too.

  4. Sheri Guttman November 29, 2022 at 12:03 pm #

    Aww, sorry to hear all that you’ve been going through, but not surprised you’re able to see the positive in it all.

    • Martin Lieberman November 29, 2022 at 2:48 pm #

      Thank you. 🙂

      • John Doerr December 2, 2022 at 11:22 am #

        Wonderful thoughts, Martin. Thanks for sharing.

      • Martin Lieberman December 2, 2022 at 1:10 pm #

        Thanks for reading, John.

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