Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giving Thanks For...

Having Fibromyalgia (or other like diseases) can really force us to look deep for the blessings.  During the holiday season, coping with our disease at such a busy time of year can be quite a challenge.  I’d like to share a story that taught me a thing or two about counting blessings.

TENDERNESS.  For a Fibromyalgia patient, this can be considered a dirty word.  We hurt everywhere, all the time.  We may not show it or say anything about it, but it hurts to be hugged too tight, it hurts to be touched, we are like a big bruise that can’t be seen, and here we are at the time of year where families are coming together for large celebrations, dinners, gift exchanges, parties.  Let your mind go for just a moment and think of all the different obligations we put on ourselves.  Cooking, cleaning, baking, shopping.  If the pain doesn’t get us, the fatigue is out there waiting if we aren’t careful to pace ourselves. 

TENDERNESS.  This word is important and I’m going to tell you why in my story.  It may not be what you expect!

My in-laws are very comfortably retired and they have a gorgeous home.  It’s large enough to host the entire family, their 3 grown kids, their wives and kids, and their grandchildren and great-granddaughters.  There have been many years when we have enjoyed a joint Thanksgiving meal at their place.  Everyone will bring whatever it is that they are best at cooking.  For me, it’s Grandma Bockhahn’s Pumpkin Pie recipe.  The secret is in her homemade dough.  My three sons are almost all grown now, but each Thanksgiving I plan on at least 4 of those pies.  Two pies for the big family meal and at least two more pies to enjoy at my home with my husband and three sons.

When my eldest was a senior in high school (just shortly after his 18th birthday) we planned a big Thanksgiving feast at my in-law’s home.  My son was going to pick up his girlfriend to attend, my 17 year old was also bringing his girlfriend, AND her father.  That left my youngest, my husband and myself, plus the rest of the extended family.  All in all about 25-30 people would be attending.  I was looking forward to this day as it was reminiscent of holidays before my parents and grandparents passed away.  My parents were both from large families and holidays were a big deal growing up.

I wasn't always an extrovert, but after my kids were born I learned to enjoy being around others, like my father I've never met a stranger.  I love being with people and “working” a room, being around others and catching up with friends.  But when I had my car accident, my migraines spun out of control.  I was later diagnosed with FMS.  I started to have a hard time keeping up with the world.  Thanksgiving meals take lots of planning and preparation.  Make the dough Tuesday, bake the pies Wednesday, plus whatever we are doing on our own in addition to the BIG family meal.  It can add a lot of stress for any of us, whether you are perfectly healthy or not.  It’s really hard to not overdo it.  Even when we make the most valiant effort, FMS or migraines will come in and mess up the best of plans and special days.  That’s the down side to the disease.

This particular Thanksgiving was one of my most memorable.  Was it the food?  Was it the company?  The joy (or stress – take your pick) of being with family you haven’t seen in months?  Not this year.  It was memorable to me because of the outcome. 

We arrived at noon, all my pies were carefully prepared and ready to enjoy.  I walked into the house, dropped off my pies at the kitchen and headed straight back to the guest bedroom.  I spent the entire afternoon in there on the bed, as far away from the chatter and the smells of food that should have been comforting, but instead caused horrible nausea and pain.  I had one of the most vicious migraines and it put me down HARD.  I remember crying out of embarrassment, frustration, and even fear of being judged.  I think we have all had those feelings when it comes to this disease.  So why would THIS be a year that I found memorable?


No, I didn’t have a quick recovery.  Things didn’t get better, I didn't even touch any food.  Not one bite.  I was way to sick.  But as my young sons prepared to leave and go to their father’s house to attend another feast, they each came in to see me ... one at a time.  They came in and sat beside me on the bed.  They gave me a hug.  I started to apologize but they wouldn’t have it, they insisted that it was okay.  “I love you”, they each said, “I understand, it’s okay … go home and rest and we will be home later.”

TENDERNESS.   Teenagers, just 17 and 18, already knew what so many of our families, spouses and friends, have yet to figure out.  We didn’t ask for this disease.  We don’t enjoy it and we certainly don’t pick and choose when attacks hit out of some need for attention.  I spent hours alone and in pain, while the family laughed, ate the typical Thanksgiving meal and celebrated.  I wouldn’t have had it any other way (well,  minus the migraine).  I want them to live life, even if I can’t be in that moment with them.  I’m still their family.  I’m still a person.  I’m still loved.  That Thanksgiving showed me that even though “Supermom” went out of business in 2004, “Mom” is still very much loved and not for what she does, but who she is.  “Mom”.

Later that night, the boys came home and I was of course in bed.  The worst of the migraine had past but the “hangover” was there so I was recuperating.  Someone pulled out the pie and cut everyone a piece and we all sat on the bed together eating pie and talking about the day.  I was able to hear from them how their Thanksgiving Day was and we shared a few of the things that we are thankful for.  That’s a tradition that we have done at this house as long as I can remember.  We all take turns and share what we have to be thankful for.

That year, for me, I was thankful for tenderness.  I'm still thankful.  We raise our children and many times we put their needs and wants before our own.  That year I realized, they noticed and they learned!  They were growing into wonderful young men.  I might not have seen that fact had it not been for a horrible migraine, at what was a most inconvenient time. 

The Bible tells us:  “… all things work together for good to those who love God.”  (Rom. 8:28)

Look hard enough and you will find the silver lining.  It’s always there.

Have a very blessed Thanksgiving!


© Robynn “Bobbie” Dinse
Please note that this short story is copyrighted and should not be reprinted in any form without permission from the author

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