Thanksgiving morning filled me with joy. Time to gather about me those I love, indulge in the warm sanctuary of home, and immerse myself in sensory-rich awareness of my blessings. Joy was everywhere; dishes simmered on the stove. I bundled up against the gusts of snowflakes to drive a mile or so to fetch our eldest son’s fiancee. She had baked cakes, pies and cupcakes for our Thanksgiving meal the day before, and we were thrilled to welcome her to our table. Just a few hours now.
I didn”t know I wasn’t meant to sit at my family’s Thanksgiving table this year.
It was my youngest son’s long-awaited 10th birthday. He threatened to awaken me at midnight to announce the arrival of his big day. Sleep-lusty, I pleaded for a morning announcement instead. He kindly waited until 7 AM to crow jubilantly throughout the house, “Happy 10th Birthday to me!”
I stepped into the car, humming and smiling.
There is something deeply life-affirming about taking action from the soul, no questions asked. Purity of soul guides us in the most primal moments. In sharing these details, I offer a reminder of the beauty to be found inside ourselves. Should my actions move you, praise the source of goodness, the designer of human beauty. Endeavor to find that everpresent beauty in yourself and share it with others.
I saw them walking along the roadway. She was steadier on her feet, just ahead. He was shuffling slowly, awkwardly, on the inclined sidewalk. They looked vulnerable, this elderly couple. I took a breath and refocused on picking up Kaylyn, the details of our celebratory day.
Kaylyn emerged from her doorway with a smile, a lovely young woman in full bloom. She had dressed with care in seasonally-appropriate red cowboy boots, making me feel grateful again for her flair and warmth in our lives. Chatting happily, we headed for home.
I don’t remember seeing him down. I do remember making a U-turn and parking closeby. Don’t forget the parking brake. Be right back. Done; I was out. I don’t know what I said first.
She hovered above him, upset, offering a tissue. Blood spattered his clothing, the concrete step he had missed. His hand and head were bloody. I saw the gash in his forehead, the significant source of blood. Eighteen years of mothering boys told me he needed immediate care and wound closure.
An ambulance? No. Just get me home. Could she could drive him to a doctor? Heavens, no! Just help him, just help him. My body is supporting his now, groping for a good hold. I’m holding the bright red tissues to his forehead. Direct Pressure. I want to go home, he says. We live just up there. I look up – it’s a drugstore at the top of the steps. Perhaps they live in the residential area just behind? OK, OK. We move up the steps toward the drugstore. Warm seating area, pharmacist. No master plan, just shuffling step after shuffling step, his stick-thin body relying on mine. Just skinned my forehead. I want to get home. She is swaying, puffing, and I settle her into a chair too. Reality hits that they both need support.
No ambulance, I’m fine. I skinned my head, just fix me up. The pharmacists are kind, asking me how to help. Paper towels. Call 911, I mouth them, call 911. They bring me supplies, insist to him they can’t fix him up. We’ll get a doctor to advise you. I allow him to think there’s a doctor on-site. Firefighters arrive, then EMTs. They’re uniformed, carrying equipment, clearly impress him some. My right arm is still cradling his warm body about the shoulders; the left holds fresh paper towels to his head. Five uniformed men in their prime tell him this won’t heal, he needs to go to the hospital. He holds out; they’re not doctors. They show him cell phone images of his wound, but he won’t budge. Just get me home. I have someone get her a bottle of water. A woman who saw him fall approaches, whispering to ask me how she can help. A jogger picking up meds confirms he’s a doctor, assesses the wound, and says he needs to go to the hospital. This goes on for a half hour. The woman moves my car for me, and gets Kaylyn home.
At last, he relents. The pathway to the hospital is clear. The ambulance takes him; I take her. My role shifts from physical care for him to physical care and companionship for her. Why isn’t the siren on? Why did they turn this way? Where is he? We’re greeted at check-in by a volunteer who immediately seats her in a wheelchair. Stunned, I am then grateful. I serve as interpreter for the doctors, nurses and techs because she trusts only me. There is no leaving her here. I agree to stay with her. It’s just that simple. I’ll stay with her and get them both home safely.
Five hours and 21 deep-tissue sutures later, they are safely home, with food to eat. (They were venturing out to find something to eat.) I picked up a meal for them on the way. Once home, they seem grounded. He sinks into the easy chair where he spends most of his days. It’s time to provide my phone number, ask hers, and leave. I do.
“Home in 2 mins” I text. At home, I find all of the Thanksgiving leftovers covered and warm in the oven, waiting for me. We gather around my son’s birthday cake, sing the ritual song, and laugh at his re-lighting candles. We form a circle of joyful faces, glowing.
I am somehow blessed and wounded anew by my reminder of life’s fragility, of possible future frailties, of my own mortality. I am confident I was where I was meant to be today. I am grateful for the purity of my actions; I feel in different circumstances, my new friends would have done the same for me. All the thinking and feeling engulfs me, delivering my full heart to a place ripe for celebration.
And I sing.