Looking Back. Finding Gifts.
This past year, if you read all posts to my “Hindsight” column, you would have noticed a theme. At least I noticed one. Hindsight has taught me that the importance of seeing the positive, being grateful for the small stuff, and freely communicating appreciation is what being a family member is all about. I have discussed these realizations over the past year in many different ways. But this past week, or perhaps several weeks, those realizations, Hindsight’s realizations, have hit me over the head like a Christmas present full of rocks. Focusing on gratitude, appreciation, being positive aren’t actions that are reserved for your children. I mean, I have learned the hard way that they are all must do’s if you are a parent, but how about if you are a human? Yes, I dare say that these qualities, if you choose to live in a constructive manner, must permeate all the moments of your lives and be shared with ALL loved ones, not just your children…
So it’s the Holiday season (and whoop dee doo and dickory doc…) No no, that’s not right. It is impossible for me to keep Christmas music out of my head this time of year. Anywhoo….since it is that time of year when we take stock of who we are, where we’ve come from, what we have to be grateful for, and what we can give to others, I have been thinking. Shocking I know. Hindsight has been working overtime reminding me of the lessons I have learned about gifts, Christmas chaos, must-do’s, have-to’s, and just the general frenzy of the season. Hindsight has also been reminding me that I need to expand on 2013’s gained wisdom and start embodying all that I have espoused. As I write this, a Christmas cartoon on in the living room is espousing the virtues of giving…and yet, this column is going to be a column about getting a gift—one gift in particular.
This gift didn’t come wrapped in pretty foil paper, it is usually cloaked in faded, soft denim and a cottony tee–the simpler the better—and a Yankee baseball cap. I am ashamed to say that this gift has been sort of sitting on a figurative shelf just waiting for me to stop nagging and focusing on the dust that seems to gravitate to it and stop pointing out how it is just one more mess for me to pick up around here (My actions are a harsh reality, but are unfortunately true.). And I am certainly not saying that this “gift” is a perfect one. It has dings and dents and its presence can irritate me to no end if I was telling the truth. However, it IS a gift. HE is a gift and one that I have taken for granted.
My husband, Jeffrey, is not like other husbands. (I am not saying ALL…so back down Ye Olde Dad Society.) I have always known (especially from the comments my friends make) that he does things for and with our family that make others envious, but honestly I have never truly appreciated that, perhaps never really even noticed in a conscious way, that what they claimed was true. However, since the wisdom of gratitude and positivity have graced me with their presence, I started to see him in a much different light than “the ol’ ball and chain” thing I had been dragging around for years.
You may or may not know that four years ago I had peripartum cardiomyopathy while pregnant with my daughter which in turn ended up in congestive heart failure. The heart condition has left me weak, with mind fog, and a compromised immune system. I find (as do others) that hidden ailments like heart conditions and other immunocompromised deficiencies are rarely understood by the masses, but my husband has always been a rock to lean against and a warm place to wrap myself in arranging his life around my needs which seem to change day to day. This time of year is like a living nightmare for me. Because of the heart condition, if I get a simple cold it turns to bronchitis, sinusitis, tonsillitis, strep, you name it in the blink of an eye. Five weeks ago (yes I said five weeks) I developed bronchitis with a nasty cough, then a sinus infection with the nasty cough, and then on Sunday (while on an antibiotic) I developed a fever with that same nasty cough (At least I am keeping the Depends company in business! Come on mamas! Can I get an amen? Ugh incontinence sucks!). Anywhoo-number-two…these five weeks of coughing and hacking and wheezing and inhalers and nebulizers and Vicks on the feet have made it so every muscle in my body hurts and I come home from work, hit the couch and fall asleep.
And yet, the house is still standing. After five weeks, it is still standing. All because of my gift, my gifted husband. Let me let you peek into my living room window to illustrate for you the incredible giver my gift is.
Tuesday night: I came home from a half day at work. I had a fever of 101 despite Tylenol and Advil. I was chilled. I was achy. I was hacking so hard that my lungs felt like they were going to come right up my throat. I was, to put it mildly, defeated. I walk through the door and there was Jeff with a ginger ale in his hand…for me. I begin to cry feeling overwhelmed with illness and his uncanny ability to comprehend what I require in an instant and he lets me sob in his chest with his arms around me for as long as I need. He says nothing until I am calm enough to hear him. He then says, “Come on. Get on the couch.” He sets me up with pillows and blankets and reassurance that all will be fine.
This, I realize, would be miracle enough for some wives or girlfriends, but it is what happened subsequently that I marveled at; that made me realize the gift that I truly had been given when he chose me and I chose him to be life partners.
He left the house to pick up our daughter. He stopped at the store to buy some dinner, more Tylenol and picked up a pair of fuzzy socks for my very cold feet. All the while they were gone, I fretted about my daughter, Ila, coming in to find me on the couch once again. I hated the thought of her looking back on her life and remembering that the winters were spent with a mama who was unable to play because her coughing fits were just too much. As I lay there on the couch I willed myself to find some energy to at least sit up and smile so she wasn’t clued into the latest foray of being sick.
Then she ran in, hopped up on me, gave me one of her special hugs and whispered, “Daddy said you might need one of these” and she squeezed hard. I sat up trying to find gumption to give her a bit of attention, but instantly Jeff said, “Lay back down mama I got this.” And he did.
He actually enjoys, I mean REALLY enjoys, playing with our daughter. He puts on crowns, has tea parties, plays concentration, sets up daily stuffed animal parades and will sail on the “Good Ship Ila’s Bed” to far off lands in which they conquer grumpy ol’ trolls and scary Muppets named Animal, and Tuesday night was no different. For the next hour and a half, he danced and sang and joked and ran around just like…well…a preschooler. As I lay there listening to their bits of conversations and Ila’s giggles mixed in with his guffaws, it began to dawn upon me that not only was he my gift, but probably the greatest gift that my daughter would ever receive, because in the world of dads, Ila truly hit the jackpot.
After playing with our daughter, he set her up with her favorite cartoons and made dinner. (Yes ladies, he COOKS too!) It was a simple dinner of soup and grilled cheese. But he had several healthy choices for our picky daughter and brought it all out to the living room so that neither one of us had to move a muscle. In the course of that dinner, I think that Jeff sat for a total of 6 seconds. He happily bounded up when realizing he forgot napkins, or to get Ila another drink and a clean fork. After wolfing down his dinner, he cleared the plates and came back out instantly to scoop Ila up and entertain her again for a while. At 7 ish, he put her in the bath and reversed the order of tradition washing her first and THEN letting her play. At 7:15, he came to the couch where I was dozing with his coat on, telling me that he was heading out to my son, Aidan’s, Christmas concert in which he was singing and playing the sax. Jeff had bought me a blank card at the drug store and I was able to write Aidan a note apologizing and reminding him how proud I am of him.
After he left, I got up and went to the kitchen to get some water. I stood opened mouthed at the sight before me. The kitchen was immaculate. Counters were wiped, dishes done, animal food in the bowls, and a pile of clean clothes on the table waiting to be folded. This was probably the moment that the rock filled Christmas present clunked me on the head (and feeling weepy already) I cried tears of gratitude, positive tears, and tears of an immense and deep appreciation for the gift that was my husband.
Later that night, he came home from the concert with a phone full of videos of my son singing and playing. He told stories of the concert so that it felt like I was right there watching it all happen, hearing the music, seeing him sing. He sat briefly in the oversized arm chair across from the couch where I lie, and then Henry the Cat purred around his ankles. Jeff scooped him up and cradled him like a baby saying, “I know Henry…it’s your turn for some TLC.”
It is important to note here that this scenario has played out over and over and over for five weeks. Sure there were some days that I felt better than others and was able to chip in here and there, but overall, my husband has worked and then come home and “worked” again. From 3pm-10pm, he has been able to successfully squeeze in real and true and valuable time with Ila, cook meals, clean the kitchen, feed and care for the animals, watch Christmas movie marathons with his wife, do the laundry, bathe our daughter and a multitude of other things too numerous to mention here all with a smile on his face, all with the reassurance that he doesn’t mind any of it because we are his family and that he loves us. He. Loves. Us.
This past year, dear readers, I have received many gifts from Hindsight. Wisdom, and peace, forgiveness and insight. And all of these, all of these lead me to realize one of my greatest gifts…my husband, my unselfish, generous, empathetic, funny, playful and parent extraordinaire husband. It is Christmas time and I feel like Scrooge must have felt after waking up after the three ghosts. I was blinded, like him, by errant responsibilities, by old wounds, by wrongs done, by the need to be right and in control. However, like Scrooge, I have always had what I needed to live a contented life: a willingness to learn, an openness to change, a friend named Hindsight, a family who loves me no matter how Scrooge-like I can be, and most of all, a husband who despite all his faults (and mine) is in it WITH me and FOR me. I am grateful. I am thankful. I am blessed.
This Christmas, do yourself a favor and look for YOUR hidden gifts. They may be right in front of you as mine was all along. Happy Holidays to my Hilltown Families. Happy Holidays.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.