The Giving I’m Thankful For

Day 325: November 24, 2011

Items Purchased: 0 (Stores were closed. lol) Temptation Radar:0

Happy Thanksgiving. Actually, Happy Black Friday…or really, the few hours preceding it. I am writing this from the transition zone, the time period between turkey digestion and store mapping; the hours in which we prepare to trade our overconsumption of calories for a deficit in the bank account. The place where one period of discomfort may lead to another, or perhaps something better….a positive change, a good deal, a bright hope?   Thanksgiving, the day designed to settle in and reflect upon the good things in life and blessings bestowed, is relentlessly opposed by a crazed hyper-consumptive society. Suddenly, we see a culture through which greed, pressure, and commercialization, strips the simplicity from gratitude and revises it to suggest that really cherishing others is spending more money on them, getting the perfect gift, planning the perfect party. Start NOW! Start at 6am. No wait. I mean midnight.

Black Friday, as I’ve mentioned previously, was one of my favorite days.  So much so, that  I could have skipped right over stuffing and pie and into the 5-mile line wrapped around the door of Target. “Thank you God for the food and all the family, BUT….I gotta run! MUST load my cart, not with true riches and blessings wrought by your hands, but because I can’t miss a deal.”  You may also remember that I usually go with my mom.

We are not going this year.

Our family experienced a Thanksgiving crisis. A crisis, by definition, embodies these three elements:

1. unexpected (i.e., a surprise)

2. creates uncertainty

3. is seen as a threat to important goals

The first thing I noticed when I looked up the word, was my cavalier use of it over the years. Tossing “crisis” around  playfully to overstate and exaggerate meaningless bumps in my life’s journey seems silly after what my family has experienced in the last 7 days.

My mother has just absorbed 24 hour interim care of her elderly mother, who has a host of irreconcilable health issues and apparently marital ones too, as her husband of 47 years has basically abandoned her; only his form of abandonment far more abusive, for she has spent some time, years actually, shoved in dark room, served a cocktail of mind-numbing medicines with a splash of verbal abuse, while he trolls the town engaging in whatever it is he does. He refuses, however to abandon the house that was her mother’s or formally divorce her. The chariot of dysfunction that he travels on carries far more egregious baggage than I care to discuss here, and the pain he has inflicted seemingly irreversible.Therefore, she has remained a prisoner of sorts, not having the capacity to save herself.

But God….

Yes, God. He sees crisis as an opportunity. He sees intervention as a strategy.  He is the restorer.  Perhaps, the finest illustration I’ve ever witnessed of “His strength made perfect in our weakness”  is via my parents and this rescue operation. My mom is not a nurse. In her own ability, she is not prepared or equipped to handle the needs of her precious mother.  In my Dad’s strength, he is not prepared to handle the delivery of his mother-in-law and all of her goods, which also include a difficult sibling who tries to “help”, but possesses a myriad of issues and all inconceivable monetary woes. Interpersonal crisis. Financial crisis. Relational crisis. They all strutted to the front porch and started knocking.

“How does one determine the balance between compassion and survival?” This is the question I have been asking myself for seven days, as I’ve waded through a sea of uneasiness with regard to what this means for my family.  I’ve worried about the pressures it will put on my parents. I’ve worried about my mother’s health, her marriage, her emotional state, as she takes this on. I’ve worried about the financial implications it will have on my parents who have worked diligently to create a solid life, preparation for their own retirement, enjoying the fruits of their near 40 years of marriage. I have cried, prayed, advocated, yelled, and prayed some more.

I’ve cried out for justice. I’ve asked God to right wrongs. This reminds me of a story I failed to share last Sunday, about a 19 year girl who shared a room with Grandma last week in a nursing home. Crippled with lupus and on oxygen, she still had the sweetest spirit and a glimmer of fight in her eye. She told me how nice my grandmother was. She told me how she had been in and out of the hospital and in and out of that same nursing home a total of 6 times this year. She shared how her mom has 5 other children and cannot care for her. There was no sign of anger or resentment on her face. Only 19. I felt ashamed….of stupid things I’d griped about the hour before.  I asked her about her hobbies. She loves art. When I asked her preferred medium, she replied “coloring.” I smiled. I felt like leaping out of that chair and running to the store for color books and crayons, and then I looked at my mom and grandma, and weighed by care, I just sat there. Shame on me.

I haven’t written about the young girl or grandma prior to now, because after all it’s “THANKSGIVING” week. I felt the pressure to feel light and fluffy on my own blog. The truth is, it has not been light nor fluffy. But, in this emotion, I’ve actually been able to procure and savor the authenticity of gratitude. For real. Funny, isn’t it?  Watching my mom give unceasingly of herself to her mother, getting no sleep and then insisting upon having “Thanksgiving”, while observing my dad rally behind her despite his own uncertainty…this is the type of giving I’m thankful for.

I don’t  know what will happen tomorrow, a week or a month from now. But, I know that we have strong faith in a Great God and we have each other. Last night, on my way home from Steve’s family’s celebration, I stopped to check on mom. Grandma was sitting up in a chair, in a family room, with my parents, watching re-runs of the X-factor. She was laughing.

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