It’s a bit easier to be thankful this year, not that I’ve ever taken for granted the wonderful people (and dogs) in my life and the pleasure of getting to make a living doing what I love. But something about near-death experiences crystalizes things for you. Suddenly you’re thankful for the most mundane things.
If you’d asked me on the day I left the hospital a few weeks ago after nearly losing my life and my left leg in a boating accident, I’d probably have been thankful to be slapped across the face, as long as it happened outside the hospital. Two weeks in a hospital will make you thankful to be just about anywhere else. I’m pretty sure even in prison they don’t wake you up every hour.
Driving back to Mobile from New Orleans after leaving the hospital, I was probably the most thankful person in the tri-state area. I was blubbering about how thankful I was that my beautiful wife was there for me, how excited I was to see my kids, my dogs, my home again, because a couple of weeks earlier I didn’t think I would. I was thankful to be hauling home my broken leg.
I was even getting emotional about super mundane things. Suddenly the wasteland of New Orleans East was a treasured sight. I got a little misty looking at Scuttlebutts adult entertainment club in Slidell. Even crossing the muddy Pearl River seemed like an accomplishment. I might have been a little over-thankful, honestly.
The end of this week will mark a month that I’ve been home, so some sense of normalcy has crept back into my mind, if not my life. Unrealistically, I’d expected to be walking by now. I sort of had this three week goal once I left the hospital, but that was pretty unlikely considering it takes longer than that to heal a broken leg, not to mention one with a massive wound dominating my thigh.
Nearly a month later I’m still working on just getting the wound healed up and I’ll have to go back for another skin graft surgery next week, which means at least a few more weeks of changing dressings. But I’m still thankful! I could be dealing with learning how to use a prosthetic leg. Sitting on the couch doesn’t seem that horrible when I consider the alternatives.
One thing I’m definitely thankful for is that this will only be a temporary circumstance. Those who can walk may never realize what a great thing it is. We totally take for granted the ease with which we can get up and walk across the room to get something, or carry a drink without spilling it all over the place. Right now, every time I flop down on the couch and then realize I forgot to get something that’s less than 20 feet away, I experience the same anguish I did a few years ago when I drove for 40 minutes before realizing I’d left the boat key at home.
At this point, if I want to move my laptop from one room to another, I stick it inside the sweatpants that have become my uniform and try to make it there before the pants fall off from the weight. I could probably tie the drawstring, but it’s too much work.
But I’m still thankful for my walker. Yes, it does make me feel 100, but without it I wouldn’t be able to make it into the kitchen at 1 mph and I’d really be stuck on the couch. I’m resigned to having to use it for a bit, but not so resigned that I’ve put tennis balls on the legs. That seems too much like I’m settling in. I refuse to do this long enough to destroy the finish on our hardwood floors!
Without doubt the individuals with the most thankful outlook after my accident are our dogs — Georgia and Sophie. They are loving this whole new “Couch Rob,” and have fully embraced spending upwards of 17 hours a day with me in the living room. I used to joke that Georgia’s idea of heaven would be for me to wind up in an iron lung where she could just climb in and sleep on top of me, then get out occasionally to bark if someone knocked on the door.
I’m not quite that immobile, but there’s definitely more Rob/dog time right now. Sophie is still a puppy, but it took her very little time to realize I can’t catch her now. So she responds to any request from me with the dog equivalent of “the bird,” then runs to another room to laugh. If it’s ever just the dogs and me alone at the house, Sophie immediately heads upstairs and starts loudly breaking things. Georgia just looks at me like “You know she’s not supposed to do that.”
It’s all working out pretty well for the dogs.
I know this Thanksgiving Day the turkey is going to taste a little sweeter, the dressing a little dressier and the pumpkin pie a little more pumpkiny(?). Everyone will have to come to us this year, which will also make the dogs even happier and I’m sure the Cowboys will win for me.
I’m not even going to compete for the wishbone this year because I’ve already used up all my wishes just being here.
It’s always good for us to stop and recognize the fortune of our circumstance, even if maybe it doesn’t seem all that fortunate. Someone always has it worse. New Orleans East may seem like a dump until you spend two weeks in a hospital. It’s all relative, right?
I’m thankful I have a nice big couch full of dogs (and people) who love me. And I’ll be doubly thankful when I can get up off that couch and walk outside in a few months.
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