For most of my adult life, I prepared the Thanksgiving feast with visions of Norman Rockwell in my head. Despite my best efforts, our family gatherings never looked quite like his painting.
To be perfectly honest, I spent so much time focusing on the logistics of cooking, serving and cleaning up that I usually felt most grateful when everyone went home and I could finally sit down and relax for a few minutes.
This year is different. About 18 months ago, a vertebra slipped in my husband’s spine and he experienced sudden, excruciating and debilitating pain. It took months to get a diagnosis, have surgery and go through the most intense part of his recovery.
I discovered firsthand that caring for someone who is suffering changes a lot of things – including how you count your blessings. Before, I never thought to be thankful that Alex could get into or out of bed by himself. It hadn’t occurred to be grateful for conversations that weren’t focused on pain levels, medication schedules or bowel functions. Above all, I had no idea of how thankful I could be for a good night’s sleep.
This year on Thanksgiving, I won’t be worrying about lumps in the gravy. Instead, I’ll be celebrating my husband’s recovery and I’ll be sending prayers of gratitude to all the professional and family caregivers who find the strength, courage and humor to care for those who cannot care for themselves.
Elaine K. Sanchez is a caregiver speaker and author who helps people find hope, humor and heart in caregiving. She is the co-founder of CaregiverHelp.com, author of the unflinchingly honest and very funny book, “Letters from Madelyn, Chronicles of a Caregiver,” and writes the blog, "Caregiver Help Word of the Day."