One of my sons recently noted that I had not written on the major theme I had promised when beginning this blog: words and the way they’ve been used in the past, in writing and literature, and today’s common parlance. Indeed, I have also noticed my tendency to write about whatever interests me at the moment and the idea of going nicheless has its appeal, like this: my blog = I can do what I want. It’s nice being my own boss.
But, as it so happens, today I am going to write about words. The two are thank and you, which together constitute the sentence, “Thank you.”
Preemptively, I will agree that an essay about gratitude would have been more appropriate at Thanksgiving. But I wasn’t quite ready then. The idea was simmering as I absorbed and processed the birthing by my daughter-in-law, Lea Ann, of my now 5-week old grandson, Kyler.
I haven’t been around a lot of births, but compared to my own two, Lea Ann had a hard time of it. To my 9 to 10 hours, she labored approximately 15 before it was decided she needed a c-section. They were long hours. During the early part of her labor (pre-2:00 a.m.) which I witnessed, my son and I attended to her, doing some back massaging, for example. But she would often need to call a nurse to come help her move from side to side or accommodate her legs, which she couldn’t feel. She’d be moaning and seemingly lost in pain, finding her voice, however, to tell my son to stop his nervous laughter (even though we all know he can’t help it). But most significantly, she also found that voice to tell the nurse what she needed and when the task was completed, she always said “Thank you,” before she started moaning again.
Thinking back to my own labor, I tried to remember whether I had been so gracious and continually appreciative with the nurses. I remember the birth of my first son and an excellent male nurse, John, who rubbed my back with his strong hands as I suffered hours of back labor. Back then, the saddleblock anesthesia technique was still an anesthesia alternative. Epidurals were available, but they cost significantly more, and we didn’t have health insurance. The main difference between these two techniques is that an epidural can be used at 4 to 5 centimeters, whereas a saddleblock required the mother’s cervix to be dilated around 7 to 8 centimeters. Having had an epidural with my second son, I can say authoritatively that 2 to 3 centimeters is huge! Anyway, I’m pretty sure if I didn’t thank John for his help during the delivery, I must have done so later because I have a picture of us together the next day in my hospital room.
Lea Ann, however, has gratitude going at the moment the service is rendered. Although I wasn’t in the room for the really intense part of her labor, I’d like to believe that she kept it up. But even if she slipped, she made up for it a week later when she went to the hospital for a baby check-up, and afterwards, visited the maternity ward bearing little gifts of hand soaps and body creams for all the nurses, once again, thanking them for all their help.
And I’ve never seen someone so quick to get out thank-you notes. I am still waiting for thank you notes for wedding gifts I sent to others over 2 years ago, but Lea Ann will have them written and in the mail, almost before you get out the door!
Of course, her recognition of gratitude speaks volumes about her parents, so I’d like to take this opportunity to salute them – although her dad is the retired Air Force colonel, I know her mom deserves a salute, too. Needless to say, I’m betting grandson Kyler will be a champion thanker.
Gratitude can be an amazing force in life, as explained by Sarah Ban Breathnach in her recipe book for joy called Simple Abundance. Making it a habit forces us to focus on what we have, and how we have been lucky, if only momentarily, instead of what we don’t have. Breathnach urges us to practice opening “the eyes of your eyes” and giving your life another glance: do you have a home, food on the table, clothes to wear, your health? Can you walk, talk, see the beauty that surrounds you, listen to music that stirs your soul or makes you want to dance? Do you have family and friends whom you love and who love you? If so, she says, let your heart awaken to the transforming power of gratefulness. To assist in this effort, Breathnach suggests we keep journals, writing down five things every day for which we are grateful, be it the wild flowers on the side of the road or witnessing a baby’s first step. As you consider your blessings over time, she writes, you will find yourself feeling contentment and hopefulness, rather than deficiency or disappointment. “It is in the smallest details that the flavor of life is savored.”
Over the years since reading Simple Abundance, I can’t say I’ve been religious about writing in that journal . . . I may start it as one of my New Year’s resolutions, but I rarely follow through very long. As days get busy and sleep beckons me at the end of them, I rationalize that it’s enough to make mental lists of the things for which I’m grateful.
But I can guarantee that on any of my future lists (mental or written), I will include Lea Ann . . . for being a role model of graciousness, a sweet daughter and wife, and the mother of my grandson, who I know she will teach well.
And while I’m thinking about, let me note that I am perpetually grateful whenever my sons take time from their busy lives to read my nicheless and long-winded musings.