Saturday, December 26, 2020

A 2020 Christmas Story

 To say 2020 has been challenging is the understatement of the year. This year, our lives basically came to a standstill in March. What is that old saying? “March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb.” Well, March did come roaring in, and we are still waiting for it, in December, to go out like a lamb. Still feels like it’s roaring to me!

Because of Derek’s compromised immune system, we have had to keep him home basically in quarantine. I think since March, he’s been at a doctor’s office once; for bloodwork 3 times, and in Target twice, Publix once, and a quick in/out at church to wave to staff. That’s it. He’s gone out on an endless number of car drives, played outside, walks at a park or down the street. Only one person, a friend who helped Bob lay a new floor in Derek’s room, has been the only other person inside our home besides us since March.

Thankfully, Zoom came along and opened up his world a little bit. He’s been happy to see people through the computer screen. We even had a Zoom birthday party for him in November! What I’m truly thankful for, is that Derek is happy. He wakes up happy; goes to sleep happy. He enjoys each day to the fullest. He is happy doing the same things everyday. He wakes up knowing today is a new day, and does everything with great zeal and full force. He doesn’t know about the state of the world, or even that Covid exists. Even though it has completely changed his world. It doesn’t matter. He lives, loves, plays, laughs, like nothing has changed. 

And then there’s me. At this point, I am going to be completely transparent. I have NOT handled the situation Covid has thrown us into gracefully. In the beginning, I thought, OK; we got this!. Derek used to go to an adult day care facility 5 days a week, from 7 am until 5 pm. And then he was home 24/7. It’s been 10 months now. He’s a LOT of kid to manage! From keeping him busy, to changing of his pullups every 2 hours; meals/snacks/fluids; meds; and enemas which have thankfully kept him out of the hospital this year -it has been an experience to say the least. Then along came the sadness. Sadness from missing people. Sadness from missing Brooke, Christian and Harper. Sadness from the ability to travel to see them taken away. Sadness from missing the life we had. Just...sadness. And then came the anger. I was angry at the circumstances; angry because people seemed to be moving on, as months passed by; acting like Covid doesn’t exist. Even angry because we didn’t have the luxury of taking risks others were taking. For us, a risk could pose the threat of an illness Derek may not survive should he get it. Even for myself, as his main caregiver - to put myself at risk would be just as bad. But watching others move forward is difficult for me to deal with. Especially when those moving forward seem to forget, or seem to exclude, those they’re leaving behind who are still not able to participate in what seems to be a “pre-Covid” life. Yes, envy is a sin; however, I am terribly envious of everyone who could spend the holidays with their families; their kids, grandkids. Not being able to do this truly felt like it was breaking my heart. Which brings me to the end of 2020. Breaking hearts.

Along comes December.  A December I would rather end up not remembering. Bob and I had made tentative plans to travel to Iowa for Christmas, traveling on Christmas Day. Derek would stay behind with Lisa, and we were going to celebrate Christmas early in our house. I knew it was tentative; as we were going to just have to wait and see. The first weekend in December found me in the ER, as it seemed I was experiencing symptoms which mimicked a heart attack: chest pain/pressure; left arm numbness, and left hand tingling; lightheadedness. I didn’t feel well. Initial testing in the ER revealed all cardiac enzymes were fine, as was the EKG. But with the symptoms, it was determined I should be admitted. The last place I wanted to be in the middle of a pandemic: a hospital. I spent one night there, and was released the next day with the promise I would see a cardiologist to get further testing done. The symptoms persisted, and I made the cardiology appointment. 

Then I get a phone call from the dermatology office. I had my 6 month appointment the week before. This call proceeds to inform me I have yet another melanoma, this time on my back. I’ve had two previous melanoma removals on my abdomen. This surgery was scheduled for the following week. Surgery went well, and I was to wait for results to tell me the margins were clear on what was removed.

Then, the following week, the week of Christmas, we knew we weren’t able to travel to Iowa for Christmas, so I made the difficult call to the airlines to postpone our trip. The next day, I went for an echocardiogram, and then a stress test, just a few days before Christmas. I had gotten on my treadmill at home about 4 days before my appointment, and couldn’t do more than 5 minutes before the tingling in my hand began, chest was tight, and I became lightheaded. So I was very, very nervous for the test at the doctor’s office. I did successfully get through both tests, and waited for the results just 2 days before Christmas. When the doctor finally called, I could barely stand to hear what he had to say; but his words, “your heart looks good!” were music to my ears! He suggested seeing a GI doctor, as sometimes GI symptoms mimic heart attack symptoms. 

Christmas Eve arrives, as does a phone call from the dermatology office informing me of clear margins on the removal of the melanoma. Good news, again! So, now I’m on track for Christmas Eve preparation of food for the evening and for Christmas Day. Even though it was just Bob, Derek, Lisa and myself, I was full steam ahead for some delicious dishes for us. We had planned on doing a lot of video chatting on Christmas Day with Brooke, Ryan and the kids.

Then, 2020 just wouldn’t quit: I came down with food poisoning! Apparently the spinach dip I had in the afternoon, which no one else ate, did me in. This was just the last straw to the December I did not want to remember!

So it was left to Bob to prepare the prime rib, and in between visits to the bathroom, I read off the recipe to him. But I ended up in our bedroom, under the blankets, with vicks rubbed into my nostrils, and even toilet paper stuffed up my nose because the smell of the roast was making me so very nauseous. And it was there, not being able to take one more thing, I cried out to God. And my God, my ever gracious, loving, Father, heard my cries. He heard the cries of a daughter who needed him, whose heart was truly broken. Broken from sadness, from anger;  from grief of losing time with her loved ones, grief with now being physically sick on Christmas Eve; come on! Heart issues; melanoma; food poisoning….how much more, Lord??!!  His daughter needed a Christmas miracle. And He heard me. And He granted me favor, granted me that miracle. The sickness passed away, and I was able to sleep through the night.

I woke up feeling well, ready to face Christmas Day. And it was a glorious day! We watched Brooke, Ryan, Christian and Harper on video and we all opened gifts together. Derek was filled with joy at the golf cart we were able to get for him; which truly was a gift from God to Derek (unexpected windfall of money to Derek!); and our hearts were lifted even higher watching the joy it brought him! We had dinner together with Brooke, Ryan and the kids, with the computer on the table which made it seem as if they were just at the other end of our table. We gave thanks to God, for all the blessings he has given us, with the greatest gift being Jesus. We had full hearts, full tummies, and joy; which would not have been possible without a Christmas miracle.

This year hasn't been all doom and gloom. We are all healthy; we have peace & love in our home; Bob is able to work completely from home; we have friends and family who keep us close to their hearts. We've definitely had our share of ups, as well as downs.

It wasn’t the Christmas I was hoping for, but it was the Christmas it was supposed to be; maybe even more. A December to remember, after all.