Janet Sheridan: A column of gratitude for Thanksgiving
As the quiet beauty of fall fades into the icy turbulence of winter, I celebrate my November birthday; and I think about where I’ve been, where I am, where I have yet to go, and the friends and loved ones who have shared my journey. On November 21, my dad’s birthday, I remember his strength of character and the way he taught me to work hard, avoid debt, and treasure loved ones. Then, as the month ends, I celebrate Thanksgiving by writing a column of appreciation for my blessings.
This year, I’m grateful for my body, which has served me well for more than seven decades, always doing its best to meet my demands, though sometimes it grumbles: “You want me to do what? Whoa, there, big girl; I’m not so sure this is a good idea. Sheesh! Give me a break!!”
Doctors prod my body; mosquitoes bite it; lines age it and I neglect it. It has survived the indignities of potty training, tight shoes with too-high heels, and girdles; it’s been overfed, underworked, sun burned, and sleep deprived. Yet it keeps on ticking.
When asked, it learned to walk upright, stand on its head, pluck a turkey, swim underwater, avoid electrified fences, and type 40 words a minute. It has ridden atop the hump on a camel, in the front seat of roller coasters, and behind the wheel of pickup trucks with stick shifts and faulty brakes.
In its time, it danced the mashed potato, ate armadillo, wrestled siblings, and remained in plank position — though maybe it shouldn’t have. It enjoyed buttermilk, Creedance Clearwater Revival, the smell of Magic Markers, and sleeping under the stars.
Its legs climbed a fourteener in Colorado, the incline of a Mayan temple in Belize, the 354 steps inside the Statue of Liberty, and out of bed under protest. Its ears heard waterfalls, laughter in classrooms, the muffled silence of a snowfall, and the sound of my parents’ voices in quiet conversation as I fell asleep. Its eyes beheld soul-stirring sights, read life-altering words and memorized the faces of loved ones so well that in dreams I see them still.
My mother nurtured my body; my father sang to it; my siblings made fun of it; and my boyfriends pursued it. It never knew the pain and joy of giving birth, but it held grandchildren close, listened to them, read to them, played with, cherished them.
When younger, I was proud of my body’s strengths, surprised by its resilience, alarmed at its shortcomings and embarrassed by its flaws. Then, during the last fifteen years, I began to appreciate my body in its entirety and to be grateful for the way it continues to serve me even as its abilities fade and it needs medical help: a nerve problem in my heart forced my stalwart body to accept the assistance of a pacemaker; cloudy vision convinced it to have cataract surgery, worrisome spots continually led it to the scalpel of a dermatologist; and a bad fall on Cedar Mountain put it through months of rehab and physical therapy.
More recently, multiple myeloma, a cancer, invaded my body, forcing it to endure months of chemotherapy and seclusion at home because of my compromised immune system. But even as it endured discomfort, stressful nights followed by unhappy days, and an absence of energy, my body, my ally, did the best it could. Then, late last summer, it started reassuring me, telling me it was healing and gaining strength. In October, my oncologist agreed. I am now on a maintenance program; my body and I are returning to the rhythms, patterns, and comforts of normal routines.
What marvelous machines we inhabit; they do so much and ask for so little: sleep, nutrition, movement, prudent use, and medical care as needed.
I am thankful for the many ways my body has blessed me.