Sunday, November 19, 2006

Caregiving: the flavor of "Thanks"giving

Thanksgiving is the genesis of our family’s story of living with Multiple Sclerosis. Flavor it indelibly “bittersweet”.


Pictured is Thanksgiving Eve 1989. Like any typical family our Butterball turkey and 18 month old daughter took turns sliding down the tot slide in our living room. We were typical, weren’t we?


It was to be a perfect Thanksgiving. We were both working, our daughter was healthy, and we owned a vintage 1904 home, two cars, and two cats. We had so much to be thankful and grateful for.


Patti was HEALTHY. … Yes, 4 years earlier Patti had a week or two of temporary and unexplained numbness in some fingers and slurred speech. Only one doctor had suggested “probable Multiple Sclerosis” but testing quickly exceeded symptoms and no culprit was ever ‘smoked out’.


We went to bed planning to wake up and start the day watching the Macy’s Parade on TV.


With the blink of awakening eyes life changed as shock embraced us Thanksgiving morning. Patti awoke unable to see, unable to walk, and barely talk. 


For our Thanksgiving 1989, Patti was hospitalized reeling with her first major MS exacerbation. Holding our 18 month old daughter, I was overwhelmed, unprepared, and facing the most desperate moments I’ve ever known.


... Fast forward 11 years ...


Thanksgiving morning 2000 I awoke in New York City. Megan was about to perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as part of the group America Sings. For a whirlwind two days we had been part of all the behind the scenes magic that brings the parade to life. Juggling caregiving and parenting would have been impossible; Patti’s parents were her caregivers for the holiday.


With millions along the parade route, I cheered and yelled and clapped half for survival from the cold <grin> and half for sheer glee. When Megan suddenly appeared directly in front of me and from parade formation shouted a loud “Hi DAD!” it was one of those manly-man moments when I had to choke back tears. <grin>


Finding the “thanks” in Thanksgiving is not always obvious, but it’s there. As a caregiver spouse and parent, Thanksgiving and living with Multiple Sclerosis as a family are forever intertwined as bittersweet and complicated memories.     


  1. What a 'CRASH, BOOM, BAM' of an introduction to your new life! Side-blinded you and if experience tells me anything, all you wanted was to rewind and quickly!! You, Patti and Megan have come a long way, Patrick.  You took the 'MS Bull' by the horns and have been both a great spouse and parent. My hat is off to you!

  2. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving this year Patrick. Bam

  3. love the turkey on the slide lol i think its great that she yelled to you she looks so happy:) Happy Thanksgiving


  4. She looks intrigued and as proud as punch in the second.  

    You did great bringing her up between you........much to be thankful for so 'Happy Thanksgiving to you' Rache

  5. .............thanks for giving us a wonderful year of inspiration as well as humor!

  6. LOL that turkey had fun!
    Take care,

  7. Your life is balanced, it seems. I hope your Thanksgiving Day this year is a pleasant and uneventful one (meaning no more traumatic turns). Bittersweet does seem to be an appropriate word for your experiences with MS. So glad, though, that you do find the sweetness in there <grin>!   Bea


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