If one more person tells me how grateful I should be for all the many blessings I have in my life, I think I might scream.
It all started around the middle of January. I felt run down, but not really sick. My daughter had been recovering from a virus that had kept her in and out of the doctor’s office since Thanksgiving, and I wondered if maybe I had picked up something from her. Then one day, I woke up with both ears hurting and a roaring sound in both that made it nearly impossible for me to hear. Not that my hearing was all that good to begin with, but now I couldn’t make out even the simplest sentences. After a visit with my new family practitioner, I was diagnosed with a raging infection in both ears and prescribed antibiotics until the swelling was down enough to use drops for further relief.
I had been telling my old doctor for some years about my ears hurting, and how my right ear felt like a sharp knife had run right through it. All of which was dismissed. “I don’t see anything,” was all he offered. Nice.
Worried that I might have suffered an eardrum rupture sometime in the past, the new family practitioner referred me to an Ear, Nose & Throat specialist. The physician she wanted me to see was not available and I was seen by a semi-retired doctor who lectured my daughter about how I needed to be seen by an M.D., not a Nurse Practitioner, as they were not real doctors and liked “playing,” doctor. After a quick look in my ears he said if there had been an infection, it was healed as he saw nothing. Sound familiar?
The ENT suggested I get a hearing test by a “real” audiologist as the ones I had been tested by at local hearing aid centers were just out for the money and had no real training. I came back and received the same hearing test I had been given twice before at those “unreal” audiologists. After the results, he said I needed a hearing aid and left me with a number to call, but not before telling me I needed to “get over this depression,” because, “it is a nice day, and the sun is shining, and there are people everywhere in much worse shape.” He then began to ramble on about his church and how much prayer helped him and how I needed to do the same. I left his massive, two-story, detached office building feeling worse than when I arrived.
As my daughter drove us out of the parking lot, she sighed… heavily. She had heard this just as much as I had as she escorts me on my doctor visits. Through my tears, I remarked how all this had been a waste of time and money I didn’t have. “But I should be grateful.” I said sarcastically. “Afterall, there are people in the world worse off than me.”
My daughter shook her head. “I wonder,” she began, “how many times people like that think about how grateful they should be. I mean, do they ever thank God that they can drive themselves anywhere they want to go? Did they feed themselves at breakfast, or did they need someone to assist them? Can they hear the birds singing? Do they ever feel left out in a conversation because they can’t hear what’s being said? I didn’t see him struggling to walk up and down the corridors of that ridiculously, over sized office of his. Does he ever thank God for that? I doubt it.”
I sniffed. “No,” I answered. “I doubt many people do.”
Now, don’t get me wrong here. My daughter is a Christian woman and believes in God’s power of healing, as do I . I was raised in the Old South, Ole’ Time religion. I sat every Sunday next to my mother, God rest her, and relished in my pastor’s voice as he spoke of the kind, and loving God we serve. I was baptized in that tiny, little wooden clap-board house of worship and I do thank God for my many blessings, including my daughter who I call my angel. I have survived an abusive father who commented many times that his family was a like a “millstone around my neck,” and didn’t spare the rod of punishment when he felt like it. I went through horrible pain as I was subjected to treatments for scoliosis as a child that could only be described as horrific.
I was sent away from my mother and family for two years, lying flat on my back in a cast that fashioned from the bottom of my chin to the top of my knees. I listened to my mother cry over her child on the rare visits my father allowed and him yelling at her to stop because he couldn’t just take off from work to bring her to visit everyday. I remember with fondness my mother’s father coming to visit and bring ice cream for me and the other children and how special I felt in those times. I survived that ordeal, and I am grateful. I could walk.
I got married and had three children in spite of the doctors telling me I would probably not walk and certainly would not be able to carry a child in “my condition.” I survived my husband leaving for Vietnam, with me alone to raise two very rambunctious little boys with no help from family or friends. I survived our divorce after my husbands’ breakdown with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and his diagnosis of bi-polar disorder. I raised my kids on welfare and food stamps when money was tight and family had abandoned us because of the shame of mental illness in the family. I worked part-time in any little job I could with nothing more than a high-school education. I was mean-mouthed, put down and made to feel inferior due to my lack of a degree. I survived anyway, and I am grateful. We had a roof over our head in public housing and food enough to keep our bellies full.
I watched my daughter as she gasped for breath during asthma attacks and school teachers who told me that my daughter’s asthma was “all in her head.” I fought with more school staff about my daughter’s struggles with math and how I thought she needed to be tested for a learning disorder. When I finally got her in special education in seventh grade, I was shocked when she wasn’t achieving. I only found out when she decided to get her GED that all those days in Special Ed. were of her being handed a worksheet and being left alone, except for the days when they showed a National Geographic filmstrip. Somehow, she survived. And she is grateful. She managed to acheive her Associate of Arts degree and is a prolific writer.
I have cried and worried myself sick when my youngest son began throwing up blood as an infant, and needed emergency surgery on his pancreas. I now worry with his diabetes and how he is faring. I have watched my oldest son suffer needlessly in an emergency room for eight hours with pain in his side and the expression on his face as his appendix ruptured while waiting for the doctor to finish his golf game before coming to help my son. I agonized over the next several days by his bedside, looking at my tall, strong son, with tubes running down his nose and his pale complexion as he fought to recover. I still feel like I should have sued. Some things in this world we have trouble forgiving. But, I am grateful! My children lived without permanent disabilities.
When I first noticed the shakiness in my hands, I alerted doctors to it by holding up my hands and showing them. The reaction I got was that I was “making my hands do that.” I suffered on and worked until my health couldn’t take it anymore. My health has declined since retiring nearly fifteen years ago. I have substantial hearing loss, my heart skips beats and I am often out of breath. I have had more steroid injections in my knees for pain than I can count. Many times, I can’t walk from my front door to my mailbox without my knees giving out. But I am grateful for my life and my children and every day God allows. So please, for the sake of my sanity…stop telling me how grateful I should be! I have experienced enough trials in this world to understand how many are my blessings, so give it a rest and at the end of this day…if you didn’t need help getting dressed, feeding yourself, preparing a meal, walking without pain, breathed without struggle, drove yourself wherever you wanted, and have money enough to buy what you want, then stop counting my blessings and start counting your own!