Readers share their stories of thanks from along the road. I’ll be posting them through this Thanksgiving month. Even though the original deadline has passed, I would love to read more. So if you’re inspired, please consider writing and submitting. Check here for guidelines.
by Jennifer Putnam
It’s funny how what you are thankful for can change from day to day. Six years ago, my son Aiden had a massive stroke and that changed a lot about the way I look at the world.
I used to be so concerned about what Aiden was doing compared to everyone else. I was thankful on the days when he made his way up to the top of the pack with whatever task he was attempting. And then, in the blink of an eye, my focus completely changed. Now my biggest worry is if he will have a happy and independent life, and I am thankful for every small achievement he makes.
I am thankful for the family and friends we have made along my son’s journey as well as the friends who have stuck with us through all the highs and lows. I will be the first to say that it isn’t always easy to be my friend. I have days where I miss our old life and I can be grumpy and no fun to be around. I also need a lot of help because I can never seem to get our hectic schedule right and I am constantly double-booking appointments. I am lucky that my family has found trusted friends willing to pitch in and be a part of our village. They pick me up when I am down and are always willing to shuttle my family from place to place.
As a parent of a special needs child, I think the things that I am truly thankful for may be different from those of many “average” families. I have been known to do a happy dance in the middle of my driveway upon opening a letter from my insurance company letting me know that some previously denied service will now be covered. I am thankful for hospital schedulers who listen to all my crazy questions and spend hours with me on the phone making sure that all my son’s appointments are properly scheduled. And if I can squeeze multiple visits into one trip across the river, I may just cry tears of joy.
I know I am blessed because even after all he has been through, my Aiden walks through life with a smile on his face and love in his heart.
I am thankful for the nights when Aiden puts on his nightly stretching brace without compliant even though I know the brace, which keeps his right hand from becoming a permanently closed fist, hurts him and makes it hard for him to sleep. I know I am blessed because even after all he has been through, my Aiden walks through life with a smile on his face and love in his heart.
Now six years after Aiden’s stroke, I have learned to appreciate all the little things that never crossed my mind to be grateful for before. My family celebrated with ice cream on the night Aiden brought home his standardized test scores and was one level up from the bottom because we were all so thankful that he was not on the bottom level. The day he rode a bike again turned into an all-night party, and the video of him catching and throwing a baseball made him an internet sensation. At least within our family.
But most of all, I am thankful for the “normal” days. The days without doctor’s appointments and therapies. I love the days when my family wakes up and has breakfast together and stays in jammies until noon. Or the nights when we snuggle by the fireplace and watch a movie together and everyone gets along.
I spend an unrealistic part of my life worrying about the future. Will my son go to college? Will he drive a car, get married or have children? Most of all, will he be happy? So much of the time I can’t seem to turn off my brain from these things, but the normal days keep me in the moment and keep my brain out of the unknown future. Some people don’t even think about normal days, but for me, they are something that makes me truly thankful.
Jennifer Putnam is a small business owner, substitute teacher, wife and mother of three. She enjoys writing in her free time.