Monday, November 30, 2015

Heart to Heart

My word for 2015 is heart. You can read more about that goal here

We planned to stay home for Thanksgiving this year. I had a turkey thawing in the fridge and was sitting down to make a grocery list when my phone pinged with a text alert.

It was Brad's mom, Janie.

"I was wondering if you guys could come for Thanksgiving? Greg gets 4 hours to come home. :) Pretty short notice for ya all and you probably have plans, but I'd sure love it and Greg would too. Dan has 2 turkeys we're roasting up. And I'll make cherry pies. Pleeeeease come."

How could we say no? 

We didn't.
The Thanksgiving dinner dishes and extra tables and chairs were quickly disappearing. Leftover turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce were tucked in their cozy refrigerated bed, waiting for the next day's much anticipated sandwiches. Family was scattered around, some running with cousins, some waiting for the gluttony to wear off a bit before indulging in pie.

Greg sat dressed in his familiar jeans and sweater, watching the family bustling all around him. I don't remember what errand I was completing, but when he invited me to sit next to him on the couch, I immediately detoured to his side.

That's when it happened--the conversation I thought we'd never have again.

I didn't care what we talked about, to be honest. Mostly we talked about graduate school and why he had stopped short of completing his dissertation. He never regretted abandoning his Spanish PhD because the work completed in the Ivory Linguistics Tower "never helped anyone." He spoke of initially finding his career path as a way to provide for his family and the fulfillment he has found in helping other families prepare for their futures.

Then he listened to me. He asked what I hoped to accomplish and why. Unlike his own graduate studies, he saw the positive in my ideas. He cut through the academic crapola and focused me on the fundamental reason I want to return to school--I want to help people. In his mind, this motive justifies the whole experiment. Suddenly, I saw things more clearly than I have in weeks. We talked dissertation possibilities and the time commitment necessary to write one. I confided in him my concern that a doctorate would take too much time away from my family. His answer resonated with me. "I guess you'll never know until you dive in, will you?" He commended my desire to help others and assuaged my worries. "I've never known you to do something halfway. If anyone can manage it all, you can."

And then it was time for pie.

Pie is important on Thanksgiving. Pumpkin pie. French silk pie. Coconut cream, apple, cherry pie. All lined up on the counter next to a freshly whipped bowl of sweetened cream and a tub of vanilla ice cream.

Our conversation may have ended, but that moment and that conversation still swirled in my head. Just a month earlier, Greg was facing his toughest struggle--recovering from an aneurysm and subsequent stroke. Full recovery was such a slight possibility, it would be miraculous. And there we were just forty days later, sitting on the couch discussing education and theses and theory like those forty days in the hospital hadn't happened. Sure, there are some changes in him. Forty days in the hospital snatched 33 pounds from his body and the color from his skin. The aneurysm and stroke stole some of his fine motor skills. But I had spent twenty minutes on the couch sitting next to a living, breathing, walking, talking, processing, interacting miracle. And I knew it.

Janie bustled by me, thrilled to be serving her family in her home with her husband on the couch asking for a slice of pie. Before she could pass me, I reached out and hugged her, with tears running down my cheeks. "I never thought we would talk like that ever again. I'm so thankful." Her eyes moistened as she squeezed me tight. "Me neither."

And then it really was time for pie.


  1. What a blessing! Reminds me so much of how I felt after my mom's strokes. Each time, it seemed less likely she'd make it all the way back to us cognitively, yet each time, she did. And how we value every conversation with her now. So glad for this outcome for your father-in-law. 😊

  2. WOW. What a beautiful blessing and memory. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Ok, who is the photographer in your family who captures special moments like these? I must know!
    I'm so glad your father in law was able to be at Thanksgiving with his family and that all of you were able to be there too.

    1. Brad walked by with his phone and caught this moment. I will be always grateful.