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Exasperation, Frustration with Holiday Fluctuations
Gaile Lynn Hall Beizavi
Expectations of the upcoming holidays can make all of us perceive and endure highs and lows. Individuals who are burdened with infirmities may want to stick their noggins into their hard-cased armor—but we have to be adventurous and get out of our shells. We may feel that our illnesses are who we are! This is far from the truth. We all have to get past the mental block that we do not "fit into the norm.” We have to understand that we are so much more to society, that whatever illnesses may plague our bodies do not harrow our intellect.
I have a wonderful heartfelt story to share. Sometimes I wonder if I would like to admit it, but it is a true story, and it was very much of a part of my life.
A Holiday Tale
Our family had a dog named Pepper. He was an Australian shepherd and was a very intelligent member of our family. He thought that the neck of the woods where we lived was totally his personal area, and he roamed as he pleased. Pepper also loved to go in the family car.
Every year Pepper would dictate a Christmas letter to all of our neighbors and he would tell them what went on at the Beizavis’ house (I would help a little). Pepper would share all the things that the Beizavi children did and got in trouble for. He had a wonderful way of bringing laughter to our spirits. All of our neighbors enjoyed the gossip that Pepper warmly shared.
One Christmas Eve, I was trying to get supper on and finish up all of the loose ends so things would go well when our neighbors and friends stopped by the house after church service. I went to the store to get a few bits for the festive party that evening, and when I got home, Pepper was in the driveway waiting for me. I pulled into the driveway, got out of the car, and walked around the front of the car to open the side door. Guess who jumped in? Pepper.
Not only did he jump into the nice warm vehicle, he locked the doors. There was Pepper, with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, saying, "All right mommy. I am ready to go!” I had to go into the house to get the spare key so I could unlock the car doors and lure Pepper out. Mind you, we live on the upper East Coast of the United States, where we get lots of snow. One more thing I should mention is that I have transverse myelitis and I walk with a Canadian crutch (a crutch that provides support at the forearm, instead of under the armpit).
I got Pepper out of the car and decided I should get the mail. I walked with my Canadian crutch out to the mailbox…and fell over into a snow bank. Great. Being headfirst in the embankment was just what I needed. Pepper came to my "aid.” I was trying to get out of the deep snow by placing both hands in front of me and getting into a crawl position, and he thought we were playing a game!
I was now a bit perplexed. It was so cold, and my gloves were in the house. I heard a car as I struggled in the deep snow and I heard…guess who…Pepper, barking his lungs out. Someone was there, but as I was headfirst in the snow bank, I was not much help.
A lady got out of her car and in a high voice yelled, "Bad dog! What are you doing in the road? You are supposed to be chained up! Who is your owner?” I forgot to mention that my dog cannot speak English. For that matter, he cannot speak at all. I do not think the lady knew of my predicament or that I was stuck headfirst in the embankment.
Pepper was near me, trying to help me, and I was trying my hardest to grab hold of his body so I could get out of the snow bank. I finally got him and pushed myself up to a sitting position. Then I could see that this lady had her cell phone in her hand and was calling someone.
Pepper had rescued me from the snow bank and by now I was standing, holding on to him. The lady turned my way and her shocked expression turned to panic. I thought she understood then that the dog had been trying to help me get out of a sticky situation. She looked a bit green.
She came over to me, and as she walked towards me, I saw a vehicle coming up the road. What kind of vehicle? A police car. I was thinking, "Oh, my golly.” Then she started screaming at the dog, "Get away from that lady! You bad dog.” I tried to explain that the dog was a member of our family and that I fell into the snow bank trying to get the mail. She said, "Oh, oh, oh. I thought he was a malicious stray. He was not on a leash and he was just wandering around.”
"No, he isn’t,” I told her, with my teeth chattering.
The police officer could see the problem and came to help me out of the snowy snow bank. I knew him and greeted him, and he helped me get my cane. He said hello to Pepper and helped me get into the house. I was so thankful that the situation did not get out of hand, and I chuckled. I was so amused by all this commotion.
A New Friend
The lady followed us into the house. She told me how terribly sorry she was for having called the police on the dog. She thought he was causing annoyance in our fine, upstanding neighborhood. Come to find out, after this whole comical, amusing predicament, the lady was a new neighbor who had moved in just a few months ago. She lived alone and was suffering from the loss of her husband, who had died a year before from lung cancer.
I was feeling a bit warmer and invited the woman to have some hot tea with me. She told me she was afflicted with a distressing illness, and that due to this malady she felt it was extremely difficult for her to meet people and enjoy the company of others.
I told her she should not feel this way. I told her she is not her illness, and that people are kind and interesting for companionship. I also explained I had an illness, but one has to go past the idea that we are sick. We have to understand—in our own heads—that even though we suffer from an illness, we can still enjoy the company of others. Our illnesses are not who we are; we are so much more than our illnesses.
That lady became a good friend. Later that evening I invited her to the holiday get-together. She met an older gentleman who had recently lost his wife to illness. That was ten years ago. Today they are married.
I understand about not feeling comfortable due to an illness. But we are alive, and we must always understand—with our minds and our hearts—that when people are attending a festive party or event it is not about eating, or having a big job. That is not why people come together and visit one another.
Look deeper, and you will understand that getting together with old friends and new acquaintances is a vital factor that we all need in each of our daily lives. I have had a G-J tube and I felt a bit weird at first, but I have gone to different events and know this: that people who come together for events or holiday parties do not come just to eat. They come to share heartfelt stories about what they have experienced, what things their families are doing, that their children are grown, and so forth.
It is not about eating. The food is placed out where the hungry traveler will have some nourishment and a beverage to drink to combat his or her parched throat. It is not the main object or end result of the gathering. Remember that festive events are a way of getting people together who have not seen each other for a while, to give them a chance to visit one another.
So get out of your armor and go to those parties, go shopping, do things that all of the rest of the people are doing—and do it with love and joy. Nothing is stopping you. The only thing that would prevent you from enjoying another person’s company or heartfelt stories is you.
LifelineLetter, November/December 2011