When I was a youngster, Thanksgiving meant Ritz crackers and cheese, mince meat and pumpkin pie made from scratch by my grandma, cranberry sauce, yams, turkey, rolls, olives and movie marathons. I always looked forward to my grandpa stopping by to drop off the pies and chatting with my mom over a cup of coffee. We never had any large family get togethers but it always included mom, dad, myself and my two younger sisters.
Over the years, as my nieces and nephews have grown and my sisters have moved away, we have had a few big gatherings. We would have a houseful – people sleeping in the spare bedroom, on the couch, air mattress and the floor. These were Christian’s favorite Thanksgivings.
For the last 2 years, the three of us have had a quiet meal while the fourth chair remains empty. We will visit the cemetery tomorrow morning and do our best to enjoy another Thanksgiving without our boy. Christian always loved and appreciated his Thanksgiving meal. He also remained thankful for the smallest of things until his last breath.
Every time I see something beautiful, I wonder if Christian is showing me what he always appreciated while he was on this earth.
I am thankful each and every day that I was able to take care of Christian for 21 years. I am thankful for the conversations we had while I cared for him, the things he did to make me smile and for the strength I had to care for my boys with little to no help. I am thankful for everything Christian taught me and for the things I continue to learn as I care for Andrew. When you care for someone who cannot leave the house because of their failing health, you learn just what we should truly be thankful for – a dove on the sidewalk, the warmth of a blanket fresh out of the dryer, a short visit from a dear friend, music, hugs, a birdsong, the smell of fresh coffee, a clean house or hearing the sound of the warm air flowing through the vents on a chilly winter night. The more I become thankful for, the more reasons I find to praise God. Praising God for the small miracles opens our hearts to the bigger gifts. Our lives become filled with peace and unexplainable joy as we carry Thankgiving into our everyday lives.
Tomorrow is the Daytona 500. We are usually excited but even more so this year since we will be going to the race in Las Vegas next month. When we received our tickets it was bittersweet because only three arrived in the mail instead of four.
In years past, we invited friends over to watch the race or made sure we had plenty of pizza and snacks to celebrate. Over the years the boys started watching more races and picked their favorite drivers. Drew is a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan and Christian liked Jeff Gordon. You can imagine our disappointment when Jeff Gordon announced his retirement, which just happened to be the year after we lost Christian. It was bizarre seeing Jeff Gordon in the announcers booth with a suit on instead of on pit road in his fire suit. I know Christian would have been bummed out not seeing the Dupont car on the track.
Since we lost Christian, I cannot hold the tears back as the National Anthem is performed or when Darrell Waltrip yells “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity! Let’s go racing!” I would like to share some photos of our trips to Las Vegas to see the race. Christian and I just loved it when Darrell would yell at the beginning of each race so if you get the chance to tune in, even just for the “Boogity,” say it out loud for my son. Enjoy!
The last thing Christian asked me to do with him was play Mario Kart. At the time, neither of us knew that it was our last chance to play together. He beat me every time but it was still fun to play. About a week after he passed away, I bought a WiiU. Christian used a Playstation and Game Cube but wasn’t sure if he would be able to handle the larger controller that came with the Wii. I had an evening by myself and I fired it up. Once I chose my character and started to play, my heart ached. Christian talked about playing on the Wii and how much he knew I would enjoy the graphics for Mario Kart. I felt close to him and my heart ached at the same time because I was not able to share it with him.
Due to the nature of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, my sons were never able to ride a bike without training wheels or join the basketball team. Video games became something they could easily do and enjoy. Andrew plays Destiny on his PS4 often and has gained a group of online friends. In Montana, the winters are long and cold, making it difficult for people with disabilities to leave the house. He is able to socialize with his friends while he plays and has become quite passionate about the game. Christian was able to continue playing until the night before we lost him. His hands just stopped working. I will never forgot the look on his face when he told me he couldn’t hold the controller anymore.
I think we all need to play video games every now and then. I played Mario Kart with Andrew last night and sorely lost, but it was fun and relaxing. It is so easy to say no, I would rather not. We never realize how fast our children grow until it’s too late and we are not cool enough to hang out with them. It becomes more real when your children are diagnosed with a life threatening condition. We can all benefit from putting our seemingly endless list of obligations on the back burner to play a game with our kids.
I wanted to play video games with Christian that last day but his needs were great and we didn’t have any help. I really hope Christian smiles down from heaven as I pick up that controller a few times a week and practice so I can kick Andrew’s tail next time!
This afternoon we sat down to play Yahtzee. Not an electronic form on the computer but the real, noisy, dice flying across the table version of Yahtzee. Ever since the boys were young, we enjoyed playing all sorts of boardgames.
When I was a youngster, the most technologically advanced item we owned was a television – the giant boxy kind with wood accents that sat on the floor. No remotes. Get up and turn the dial to turn up the volume. We also owned Connect Four and Monopoly. My favorite was Connect Four. It was easiest to understand, more so than Monopoly. Since we weren’t quite old enough to understand the concept of owning property and making improvements, we would fight over who got the cute little dog game piece and make our own rules. I still remember the excitement when Yahtzee first came out. It was the first game I remember playing with my sister and my mother. We went camping and enjoyed playing it on rainy days when we were stuck in the camper.
As the boys grew older, we started playing Life and different versions of Uno. Our favorite was Uno Attack. The game concept is the same as regular Uno but there are cards that instruct you to press a button. Once you press it, a random amount of cards comes flying out at you. The boys would laugh as the cards flew in their faces! I also taught them how to play Monopoly and we picked up a game in Spokane called Killer Bunnies. Killer Bunnies is the most awesome game ever played in our house. I may as well do a separate blog post because it’s so awesome.
As Christian’s pain increased and his arms became too weak, he became unable to play most games. It hurts to remember how much he had lost, even something so simple and basic as playing a game of cards. Board games are a way to connect with loved ones in a way that is far too rare in today’s world. It is too easy to pick up our phones and play a little Candy Crush than to walk over to the closet and pull a game or two down. Throw on some good music, grab some drinks and snacks and make some memories with your favorite board games. What are your favorites, old or new?