Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Yesterday was a wonderful day for our family. That, in itself, carries such significance!

With my son Tim at the ready in case Steve woke up, I snuck out for an early morning row on Lake Union. My friend Kim had returned from Detective School. She and I, and a new friend Suze, took off in skinny racing singles. We headed off to the south end of Lake Union, back up to Ivar's Salmon House, and back to the boat house.

My last two rowing days have graced us with the most pristine water I've ever seen: glass water without even a ripple. Magical.

Returning home, I "quickly" hooked Steve up to hemodialysis; with fistula challenges, I still plan for an hour "going on." The run was fraught with "nit-nit" alarms from the machine - requiring me to interrupt my gift wrapping repeatedly. Steve passed the time with the help of a visit from friend Mark Mead - decked out in the non-traditional Santa hat which had been handed down from our family math teacher, the late George Mead, Sr.

But then, with minutes to go, Brita and I worked furiously to get Steve ready and help him into him into that fabulous, candy-apple-red electric wheel chair.

Dr. Thakur had said - the day before - "Next time I see you, I want to see your own personal markings on that chair - decals with flames..."

"Oh, there are markings," Steve said. "Chunks of plaster from my driving."

And he's right; the driving is dicey. There are two ranges of speed for the fancy-dancy electric wheelchair, represented by the icons of a tortoise and a hare! Brita is skilled at driving it - ready for Murderball (fabuous film about para-basketball); Steve is nearly there himself.

 Arriving by Metro Access bus at Anthony's Homeport Restaurant in Shileshole, we were greeted by the whole family: my 93-year-old mother who hosted the event, Steve's sister Carole, friend Ann, my son Tim, my sister Bonnie with her husband Alan, their kids Mike with his bride-to-be Melissa, and Michelle with the star of the show - Mason.

Michelle and Mason contemplate the menu at Anthony's
At 22 months, towheaded Mason looked jaunty in the always-appropriate crisp white shirt, a classic hounds tooth vest and and holiday red tie. But no doubt about it, Mason didn't care about his fashion statement; he was eyeing the joystick on Steve's electric wheelchair!

It was a lovely meal, a beautiful setting over the water. We had a wonderful time, as we have for decades now. The cast changes a bit, but the tradition has been going on for over two decades.

Steve, Brita, and I had to get back home by Access bus, on their schedule, of course. But the wheelchair lift was fascinating to Mason, and our trip back home was triumphant.

Steve with his "support staff" behind him: from left, Linda, Brita, and Carole
 By all accounts, this was a bonus Christmas! Had anyone told me we'd be enjoying this back in March when Steve's cardiac ejection fraction was only 15 percent, I would have thought them cruel; it would have seemed simply unfathomable. 

Yet, there we were: a family impacted in so many ways by the harshness of serious illness, but present and loving...and persisting! Victorious, by any measure. Who would have thought?

Merry Christmas, and take care.
Linda Gromko, MD

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