Thanksgiving, and Giving Thanks

Yes, I’m going to write a Thanksgiving post. Why? Because of all the people I know, I believe that I have more to be thankful for than all the rest combined.

I am truly blessed.

For example: on Halloween Day, I got a call from our neighbor, Sylvia. She asked me (rather cryptically, which is kinda her style) to step outside and meet her on the driveway. She met me there with an envelope and a teary hug. “I wish I could do more, Sweetie. I love you both so much”, then she walked back inside before I could even mumble a confused ‘thank you’.

Of course, there was a pretty greeting card with cash in it. This isn’t the first time Sylvia has reached out to us in this manner, though it’s usually after I’ve done her some small favor. And it’s never been quite so much before, either.
But that wasn’t the end of it. Not by a bit.

Not an hour later, Gunter, our neighbor on the other side of the house, called and asked me to meet him out front. Trudy had done some cooking for us, and he wanted to bring it over. No, Jacquelynn can’t eat it, but it’s kind and generous and I can eat it, so it still saves us energy and money. Of course, Gunter also has an envelope in his hand. As he hands it to me, he tells me to expect more; the entire neighborhood has gotten together, he said, and there is much more coming. He wasn’t wrong.

Shortly afterward, a knock comes on our laundry room door that opens into the garage (we generally leave the garage open for ingress, as it’s much easier for most than our front porch access). This time, it’s the neighbor from 2 houses down, Marylu, who I would eventually learn had orchestrated the whole drive. With a quick “Happy Halloween”, she hands me a plastic pumpkin bucket full of envelopes and darts off, my shouted “THANK YOU!” garnering a wave as she strode quickly away.

$505. Yes, our neighbors pooled together and contributed a total of five hundred and five dollars to us on Halloween day.

Since that time via our GoFundMe campaign and other avenues, family, friends, and friends of friends have added four times that much, allowing us to meet our mortgage obligations and to stave off the wolves until my new job can begin to generate sufficient income to sustain us.

We have SO MUCH for which to be grateful.

Oh, that job I mentioned? I tried to work a couple of different jobs. Leaving Jacquelynn home alone simply was not viable. Even though her dear friend Joyce visited her and provided her company, she was still alone for a couple of hours each day, and it simply couldn’t sustain.  So, an old co-worker and eventual manager at one of the car dealerships I worked for reached out to me with an idea. He is general manager now at a different dealer. What if, he proposed, I could figure out a way for you to stay home and work internet leads for me? Would you be interested?  We’re three weeks in now, and it’s working out great. I’m generating income for the dealer and for myself, and they’re already looking at expanding my role.

SO, grateful.

Which brings me to today.

Over the last twenty months, I’ve tried every recommended way to engage Jacquelynn’s mind and get it/her excited about working toward recovery. Some have shown a little success, but most lasted only a very short time because she simply didn’t really enjoy it, didn’t truly engage.

Late July 1999: Jacquelynn has invited me to her home for the first time. During the course of the afternoon, she teaches me a game I’ve never before encountered; Pente, an adaptation of Japanese game ninuki-renju, one of the oldest strategy games in the world. it’s a simple concept, but very layered in that excelling at it requires advanced, five-steps-ahead thinking. Of course, she completely kicks my ass at it. This pattern will continue for the next eight or nine years until the leathern playing surface and its two back of colored glass stones move to the back of the game cabinet, forgotten and gathering dust.

Over the weekend, I spotted the dusty game set while perusing Christmas decorations. Upon mentioning it to Jacquelynn, her face absolutely lit up. Would I help me try to relearn it? PLEASE?!?!

Today was experiment #1, and her face is still lit up seven hours later. It was nothing instant, but coaching her through the most basic steps, she began smiling quite quickly. I could see her responding to my carefully paced explanations of her options with every new play. The key moment was when I presented her with a scenario which allowed her to choose between a defensive or offensive posture. Just exactly like the Jacquelynn of old, she went on the offense, sacrificing two of her pieces in the hope of setting me up as her prey in the future. She was having an absolute blast. On mutual agreement, we only played for about 20 minutes so as to prevent her getting either bored or frustrated.
But she was on a high for quite a while. It even seemed to bubble over into the next few hours, too; we were watching an old episode of Destination Truth, and she was accurately describing to me how it ends. This from a woman who just recently watched the same episode of Leverage (we love that show) twice in less than a week and remarked that she had never seen it before.

I’m not going to start pretending that we’ve hit the secret code to igniting her total recovery, but seeing her so excited and actively working things out was pretty moving. We’re going to revisit the game daily for a few weeks, and I’ll keep you informed as to the progress.

So, yeah.



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