On Thanksgiving Day I went to INOVA Fairfax Hospital to get a blood transfusion. It turned into four.
It was, naturally, not what I was expecting. It was Turkey Day and my extended family was busy preparing for the big annual feast at Aunt Clara’s house in Springfield. All the family members bring snacks and side-dishes and pies and Aunt Clara makes the turkey. Grandchildren are often assigned setting the tables (we just keep adding tables to the main dining room table until they all end up in the living room).
Apparently, that’s a family tradition too. My great Aunt Pauline told me a story at a family reunion about one Thanksgiving in the early 1930’s with the Ailes family in one of those small towns outside Pittsburgh. All the family—there were seven children—including spouses and a couple of grandchildren (there would be many more to come) gathered at my great-grandparents house for the dinner. Aunt Pauline and my great-grandmother were among those busy in the kitchen, while the assortment of young adults and teenage children were together with their father catching up. My grandparents were newlyweds (they had recently eloped) and were getting ready to move to California, where Grandaddy would begin his long career in the United States Navy.
My great-grandmother called all the family to dinner. In their house, the Thanksgiving table actually started in the kitchen and worked its way through the dining room and into the front parlor. It was all dressed with the food laid out on the tables, including the hot steaming turkey just waiting to be carved. As they were all about to sit down, my great-grandfather decided that this was the best moment for a family portrait and said, “All right now, everyone to the park.”
He had arranged as a big surprise to have a professional photographer take a formal portrait of the family down at the town park. He told some of the family to bring their dining room chairs with them and dutifully all the family marched out the door, carrying dining room chairs and to the park, leaving the steaming and delicious dinner that my great-grandmother and Aunt Pauline had been preparing all day.
The last to leave the kitchen were my great-grandmother and Aunt Pauline. Margaret Minford Ailes, my great-grandmother, was the daughter of Glasgow, Scotland, immigrants. She was reserved, but kind. But on that day, she turned to Aunt Pauline as they shut the kitchen door and whispered, “One day, I’m going to kill that man.”
Fortunately, she didn’t.
My Thanksgiving Day turned out quite different, filled with multiple blood transfusions, my first admission to a hospital and a diagnosis that came completely as a surprise.
Here at BabyBlueOnline, I thought I would write about this experience and share with you the journey. I want to tell you that while receiving this life-altering news, the moments have not been without surprises, humor, and even joy. But it’s also been like that moment when you get on a twisting, upside-down, deep plunging roller-coaster at an amusement park thinking it was a good idea and just before it takes off you think, “I really do want to get off now, right now.” But it’s too late. You’re buckled in and (like it or not) you are off on the journey.
I have discovered something significant in these early days of the journey. Yes, there was that moment when Margaret Minford Ailes quietly told Aunt Pauline her thoughts about going to the park—but she went to the park. And in the photograph, she’s smiling. She married that man for better or worse and her abiding commitment and love to her family has been passed down for generations.
Yes, this is my personal journey, it is. That is true.
But my diagnosis turns out to be a significant journey for my family as well. They are taking me on. They are bringing all their gifts and talents and wisdom to the table. I just never completely grasped until now what a gift it is to be part of a family—even one that is as scattered as mine, here they are, here. My diagnosis doesn’t just touch me, it’s touched my whole family. And it seems they are willing to go on the journey too. They have strapped themselves into the roller-coaster and they are ready to go.
Even beyond the borders of my kin, there is family. Jesus said, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:48-50)
This is so true—and I am only beginning to grasp it. I have so far to go. But if this is what is before me, this journey, then it seems that God has prepared the way. And my job is to follow that way, where ever it may lead.
My hope is to share about that journey with you, the twist and turns and sometimes when I might find myself upside down. But God still prepares that way. And that makes all the difference.