By Holly Richardson

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It’s probably not the best mental attitude to have, but I always worry when things are fairly stable in our lives and going relatively smoothly. Why? Because I know “opportunities for growth” are just around the corner. 

Take July, for example….

On June 29th, our son went in for a planned jaw surgery. He’s almost 27, and we’ve been talking about this surgery for at least a decade. COVID delayed us for a year, but we finally arrived at the big day. Now, you should probably know that Josh is mentally normal, but he has some physical disabilities and one portion of that was a severely receded lower jaw. 

Well, the four-hour surgery took seven hours, and instead of an overnight stay, rubber bands on his teeth, and drinking through a straw, we had a nine-day hospital stay (5 in ICU), his jaw wired shut, a tracheotomy, and a feeding tube.


But wait! There’s more!

Because of the surgical complications, the summer vacation plans we were making became “stay-cation” plans. Our kids that live in a different state decided to fly home to visit and almost all of our large family got together for a Sunday dinner. The adults were (mostly) vaccinated against COVID and so were the kids over age 12. 

But, COVID is a sneaky little booger and on Tuesday, one of our adult daughters tested positive. The next Tuesday, I did and by that Friday (just a few days ago), the remainder of our household had it, including Josh. Good times. (The only one not sick is the one who had COVID in January).

I don’t know about you, but when the entire household is sick, including mama, mama is still the primary caretaker. And so it has been in my house.

The real talk? 

I’m tired. I’ve been sleeping on a couch to help Josh with trach and feeding tube care during the night. My hips hurt. It’s been 11 days since my first COVID symptom and I’m still symptomatic. This wretched pandemic feels apocalyptic. My to-do list is not getting any shorter and my dissertation is not writing itself. It’s discouraging to have so many health complications. I was really fearful we would lose Josh and we would have to bury another child. 0 out of 10. Do not recommend. We’ve done it more than once and it’s awful. 

But here’s more real talk: even though I am tired and behind on my to-dos, there is lots to be grateful for.

I am grateful that a medical background and years of experience of a mom with multiple children with disabilities (and a huge mama bear side of me) allowed me to insist that Josh come home where we could care for him and not go to a long-term care facility, like the hospital social worker said needed to happen. When she told me (not asked me) that was going to happen, I literally said “Yeah, no, that’s not going to work for us.”

Shake it off and step up, shake it off and step up. It will get better, and for that, I am grateful.

I’m grateful Josh did not die and even though I cry at the thought, I’m grateful to know that if he does die before me, I will survive. I may not want to at first, but I will.

I am grateful that after years of interrupted sleep, more interrupted sleep didn’t really phase me. 

I’m grateful we DID have COVID vaccines in our house because no one is severely affected by this illness. I’m also grateful for modern medicine. 

I’m grateful we have food storage and a well-stocked house, so that not leaving the house for 2+ weeks is not a great burden.

I’m grateful that July was not a heavily-scheduled month and what we did have was easily changed.

I’m grateful that Josh’s complications kept me and the rest of the family home and away from crowds at concerts and vacation venues where we could have spread COVID.

I’m like that old donkey at the bottom of the well: shake it off and step up, shake it off and step up. It will get better, and for that, I am grateful. No matter how deep and dark the valley, eventually, the sun will shine again. For real. 



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