I learned long ago that there is a huge silver lining to our challenging situation. Here is my gratitude list for this trip:
Modern Medicine: We originally came to Shriners (Philadelphia) for their progressive surgical techniques for scoliosis patients. We had two goals: keep Ben's spine flexible and let it grow. We were fortunate to be selected for their care, their expertise and their mission. Dr. Betz (who innovated these techniques) and Dr. Cahill who was Ben’s first surgeon in Philly started us out on a great road. We accomplished the second of our goals largely due to Dr. Cahill’s belief in and skill with these techniques. When we met Dr. Cho in Los Angeles last November we were immediately impressed with him and felt confident that moving Ben to his care would be a positive choice. His skill, confidence, and vibrant demeanor (ok, he’s got a great smile, a great sense of humor, is an excellent communicator, and a snappy dresser) convinced us to move to the LA hospital. Being closer to home both for the pre/post-op visits and for the surgeries has made a huge difference for us. So glad to be in the care of such excellent doctors!
The Kindness of Strangers: While I was planning for this trip I was trying to find a good place to stay while Ben was in the hospital. Near the hospital but in a safe neighborhood. Affordable. Comfortable. Homey, if possible. I kept coming up short. The hospital is in a not so great neighborhood and I couldn’t find a solution that felt like a good fit and was something we could afford. That was when my friends Barbara and Madeleine told me to talk to Paula, someone I know peripherally from my days in LA teaching music at Sholem, a secular Jewish community Sunday school, and who is a friend of theirs in Sebastopol. “Ask Paula,” they both said. “She still knows lots of people in LA.” So I did. Paula put out an email one Sunday to the Sholem community and by Monday I had a response from Susan and Marc Sazer inviting me to stay in their guest room in the Larchmont neighborhood of LA. We spoke and I accepted and…a friendship was born. I am BEYOND grateful for their openheartedness in taking me in. What I got from staying with them was not only a convenient and comfortable place to stay within 10 minutes easy drive to the hospital, but, a loving, warm, and beautiful home to return to every night with friends who wanted to know how I was doing and how Ben was doing. Their dog, Goldie, was my happy companion during the three days they were gone (setting their daughter up at Sonoma State for her freshman year, happy coincidence!), greeting me the way Corgis do, so delighted to usher me through the house to my little guest cottage in the back. Goldie made me smile and kept me company. Susan gave me hugs and a welcome ear to hear of the day’s ups and downs, and Marc uncorked some great wine and grilled up some tasty lamb chops on my last night with them. I deeply believe that what you put out into the universe comes back to you…and I told Susan that they are another link in our chain. (And who could argue with the lovely coincidence of another Susan and Mark/c?)
The Kindness (and tolerance) of Relatives: My gratitude list would not be complete without a full blown kiss and hug and thank you to my aunt and uncle, Adele and Sheldon Miller. They took us in (even a couple days earlier than expected) for over a week and tried to take care of our every need (though we sometimes said, “No, Me Do It!” like toddlers). They wanted nothing more than for us to be happy and healing in their quiet and luxurious home. We got nightly runs for frozen yogurt or pizza, daily runs to Sprouts or Costco. The most comfortable beds were ours for the asking. Wide screen tv. Wifi. We spread out in every bathroom and extra bedroom. And finally, yesterday we got to jump (or wade cautiously) into their sparkling blue swimming pool (Dr. Cho gave Ben the go-ahead for that Tuesday). We enjoyed their stories, love, hugs, and tasty dinners. Thank you thank you thank you, Sheldon and Adele.
Harry Miller: While we were in LA Harry held down the fort. This is not the first time he’s stayed home while we were in LA, but it was the longest time and he was alone for most of it. Not only did he take care of himself and the whole house and all of our critters, but he did it while starting a job at the Sixth Street Playhouse making props for Spamalot, getting hired to be assistant stage manager for that show, and starting a new semester of classes at Santa Rosa Junior College. We’re so grateful to you, Harry, for doing all that for our family, and so proud of you, too.
Toby Miller: Toby was away at camp until moments before Ben and I went to LA for his surgery. We saw Toby for a couple hours in between picking him up from the Camp Tawonga bus and dropping Ben and me at Oakland Airport. After that Toby, otherwise known as Mr. Flexible and Good Natured, went on a whirlwind tour of friends and family staying with: the Boss-Talmans in San Francisco, Cousin Joel in San Francisco, the Nixons in Cloverdale, the Grovers in Oakland, and finally Nana in Oakland. I heard from him every other day or so. He missed me (us) but he did just fine and from all reports he was a good guest and fun to be around. I’m so proud of him. It’s a wonderful life skill to be able to go with the flow and be polite and accommodating and accepting of other people when you’re under some amount of stress (worrying about your brother and missing your family) for an extended period. Proud of you, Tobe.
More loving friends: To the many friends who drove way out of their way to come take care of me, of Mark and me, and Ben with goodies, companionship, and distraction during our two plus weeks here in LA: THANK YOU. You made this period almost feel like a vacation, and I so appreciate that.
Today we head back into LA to visit my lil’ sis, Jenn, and then off to the airport to return home. Looking forward to seeing my honey back at our lovely little rinky-dink Santa Rosa Airport, and all my boys back at Three Boys Farm (and yes, that includes our two cats, two mini-donkeys, and our horse). So glad to be returning with a hale, healthy and TALL middle boy. It’s been quite the time.