Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Giving Thanks and Giving Back

It's that time of year- when my blog is quiet but I am typing up a storm on Facebook. Why? It's Thanksgiving- specifically, time for the NICU Thanksgiving.

I'm a holiday nut. I love Halloween, candy and cute kids in costumes. I like black cats in pumpkins and trick or treating. I love Christmas, snow, hot coco and nativities. I love driving around looking at lights and Christmas  music on radio stations.

And, yes, I love Thanksgiving too.

Like so many people, Thanksgiving is all about the smells and bells. The smell of turkey in the oven, stuffing the bird with my mother and making rolls... always, always Sunshine Rolls. It's about the Macy's Thanksgiving parade on TV and our current "family of choice" (ie, close friends) coming over for more food than we can eat, displayed proudly on my grandparents china.

Through our married years, we've split up Thanksgiving; one year, at my parents house, the next at the in-laws, occasionally hosting our own. In 2007, I convinced Adam to make a turkey on the grill,  just like his mother had made for several non-Thanksgiving occasions. He did and I was hooked. From now on, I said, Thanksgiving will be at our house because I WANT that lovely, moist, succilant grilled bird.

In 2008, though, it didn't happen. Thanksgiving was the last thing on our mind, an after thought. Georgie was still in the hospital and I was on auto pilot, running between the house and hospital. My in-laws told us they would host that year and we gladly accepted. You could see the hospital from their backyard, so I would be able to pop in between feedings and pumpings.

It was Adam who had the first idea to bring Thanksgiving TO the NICU parents. We were talking about how lucky we were, with Georgie being big, getting healthy and having the easy preemie ride. There were other people, we knew, hours away from friends and family, having to chose between being with their baby or being at home. People were living out of hotels or the Ronald McDonald House and while the cafeteria was servings dinner... well, mashed potato flakes anyone? Yeah. Me too.

I thought it was a great idea and even though it was VERY last minute, the social worker scrambled to get us a room and spread the word. I have no idea how many people ate Adam's grilled turkey, green bean casserole, stuffing and BBQ sauce "gravy" but we fed people- and there were leftovers for the next day.

In 2009, we wanted to do it again. No one should have to chose between a nice meal and their sick baby so, of course, a nice meal should come to them. We donated the cooked turkey and, through FB, got other parents of NICU graduates to donate everything else. We had sides, stuffing, rolls, butter, desserts, drinks, turkey,,, and more love than you can count.

It's 2010 and our third Thanksgiving dinner to the NICU. We're still fine tuning the process. I called the NICU today to finialize the time/location and am praying that everything goes smoothly. Once again, Adam will be up early to cook the bird and I will take everything to the hospital. I set up and leave; in a few years, I hope to stay to serve the meal. In many years, I hope to take the children with me. They need to see where their brother's life was saved; Georgie needs to know the people who took care of him when he was sick.

Thanksgiving at the NICU isn't about us giving back- it's about all the parents remembering what it was like spending days, weeks, months at your child's bedside, hoping and praying they would come home. It's about remembering how lonely a nd isolating the NICU can be and just needing someone to talk too. It's about remember the need for good soul food and good souls... for knowing that there is life at the NICU and you want to show those SuperBabies in Training what it looks like. We're giving thanks for our child and their medical caregivers and giving back what was given to us. It's a small re-payment, but a start.

A tiny start, just like our children. But a start, a shot, a chance, one day to make a difference... just like our kids had.

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