I haven’t done the math, but I’m pretty sure I’ve posted more than a week’s worth of celebrating the ordinary topics for Marie’s blog challenge. I’ve never been one to color inside the lines, so if I post more than a week’s worth it will come as no surprise.
Today’s topic: handwritten thank you notes. I love them. I’ve written about my love for them before, and likely will again. I’m a sucker for good paper products, and have a stash of folded notes, flat cards, and all varieties of stationery. I recently had occasion to write a thank you note to a cop. No, not a bribe or a buttering-up, but a genuine expression of gratitude. My favorite girl and I had a car crash on a rainy highway last month, and ended up stranded for a few hours because of deployed airbags. The sheriff who was the first on the scene was a peach. He was calm, patient, and knowledgable. He stayed with us from start to finish, even though it was hot & humid on a late summer afternoon following a Gulf Coast rainstorm and even though he found himself in a patch of fire ants that bit him mercilessly. He engaged my favorite girl with everyday conversation to reassure her and get her mind off the scary scene she had just starred in; she runs toward a bit of worry and anxiety, and he recognized this right away and did the gentle work to calm her. I was busy putting on a brave face, so passing that job off to him was a relief.
When the tow truck arrived to haul away my battered car, the sheriff chatted with the driver as he did his work. When The Hubs arrived to drive the girl and me home, the sheriff admired The Hubs’ car and spent a few more minutes of his long day talking horsepower and zero-to-60 stats.
All told, the sheriff went above and beyond in doing his job that day. At one point I told him how much I appreciated him hanging out with us until our ride arrived. He mentioned that he’s the father of two girls and that he’d hope someone would do the same for his wife and kids if they were in our shoes. And that the stretch of highway we happened to be stranded on is a bit of a rough patch, known for being populated by drug runners moving product from The Valley to Houston. He’s seen some ugly stuff on that stretch of road, and said he just wouldn’t feel right about leaving us to fend for ourselves.
After we got home, I thought about how kind the sheriff was and how he made a terrible situation bearable. I sat down to write him a note expressing my gratitude. He’d given me his business card, so I had the address of the sheriff’s office. Write a few lines, lick the envelope shut, slap on a stamp and I was good to go. But I wasn’t quite done. I googled the sheriff’s office to find an email address for the sheriff’s boss. Figured he needed to know what an outstanding job his charge had done. I imagine they get plenty of complaints at the sheriff’s office, so why not take a few minutes to pay them a compliment? Trouble was, there was no email address, so I printed off a copy, put it in an envelope and sent it old-school style. Snail mail.
I didn’t think much of it as I waded through the insurance red tape and dealt with my service advisor at the dealership. Days ran into weeks, time passed, and the upsetting incident on the side of the highway faded into a memory. Then a few days ago I got a call from the sheriff’s office. My first thought was something bad: the sheriff had forgotten to write me a ticket, or some other trouble. But no, it was just the opposite: the sheriff’s boss’s boss was calling me to say he’d read the thank you note I wrote to the sheriff and to the sheriff’s boss, and he wanted to tell me that in all his years of law enforcement, they’ve never received a thank you note. Not once.
That’s a crying shame.
I’m certain I’m not the first person who’s had a positive experience with the Victoria County Sheriff. Yet I was the first person to take five minutes out of my day and spend 44 cents on a stamp to say thanks, you really made a difference in my life? I was shocked. I still am shocked.
The Deputy Commander wanted to know why I took the time to write a note to the sheriff and to his boss. I didn’t have an answer beyond, “Because that’s the way my mama raised me.” As my dad instilled in me my entire life, “It’s just what you do.” And now I know that this simple, ordinary act — one my mama taught me — means something. It always means something to me when I write a thank you note, and it’s nice to know that it means something to the recipient as well.
The best part: Mr Deputy Commander said the sheriff is up for a promotion, to a detective, and that my two notes would be a part of the review process. Who knows, maybe a couple of notes will be the tipping point and he’ll get the job. Then he can write me a thank you note!
Antibiotics. The mere sight of that word makes my skin crawl and my stomach clench, but I have to be a big girl and take these damned drugs. Again. It’s for a short time this time, which is good, and for which I should be grateful.
Just like I should be grateful that I have enough sense to suggest a prophylactic antibiotic with yet another surgery on the horizon.
I should be grateful that I have comprehensive health insurance and can get 2 prescriptions filled for less than $10.
I should be grateful that even though my Walgreens around the corner had a fire and is closed for a month, there’s another store a few miles away that had my prescriptions ready.
I should be grateful that I have the means to also buy the $50 worth of probiotics I’ll need to keep my intestinal tract from revolting against the onslaught of preventative drugs.
I should be grateful that I have an unlimited supply of Greek yogurt to help the probiotics battle the imbalance of bacteria in my gut.
I should be grateful that I have this forum in which to bitch, moan, and complain about having to go on these damned drugs yet again.
I should be grateful that my cancer wasn’t worse, was caught early, and is manageable.
I should be grateful that although I was one of the unlucky ones to get a post-mastectomy infection that rocked my world and wrecked my summer, I got better. Slowly (veeeeery slowly) and surely, I got better. Mountains were moved, heavens and earth were too, but I got better. Just when I thought it was never going to happen, I got better.
I’ve never been a big fan of all the “shoulds” in our life. I tend to favor a more laissez-faire attitude of do what you want to do, as long as you fulfill obligations and inflict no harm. I’ve also got a bit of a stubborn streak, so as soon as I hear that I “should” do something, my first instinct is to turn around and do the exact opposite. Charming, I know. Seatbelts are the prime example. It’s a state law in Texas — “click it or ticket” — for drivers and front-seat passengers to wear seatbelts. If you’re busted unbuckled, you’ll be looking at a hefty $200 fine. I know full good and well the statistics on seatbelt use and crash fatalities, and of course my kids are buckled every single time we’re in a vehicle. Yes, I know that Princess Diana might well have survived her fatal car crash if she’d been buckled. Same goes for my sweet Uncle Wilford. But I don’t like to wear my seatbelt, because the State of Texas tells me to. My kids usually bust me before a cop has the chance to. They’ll notice I’m unbuckled and fuss at me, so I comply. But I don’t like it.
Sometimes the “shoulds” get the best of me.
I just read, yesterday morning, that Elizabeth Edwards announced that “future cancer treatment would be unproductive” and that she had only months or maybe even weeks to live. And then she died. That same day.
I’m so sad. For her. For her kids. She’s suffered a lot already (let’s not even mention her jackass husband and all the suffering he brought into her life). She wrecked up my childish yet dogged desire to believe in a limited amount of suffering in one person’s life. I wanted to believe that losing my mom would be the worst thing to ever happen to me. So far it is, but when I look at Elizabeth’s Edwards’s life, and the fact that her 16-year-old son was killed in a car crash, I am smacked in the face with the reality that there is no limit to the amount of suffering in one’s life.
Obviously, I don’t know her, but she seemed to have a lot of class, regardless of politics or religion or her jackass of a husband. She lived most of her life in relative obscurity, practicing law and raising the family she vowed to create after Wade was killed. My heart breaks for her remaining children. Cate, who is in her late twenties, will likely become the mama to Emma Claire, 12, and Jack, 10. All three of them will have to navigate the treacherous terrain that is life without their mama. No matter how old you are, you never stop wanting your mom. Former press secretary Jennifer Palmieri said about Elizabeth, “Any room she walked into, she made it a home.”
That’s a real talent.
Elizabeth faced her breast cancer publicly and bravely. She was diagnosed in November 2004 and made headlines when she urged her jackass of a husband to continue his presidential campaign despite her Stage IV cancer.
Stage IV. That’s as bad as it gets, and the fact that she wanted him to continue his dream despite the tumor in her breast and the spots on her rib, lung & hip, is the epitome of selflessness.
She was brave, and she was a fantastic example to cancer patients everywhere that life goes on. Despite diagnosis, life goes on. Despite treatment, life goes on. Despite surgery, life goes on. Despite complications, life goes on. Despite John Edwards making a fool of himself and a mockery of all that his family held dear, life goes on.
And life did go on for Elizabeth. She worked hard: raising her family, writing 2 books, advising President Obama on health care reform, and doing her best to make a difference–for her family, for countless cancer patients, and for herself. Although she was all these things: attorney, author, advisor, advocate, she said often and proudly that her job was to be a mom.
She knew her cancer wasn’t curable, but treatable. She did all the right things and tried to stay strong, despite life on the campaign trail.
Her final statement reflects upon the kind of person she was and the sheer strength she embodied:
“You all know that I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces – my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope. These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined. The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And, yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful. It isn’t possible to put into words the love and gratitude I feel to everyone who has and continues to support and inspire me every day. To you I simply say: you know.”
In a 2007 interview she spoke realistically about her cancer, saying, “When I was first diagnosed, I was going to beat this. I was going to be the champion of cancer. And I don’t have that feeling now. The cancer will eventually kill me. It’s going to win this fight.”
Her cancer did win, but she is a champion nonetheless. Rest in peace, Elizabeth.