I remember it as if it were yesterday. We spent an early November night sitting in the stands at Brady Street Stadium in Davenport watching the City High Little Hawks have their season come to an end in the state play-offs. Connie and I then drove home and we were in bed by 10:30. Sometime around 3 a.m. I was awakened when Connie fell out of bed. She was unresponsive and after about 10 seconds of panic, I threw her over my shoulder and put her in the car and off we went to the emergency room at Mercy Hospital. Connie was having a severe stroke and had lost the use of her left arm. At Mercy, it was quickly determined that she would need to be moved to the University of Iowa Hospitals, just across the Iowa River. By 7:30, I found myself sitting alone in the waiting room while a surgeon was being called in to operate on Connie.
So much to do…go home and tell our youngest daughter (who was then a senior at City High), call her two sisters (then both in college out of state), notify Connie’s sister and mother as well as my family and a few of my colleagues at the bank. After that, all I could do was sit and wait and pray. Various friends stopped by the waiting room and two pastors came by, but the minutes seemed to drag.
Connie was wheeled into surgery about 8 a.m. and finally a little after noon, the surgeon came out to give us the news: the surgery had been successful but there was no way to know how much damage had been done or how quickly or full her recovery would be and it would be a good sign if she could “wiggle her fingers” in the next three or four days.
Well, it was only eight hours later that Connie reached up and scratched her nose with her left hand! By then, all three of our daughters were by her bedside and recall that the entire intensive care wing celebrated when this happened! She was out of the hospital two days later and off to rehab. She was home less than ten days after the stroke.
Rehabilitation was swift and consistent progress was realized as Connie worked hard to make her recovery. This was in 2005. In July of 2008, Connie and our oldest daughter, Katie, rode the entire route of RAGBRAI, The Register’s Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. As my physician later told me, “I think your marathon running is fine, but what you have accomplished pales in comparison to what Connie has done.” To this day, our family remains forever thankful that Connie is with us and had such a great outcome from this event.
And so, having a wife who just celebrated her 60th birthday is at the top of my list of things to celebrate this year. As one ages, one starts to notice more of these “events.” Life’s struggles abound, and so many of us – family, friends and co-workers – are forced to endure them. I have also noticed that – while not always – the outcomes from these struggles can often be good. I suspect that many of us emerge from these trials as I did: with a new sense of being thankful for the things that really matter in life.
As you might imagine, the 2005 holiday season was an emotional and powerful one for our family. We realized how truly fortunate we were. And that’s something we have tried not to forget. This holiday season, I am not thinking about our company’s 2017 budget or what this fine company needs to do to be successful over the next five years. Instead, I am giving thanks for this amazing country – warts and all – in which we live. And for my wonderful family. And for the many co-workers in four states who I have come to care about and to appreciate. My list for giving thanks goes on and on.
May this holiday season be special for you and may you find much for which to be thankful.