Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. My mom’s side of the family drives up to our house in Chatham from Maryland, and we all celebrate Thanksgiving together. I love spending time with my family and enjoying a delicious meal. My dad fries a turkey outside and smokes another (and it’s delicious!). My mom makes all the side dishes, from mashed and sweet potatoes to stuffing, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, cranberry sauce, fried oysters, and my favorite, homemade applesauce. My job is to make the drink, and I’ve spent the past two years refining the spiced rum punch recipe. This year‘s was better than last, and it was a big hit with the adults. And we can’t forget all the amazing desserts – pumpkin pie, trifle, and lately in the Niebanck house, fried candy bars (I guess since my dad fries the turkey and oysters he figures why not just fry everything we have, including leftover Halloween candy).
One of my favorite parts about Thanksgiving is a new tradition that my cousins and I started three years ago: a post-turkey walk to the local cemetery. Morbid – maybe, but it’s something I now look forward to every year. It’s a great opportunity to get some movement after a big Thanksgiving dinner. We’ve documented the walk with an annual photo at the cemetery, and looking back at these photos, it’s crazy to see how much my cousins have grown up!
It’s also cool to think how much improvement has been made in my mobility since that first post-stroke Thanksgiving walk. At Thanksgiving 2017, I had just gotten rid of my cane, and definitely couldn’t walk the uneven ground to get to the cemetery by myself. In 2018, I had a toe off brace instead of an AFO, and while I was able to walk unassisted, I still had trouble with curbs. And in 2019, I can navigate the uneven terrain on my own without assistance on the big curbs. Who knows, maybe by next Thanksgiving I’ll be running!
No matter what your stage in recovery, don’t give up because anything is possible. I know that recovery is hard and it’s disheartening at times when you don’t see improvements, but those obstacles you face are opportunities to keep pushing forward to achieve your goals. Recovery is a process, and it’s important to continue working on our goals and appreciate the journey. This Thanksgiving I’m especially thankful for my loving family and the fact that I wake up each morning with a chance to work hard towards my goals. It truly is a blessing, and one of which I am especially grateful for. Tomorrow is never a guarantee, and so it is important to make the most of each day. Each day that we wake up is amazing in and of itself. So what are we going to do with each fresh start we get?