Reflections that make having a broken back, a banged-up thumb, and a disturbing kidney cyst seem almost inconsequential.

Two thumbs before the right one was drained. 

It’s funny how, on an ordinary day, not one person out of a million feels grateful for having a right thumb, but if a doctor tells you might lose yours, and then you respond so well to treatment that he tells you that you won’t, it really makes you think about how dependent you are on that thumb and how much you would miss it if it had to be cut off. Other things that I am grateful for...

Peggy. I had rather have a broken back and be with Peggy than to be healthy in every cell but be without her. What I have been through of late has been much harder emotionally for her than for me, yet she is the one who has to carry the burden of caring for a husband who can no longer attend to many of his own basic needs. Now, another job has been added to her list, that of preparing soak water for my thumb every six hours and, the soak being done, replacing the old dressing, a process that causes me so much pain that it makes her queasy to do it.

Walt. He spent six hours on each of two snowy days taking me to three doctors, two drugstores, one orthotics supplier, an imaging center, and maybe other places for all that I can remember. Without him, I don’t know what I would have done. Other people would have wanted to help, but he had that needed combination of studded tires, excellent driving skills, a completely open schedule, and the ability to make a person feel well taken care of in his presence.

After being drained and having dead tissue removed    
Brewsky. One of his contributions has been to greet me at the door after my many medical appointments. Another is to keep me immensely touched and continually entertained with a greater range of facial expressions than I ever imagined possible for any creature, much less have had the pleasure to experience. He exemplifies what it means to be fully present, completely open, and utterly without defenses. If a cat can be called an angel, then Brewsky is an angel.

My plants. Every time fear and despair threaten to crowd in, my plants shove them right back out. I have long enjoyed potted plants, but once I am over this, they’re going to see how good their lives can get because I realized within a day of breaking my back that my 17 indoor plants were to be among my chief allies in healing. I would move every one of them into my bedroom right now if I had a suitable place for them, and making a suitable place is what I intend to do as soon as I can, only I look forward to having a lot more plants than seventeen.

Having a house that I love. Many a time as I worked on it over the past 23 years, I would envision a day when I was too old to work, and I would think about what a comfort my earlier work would someday bring me. Now that day has come, through accident rather than age, and I am grateful for all that I did to make this house what Peggy and I wanted it to be.

Medical care. It's criminally expensive, yet I can afford it; it's pretty good here; and it's also close to home. I've thought a good bit about what a different end this week might have come to had I been unable to get to a hand specialist within an hour of being referred because that's how close I came to losing that thumb, and I could have lost far more than a thumb--my implanted left shoulder joint, for example.

I had rather that any bad thing that can happen to a person happen to me rather than to Peggy. I would have once expected her to feel the same--and maybe she does for all I know--but I've lost all interest in such things because I know that whatever either of us gives, it will be 100% of what we have to give, and for that I am grateful. We share a level of trust and commitment that I would guess is pretty rare, yet I can't imagine how people get by without it.