How Empathy, Faith, Patience and Understanding Got Me Through This Week

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Photo credit: Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

This is one of those stories I hesitate to write, because it involves others I love. In fact, it involves the people who give meaning to my life, my family. As anyone who regularly reads anything I write can attest, there’s not much I’m unwilling to openly share about myself in my writing. I pride myself in that. I try to give my whole truth and nothing but. To tell the truth, It’s the only way I know how to write.

Though, with the exception of a handful of more personal pieces, rarely do I mention family in my posts. And for very good reason — respect of their privacy. They didn’t sign up for Medium, they don’t blog, my Father doesn’t have a single social media account — he prefers the Newspaper. Point being is, as open of a book as I may be, they don’t want to be in it. They aren’t characters — they’re the people I’d give my life for. It’s my one line.

And to keep it real, they’re not that interesting most days. I imagine posts about my Father’s routine dental check up, wouldn’t bring in much traffic.

However, I make exceptions and this is one of them. Sorry for the preamble.

I come from a large family — on both my Mother and Father’s side. My father is one of eight kids, my Mother is one of seven. Though I’m an only child myself, I have a solid foundation of cousins who have always been like siblings to me. Not all of them but a handful of them. They mean more to me than life itself. I consider their kids as nieces and nephews, rather than that whole awkward second cousin or first cousin once removed debacle.

As fate would have it, my cousin we’ll call Michelle — was rushed to the hospital with heart complications late last weekend. She has two kids, Steve and Gavin. I love those boys like they’re my own, there is nothing in this world I wouldn’t do for her, her husband or them kids. So when I got the news she was rushed to the hospital with heart trouble, I felt like it was my heart.

I just wanted to be there with her as well as for her. I sat at my desk and prayed. Then I stopped mid prayer — and simply pleaded with God instead. I just let him know, as strong as I may be and as many deaths as I’ve had to endure, this wasn’t one I’d ever back bounce from. Not her, nope. Then my pleads turned into almost blasphemous demands. I refuse to imagine life without her and them boys should never have to. I feared the worst.

Her husband is one of the hardest working people I know and with her in the hospital, he needed a hand with the kids during the week and it was my pleasure and duty to help. It’s what family is supposed to do, name of the game. Steven is 11 years old and pretty independent. If it doesn’t involve the oven, he can pretty much do it himself. Gavin is 6 and has been diagnosed as mildly autistic. You probably wouldn’t guess it if you were to meet him, in many ways he is just like your average six year old. He’s one of the sweetest kids you’d ever want to meet. He loves his cats, his parents, his brother, me and last but not least — his YouTube and video games (Note: This is what Gavin said verbatim when I asked him what he loves)

As much as Gavin loves video games — he doesn’t like losing. Better put, losing triggers a rage in him like nothing else. And the tricky part about these tantrums, is the worst thing you can do, is to meet his anger with yours. So there we were on the couch together, him playing Mario and me reading — and then he lost. Not just at Mario but all control of himself as well. He kicked over a coffee table and threw the Wii remote at the wall. I almost lost it, before stopping myself, breathing deeply and counting to ten.

If his brother would have did such — he would have lost video game privileges for the night and been sent directly to bed. This is where empathy, understanding and patience came into play. Empathy and understanding are two of my strong points. Patience, well not so much. We all have our flaws, right? I took a moment and remembered who I was dealing with, an upset six year old child with special needs. For me to lose my cool, would simply be unfair to him. However, so would failing to try and help him understand why that behavior is unacceptable and not okay. I wouldn’t be doing my part.

So as he ran out of gas and came to, I sat there in a calm, cool and collected fashion. I asked him to sit down next to me and he did. I explained to him I understood he hates losing but losing does not mean it’s okay to knock things over or throw them. I told him how he’s not alone, everyone hates losing — myself included. I went on to tell him how I lose all the time and it’s apart of life — especially in video games and games in general. I asked him how he would have felt if the Wii remote he threw didn’t work anymore, or if the coffee table he kicked over had scared or hurt one of cats. He said he would have been “the saddest boy ever”. We decided it was a good idea to take a break from games and to watch Captain Underpants instead. He melted my heart with a hug and an apology, before asking if I would lay and watch the movie with him. Obviously, I happily complied. I mean, who doesn’t like Captain Underpants?

Two days later, it was just me and Gavin hanging out again. It was homework time and he was none too happy about it. I asked him to sing me his ABC’s, as his worksheet had instructed. He said he didn’t want to and wouldn’t. I firmly stated that I didn’t ask him if he wanted to and that it was homework. He recited every letter of the alphabet at a spitfire pace. I heard every letter though and they were in order. Done. Next, a task I dreaded as I read the homework assignment — count from 1 to 100. Oh boy. It’s not I thought he couldn’t, the kid is smarter than most people I know. I was just afraid, he simply wouldn’t, as I knew he was eager to get back to YouTube. So I had him once again sit back on the couch with me and asked him to count to ten, he did no problem. Then eleven to twenty, piece of cake. This charade of mine continued on until he hit a hundred, without a single complaint from him. He then completed his coloring worksheet, like a boss, and then was free to go YouTube it up.

Which brings us to today. I started my day off my praying for my cousin “Michelle’s” full recovery and thanked God for allowing me to be there for her and the kids. I gave thanks for the patience he granted me throughout the week because they certainly weren’t mine. I’ll lose my shit standing in line at a family dollar and not feel bad about it. I went to pick Gavin up from school at noon and called Michelle on my way to see how she was doing. The doctors had just given her, her long awaited and glorious discharge papers. She was well enough to come home. If I hadn’t had faith this week, I don’t know what I would’ve had.

However, it would still be a few hours until she got home by the time they officially released her and her husband made his way from work to get her. Gavin and I hung out, not so patiently waiting for his Mom’s return. He had a particularly rough afternoon today, between the waiting and not sleeping great last night. So in turn, we had a particularly rough afternoon today. One I was blessed with, a true gift. As well as the Universe’s way of giving us both a chance to practice patience. Thank God for today — and thank God it’s Friday.

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