Tom Martin: Sometimes, thanks is all you’ve got to give

Tom Martin

I didn’t win an Academy Award, but I have a thank you speech nonetheless.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I need to cough up some props to my homeys (that’s me cutting up).

But seriously, it’s been a rugged year. My family’s spent so much time in the ER that a couple weeks ago, one of the staff thought my wife worked there. Not a good sign.

Both our sons — ages 7 months and almost 3 years — logged some hospital time. One went under the knife and the other nearly became a case on TV’s “House.” In 2007, my eldest son had temperatures as high as 104 degrees and as low as 95 degrees. That’s a wild ride.

And then to top it off, my wife walked around with a concussion for three weeks (low ceiling). Earlier in the year she was on bed rest for weeks during her pregnancy. We referred to her as the woman upstairs. We took her food, lots of water and talked to her from time to time.

And, right now, we’ve been through a stretch when one of the two boys has been sick since Oct. 12. I know what I want for Christmas.

Actually, I deserve nothing. I owe. And that’s where the thank yous come in. Somehow my wife and I managed to keep our jobs through all of this, thanks to some understanding bosses, and co-workers who picked up the slack.

But my in-laws were the real heroes. Every time we hit a rough patch (every other week), they left their own jobs and home and came. I call them the Red Cross. They need a flashing light to slap atop of their Buick so people can pull over to let the aid-givers through.

Not only did they take care of our boys dozens of times, they scrubbed our floors and bought our groceries and did mountains of our laundry. My mother-in-law has washed my underwear more than I have.

And in return, they get to buy us lunch and/or dinner, and, of course, clothes, toys and books for the boys. It’s a one-sided affair. They give and we receive.

It’s hard to imagine what my wife and I would have done this year without family. My family pitched in, too. Just this week my sister drove 85 miles one way to watch the boys for an afternoon; one was barking like a seal, but not on purpose. My other sister had come up to help after our son was born earlier this year. And my dad is always there if I need him.

It seems my wife and I are seldom in a position to pay back all that is owed. But on Friday night, I had a chance to make a rare dent in the debt.

One of my sister’s daughters was returning from Wheaton College with a friend when they smacked into a dead deer lying in the road. Of all places, the mishap occurred a few miles from Galesburg on Interstate 74. The crash damaged the front bumper and sprang a leak in the radiator. My niece and her friend limped the Honda Civic as far as they could, which turned out to be the Knoxville exit.

My sister called around 9 p.m. to alert us. I fired up the minivan and found them just off the exit ramp, the rear of their car still in the road and a deputy with lights flashing parked directly behind.

It reminded me of all the times I’ve been stranded when it was I who needed the help. I even was stranded once on the way home from college. In those pre-cell phone days, though, it required one to walk or hitch hike to a phone. Yes, I’m that old. Anyway, on Friday night, I was able to give the travelers a place to stay, have their car towed and make arrangements for repair. And, most importantly, I was able to give my sister some peace of mind.

I don’t think, however, there are enough dead deer for us to ever repay all our family debts. That’s why this Thanksgiving, we’ll lean on being grateful.

Tom Martin is editor of The Register-Mail. Contact him at tmartin@register-mail.com or 343-7181, Ext. 250.