paralyzed with gratitude

I’ve been trying to write this post for a month. Every time that I sit down to write it, I stare at my screen waiting for the words to come, but they don’t.

I can write about big things, I can write about anger and fear and heartbreak. In fact, writing about them, reducing them to sentences and words and letters on a page, makes them smaller, more manageable somehow. But this … this is different. This is gratitude. And I am paralyzed by it precisely because I fear diminishing it with words.

A couple of months ago, I was talking to my dad, as I do nearly every day. I was telling him that both girls, and Brooke in particular, were dying to go back to Disney World and that it was killing me that we just don’t have the money to do those kinds of things anymore. There was a short pause and then he said, “How much do you need?”

I back pedaled immediately. “No, no, Dad, I wasn’t implying … I mean, no. That wasn’t why I was telling you, I was just … ”

“Jessie, I know,” he said, “I’m asking you a question. How much would you need to take the family to Disney?”

I was too stunned to speak.

My dad is one of the wealthiest people I know, but his wealth comes in the form of love and loyalty and humor. He is a man of means, but his means are wit, eloquence, a voracious appetite for knowledge and a MacGyver-like ability to make pretty much anything you need with whatever you have on hand. He doesn’t have a lot of money.

“Dad, please, I really don’t want you spending your retirement on this,” I said.

He laughed. The kind of laugh that tries and fails to stifle the cry behind it. “Jessie,” he said, “this is precisely what I want to be spending it on. If I can help you and yours …” he had to stop for a moment as the laugh gave way to tears, “to make memories, well, that’s MY gift. To you and your babies, and to me.”

I promised to think about it.

A day or two after that conversation, I posted a photo of Brooke clinging to the oversized Mickey Mouse that my sister had given to Katie years ago. I don’t remember now what I’d written to accompany it, but something along of the lines of, “Somebody’s pulling out all the stops to get us to Disney.”

Later that night, there was a message in my inbox. It was from a reader with whom I’d had some interaction in the past, but didn’t know well and certainly had never met in person. She wanted to remind me that she is a Disney cast member and that, as such, she periodically gets a limited number of complimentary tickets to the Disney parks. She explained that her family isn’t always able to take advantage of them. As they are free to give them to whomever they want, she wanted to give them to me. And, she went on, if I told her how many days we wanted to go for, she was pretty sure that she could round up enough to cover the entire trip from her colleagues.

I stared at the screen. slack-jaw. I had no idea what to say. I’m pretty sure that what I finally did say was something terrifically articulate like, “OH MY GOD … OH MY GOD … I … SERIOUSLY … OH MY GOD.”

Thankfully, one of us still had her wits about her. Jennifer went on to tell me to start planning the trip and then let her know how many passes we’d need. Within a day of asking her colleagues, she wrote back to say that she had 20 tickets for us. That’s five days. I’m pretty sure I started in on the “OH MY GOD”s again.

When the tickets arrived in our mailbox, accompanied by a beautiful note, pictures of Jennifer and her family, and t-shirts for all of us, I still didn’t believe it, but, somehow, it’s all real.

We will be on a plane to Orlando this afternoon. On a trip that we simply couldn’t have taken without the mind-blowing generosity of my dad and his beautiful wife, Noelle, Jennifer, and a host of people I’ve never met. Every time I talk about it, I cry. I called my dad yesterday to tell him how much it meant to me that he is doing this for the girls and I turned into a puddle on the phone, prompting him to do the same. “Just go make memories, Jessie,” he said.

I tried to begin a thank you letter to Jennifer and her colleagues. I stared at the screen and cried.

Brooke couldn’t sleep last night. She told me that she was too excited to sleep. She squealed up and down the hallways, periodically stopping to say, “I’m so happy we’re going to see Mickey tomorrow!”

There are no words big enough to either contain or convey my gratitude to the people who gifted us that joy.

To Papa, Grandma Noe, Jennifer, Rich, Mark, Kim, Naomi, Jen, Kay, Molly, Jen, Ed and Ed …


 {image is a photo of Brooke in the Disney princess jammies that she slept in last night, happily wedged in between Mickey and Minnie and holding the drawing that she made this morning of JoJo and Goliath saying,” “Thank you!”}


26 thoughts on “paralyzed with gratitude

  1. This brought tears to my eyes, and down my cheeks infact. I hope you and your family have a wonderful time. What a gift!!

  2. This is amazing! Truly a blessing! Daniel would be the same. My husband took him to Elmo Makes Music on stage last night. As I’ve said he is something like 6’1 or 6’2 and these tiny kids were looking up at him in awe as he did all of his Sesame street voices. He looked out of place but his joy was obvious and contagious. I think if we went back to Disney (it’s been 7 years) he would BURST! 🙂 I can’t wait to see the pictures of you all there!

  3. We are at Disney this week as well for the first time with my non-verbal 6 year old autistic son. We didn’t know how well he would handle everything, but everyone at Disney was very helpful and accommodating to our family. We made it through the Magic Kingdom with only smiles and no meltdowns even with 90° weather. The best part, he said Mickey!!!

  4. How magical for you all! The people, places, and idea of Disney bring magic to my son daily and he loves each trip. Your appreciation is so adorable. Enjoy your time!

  5. Enjoy!! It makes it even sweeter when you realize there ARE good people in this crazy world and you have been blessed to know them!! Have a great time making those memories!!

  6. This is heartfelt and truly wonderful! My faith in humanity continues to grow! Wishing your family a memorable vacation! I am confident that there will be a few pictures or two following! 🙂

  7. I can’t wipe the tears fast enough, they just keep falling. So incredibly happy for your family! Proof that this world is full of amazingly generous, caring people. Can’t wait to see pictures, and hear about all your adventures. Have a great time!!

  8. Jess, OMG I’m sobbing! I wondered where you were going that was important enough to not attend the dance rehital. Go have a ball and make memories. You bring so much to so many every day, tomorrow it is your turn. X

  9. Truly the most magical place on earth. How amazing that even the people that work there take it upon themselves to spread the magic. I’m going to go with the obvious, ENJOY!!!

  10. If someone hasn’t already told you, make sure to go to guest relations and get a Disability Access Service Card. In each park guest relations is usually near the front of the park as you go in. While not as good as it used to be, it will help to avoid some of the lines. So important and helpful when you have a child with autism who has trouble waiting. Enjoy and make those memories!

  11. Awesome!!! Have a great time! We usually go once a year but haven’t been back since the change in policy (my boy just doesn’t work that way..can’t do the “we’ll come back to this later” mentality). Please let us know how it is with the new policy.

  12. it takes a village for sure. I am so happy for you, more excited that Brooke is excited! Just relax Jess, and I am sure the TSA guy really wanted to see your arse, it was a freudian slip! 😉

  13. I hope you have a great time!! It looks like the weather is going to cooperate, too (after today of course).

  14. My hubby is a retired cast member. He also gets complimentary tickets once a year. I cannot tell you how grateful we are to make someone happy with our tickets to. It is not just a gift to you. It is also a gift to the person (people) who gave them to you. It allows us to share our love of Disney with someone who would otherwise never get to go because of the expense. We recently gave ours to an employee of my dealership that had not been to Disney in years but lives within an hour of the park. I was just as happy is she was. Have fun.

  15. OK – you probably have most of America crying with you now. Have a glorious jolly fabulous fantastic time. Aloha – Valerie (Kimmerie Jones’ mom)

  16. Sometimes the hardest thing to say is “thank you”. To face the financial burdens, emotional and physical exhaustion from lack of sleep, meltdowns and just prepping for a typical activity we have to be able to just accept the love and help that our loved ones offer. I have no pride when it comes to bringing a smile to my son’s face and giving him a memorable moment. It’s wonderful that you will be able to experience Disney again! We took our guy for the first time when he turned 8 and now we have been bribing him with tokens (for going to school) for his 12th birthday. I might go broke doing it, but seeing his face when he enters into Mike W laugh Floor and starts talking back to the characters- well that’s just everything!


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