The Sweetest Gift
The Sweetest Gift
We got back to Boston with two weeks left until Christmas. Charlotte and Sarah got right to work shopping and decorating the whole place. Everyone helped put the ornaments up on the tree which was fun. The place looked amazing with all the lights and garland everywhere. It felt like home to everyone in a way.
Charlotte took it upon herself to invite my parents, Landon, Andy, Josh, and Mark over to her apartment to spend the holiday with me, but only my parents could make it for Christmas, Mark and my friends promised to make it over for New Years.
I don’t understand how Charlotte finds time to do everything. She checks on every patient here daily, manages how their treatments are progressing, decorates for Christmas, all while constantly making sure I’m okay and getting through all my therapy sessions. No wonder why she looks so tired lately. The only time she has taken a break in the last two nights since we’ve been back, is when we go to her house for the night, and even then, I find her fast asleep on the couch when I leave her alone for a few minutes to use the bathroom.
I don’t know how I can help her. She doesn’t want to revert to having Sarah and Nate take over some of my therapy sessions, which is mostly my fault since I practically begged her in the beginning not to leave me in someone else’s hands. I am a stronger person now because of her and I am ready to get through some of my challenges without her holding my hand.
We arrive at rehab early in the morning with ten days left until Christmas now. I want to give her something special, but I’m not sure what, so I decide that I am going to ask Sarah to bring me shopping.
Charlotte brings me into the gym, then tells me she’s going to bring her things to her office before starting therapy.
“Is it alright if Sarah does my morning therapy with me?” I ask Charlotte who stops dead in her tracks and turns to me looking utterly confused.
She is not angry or sad with my request though and shrugs her shoulders at me.
“Sure, if that is what you want?”, she says back to me.
“Yeah, I mean I haven’t spent any time with her in a few weeks, so it will be nice to catch up. Go get whatever work you need to get done. I will be fine, and you know where to find me”, I persuade her.
Charlotte reluctantly leaves me in the gym with Sarah so she can tend to her other responsibilities.
“Sarah, I need to do or get something special for Charlotte for a Christmas gift”, I blurt out.
Sarah presses her finger to her pursed lips like she’s thinking.
“Well from my experience with Charlotte and gifts, she would rather be the one giving not receiving”, she tells me.
“Of course, she would”, I chuckle.
“I have an idea! How about you and I focus on one thing to work on in therapy every morning, that way by Christmas you can surprise her by showing her something new you have accomplished, like doing something with your left arm that you have not been able to do before?”, Sarah suggests.
“That sounds great, but what if we put in all that work and my arm just stays as it is now?” I say to her with slight anticipation of defeat in my tone.
“Charlotte will take your determination in trying as a gift Levi, trust me”.
“You are probably right, okay let’s do this, but I still want you to take me shopping so I can get her something nice”, I warn Sarah.
Sarah and I got right to work. Whatever type of exercise that involved using my arms I did, even girl-style push-ups which were exceedingly difficult to perform.
Sarah worked with me for my first session every morning and Nate took over the sessions right after, making me use the weights. Sarah and I let Nate and Jake in on our little secret, so every day he added a little more weight for my left arm to lift, push, and pull while Jake cheered me on.
Charlotte met back up with me every afternoon for lunch then took me to the pool to practice walking without my leg brace.
I could feel my arm getting physically stronger. It has gotten easier to get myself out of bed and transfer to my chair on my own. Even Charlotte noticed while we were in the pool one afternoon.
“Your grip on my hand with your left is much stronger!“, Charlotte expresses while walking backwards in the pool holding my hands as I take a few steps forward.
“Yes, I can feel that it is”, I give her a huge grin.
My left leg improved right after my last stem-cell procedure, but it has remained the same since. I am still only able to take two or three steps before my leg buckles from under me. My balance has not improved much either, I can only balance on my own for a few seconds, although when I first got into the pool today Charlotte squealed with excitement after she purposely let go of me and I unknowingly stood on my own for thirty seconds.
“You are doing so great! I’m so proud of you”, she shrieks. This is something she has continued to say to me daily, more times than I can count. The way her beautiful soulful eyes look at me when she tells me how proud she is, let me know she truly means every word.
I love this girl so much I don’t know what I would do without her.
“How about you and I have an evening off to spend some quality time together?“, she asks me.
Oh my God! Yes please! I think to myself. I have been waiting for the past four weeks for us to have a night just her and I together, hanging out, talking, I will do anything. Charlotte seems to have more energy lately and she has been staying awake later at night ever since I made Nate & Sarah do all my morning therapies with me. I am glad my plan is working.
" How about we order out, watch some funny movies, and eat popcorn tonight?“, she asks me.
“Brilliant!“, I yelp.
We ate the Chinese food Charlotte had delivered then snuggled on the couch together eating popcorn and laughing. By the time we started watching our second movie, Charlotte looked like she was getting tired. I noticed her squinting at the screen more than once and rubbing her eyes often trying to clear them. I was getting concerned.
" Are you alright, Love?“, I ask her.
“Yes, the screen appears blurry to me sometimes, maybe my eyes are tired”, she affirms.
“Do you want to go lay in bed? Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and we have a lot to do, so maybe getting to sleep early will be good”, I try and convince her.
“That is a good idea! We need to get to rehab early tomorrow to fit some therapy in before we pick your parents up from the airport”, she reminds me.
We both happily go to bed and she lays her head on my chest while I wrap my arms around her, listening to her soft breathing as she falls asleep.
Tomorrow is the big day. Sarah has helped me prepare my big surprise for Charlotte; I can’t wait to show her.
In the morning I make sure I’m up and ready before Charlotte even wakes up. I am eager to finally be able to do something special for my girl and I can’t stop smiling.
“Wow! You are up early and looking cheerful this morning”, Charlotte says in a surprised voice.
“I am just excited for the Holiday!” I exclaim. “Now let’s get going sleepy head”, I chuckle.
I’m so anxious that I practically rush her to rehab.
“Please come meet me in the gym in ten minutes, I need your help with something”, I tell her, hoping she will agree without asking any questions.
“Umm, okay”, she shrugs.
I meet Sarah in the gym, and she helps me prepare by attaching my left leg brace and putting a gait belt around my waist as a precaution.
Charlotte walks into the gym and looks at us with curiosity when she notices us at one end of the parallel bars.
“What is this?“, she questions, her voice sounds perplexed as she points at us and then the bars.
" I have something to show you”, I grin. “Now please stand at the other end of the bars”, I instruct her.
Her eyes go wide, so does her smile when she realizes what I am about to do and brings herself to stand at the other end of the bars, facing me.
I can feel the jitters, but the anticipation of watching the expression on her face when I get through this will be all worth it.
I tell Sarah I am ready, so she stands behind me holding my gait belt as I place both of my hands on the bars and she helps me pull myself to stand. I take a moment to adjust my stance between the bars and make sure my left arm is cooperating. I can’t balance on my own, so it’s up to my arms to support myself with each step.
" I am ready Sarah, you can let go now”, I inform her.
Sarah releases her hold of me but stays close behind me just in case.
Charlotte is still wide eyed with anticipation when I look up at her. I take a deep breath and exhale then carefully move my left hand forward on the bar, then my right hand, followed by my left leg and right.
I hear Charlotte gasp, but I don’t want to see her expression yet, so I continue slowly moving both arms forward on the bars followed by taking a step with each foot.
So far so good! My inner voice assures me. I have taken two steps with each leg, only four more to go. I can do this; I talk myself up.
Another two steps down before I feel my left arm shake a little.
“Levi?“, Sarah softly questioning if I need her support.
“I’ve got this, just give me a second”, I convince her.
After I take another deep breath and exhale to try and calm my nerves; I succeed with my last two steps and stop a few inches in front of Charlotte and look up at her.
Tears are flowing down her cheeks, but the way her watery multi-color eyes are looking at me is pure admiration. Her body is noticeably fidgety, and I can guess that she wants to throw her arms around me, but I stop her.
“I have one more thing to give you”, I force her to wait just a little longer.
Sarah hands me a four by two-inch box. I shift my wait to my right arm so I can let go of the bar and hand Charlotte the box.
“Go ahead, open it”, I smile.
Charlotte opens the box and pulls out a silver heart shaped pendant attached to a silver chain. She holds the pendant in her hand and brushes her thumb over the single diamond in the middle, then flips the pendant over and reads the engraving on the back...
My Love, My Hero
"Merry Christmas Charlotte!“, I softly say and help her clasp the necklace around her neck.
She is still crying, and I am hoping it is because she is happy, so I ask, “Do you like your gift?”
Just as I imagined, she throws her arms around me and embraces me.
“Oh Levi, it is so sweet! I love it! And what you accomplished just now walking across the bars... is the best gift I could ever receive”, she sniffs, and I can feel her tears soaking my t-shirt.
" Those better be tears of joy”, I smirk.
“Definitely tears of joy”, she replies, hugging me again.
She releases her grip and looks at Sarah and then me and inquests, ” This is why you insisted I get other work done every morning? So, you two could work on this?”
I can’t stop smiling at her and confess, ” Yes, I wanted to do something special for you, to surprise you”.
" Yes, Nate and Jake were in on it too”, Sarah chirps.
" I can’t believe you guys! Thank you! This is amazing! Not just for me but for you, Levi!“, her voice ecstatic, and she grabs my face and kisses me.
“I love you!” she breathes as she kisses me again.
“Now I have a surprise for all of you”, she boasts.
" Can you two round everyone up and meet me at the door to the lounge?“, she asks us, then gives me one more peck on the lips before bolting out the door.
Sarah and I do as she requests, we find Jake, Marlo, Kenny, and Abby and all wait together for Charlotte by the lounge.
Charlotte pops her head out of the lounge, holding the door almost shut behind her.
" Are you all ready?“, she squeaks with excitement.
We all smile and nod and she flings open the lounge door.
“Surprise! Merry Christmas everyone! she blurts out.
We all slowly make our way into the room, our eyes soaking in the magnificence, our jaws hanging from shock and amazement.
My parents, Charlotte’s parents and everyone else’s parents or wife, girlfriend, and other family members are all here for us. Christmas decorations adorn the room, food tables line the back wall, and a massive pile of presents engulf the lighted tree.
“How and when did you do all this?” I pull her down towards me and whisper in her ear.
“You’re not the only one who can secretly plan something special”, she laughs.
“You’re incredible!“, I express to her.
“What you did for me earlier was incredible “, she smiles and presses her soft lips to mine.
“Any more secret plans in the making?” She jokes with me.
I laugh along with her playful banter before I spill out, “Why yes my love, I do have something I would like to work on next, but only if you will help me this time.”