Despite my illness, ALS, I have a lot to be thankful for this Christmas, when many family members will gather at our house for a celebration.

In October, our kids surprised me with an overnight 70th birthday celebration at the Samoset Resort in Rockport. My brother and sister-in-law and my sister and her youngest son joined us for a fantastic dinner. It’s hard to imagine a nicer place than the Samoset for an event like this, and I especially enjoyed watching the grandchildren cavort in the swimming pool.

Yes, I have a lot to be thankful for.

Thanks to the recommendation of a friend, we purchased a snowblower for my wife, Linda, at Audette’s in Winthrop. Not only was the staff there knowledgeable and helpful about the snowblower, but when one worker overheard us ask if someone could deliver it to our house in Mount Vernon, he said he had a truck and would do it during his lunch hour.

When that fellow and another young Audette worker arrived at our house with the snowblower, they saw Linda and her friend Donna just starting to pile up a cord of wood and they stayed to help them. That was nice.

Our friends Jim and Dona, who live nearby, have been amazingly helpful. For example, when we lost power one night, Jim and Donna arrived 15 minutes later to start our generator for us. They also worked for weeks with Linda to cut the brush all around our house.

Steve DeAngelis, a Maranacook teacher and coach, brought a group of students to our house to spend the day cutting brush, and Steve has returned a number of times to help with other projects. We ended up with a massive pile of brush, and Mount Vernon’s Sid Smith carted it all away without charging us.

I’ve also been blessed with a terrific medical team, led by my neurologist, Dr. Stephanie Lash, in Rockport. My pulmonologist, Dr. Filderman, is in the same building as Dr. Lash, as is the surgeon, Dr. Crosslin, who inserted a tube into my stomach recently so I can get more nutrition. That was necessary because I’ve lost about 40 pounds, and while I can still eat, I don’t eat as much as I used to.

Unfortunately, on the way home after the surgery, I started sweating profusely and fainted. Linda pulled over and called 911, and the Waldoboro ambulance arrived and transported us to MaineGeneral Medical Center, where the staff did a terrific job of figuring out my problem. After four hours there, we headed home. I have to say, the guy who helped me in the ambulance is an avid sportsman, so we shared hunting and fishing stories all the way to the hospital. That really helped.

I also have a device now which helps me breathe at night. We purchased it from Apria, and their staffer, Molly, has been to our house several times to help us master the machine. She’s been a terrific help, so I’m especially grateful to my insurer, Martin’s Point, for authorizing an unlimited number of visits by Molly. I call Martin’s Point often with questions about coverage, and while their Generations Advantage and Medicare do cover a lot, there’s also a lot that is not covered.

We’re getting great help now from a nutritionist, Cathy at Inland Hospital, and a speech therapist, Angela at MaineGeneral, and we’ve just completed recording my voice, with lots of help from Pine Tree Society’s Cuyler, Shannon, Linda and Nicole. I’ll be able to use my voice recording with our new laptop, which I can operate with my eyes.

My voice has gotten soft, and we anticipate that I will lose the ability to speak sometime in the future. I’m also using a walker all the time now because I’ve lost a lot of strength in my legs and I can’t do much of anything anymore with my hands and fingers.

ALS Association’s Northern New England chapter has been a fantastic help with everything from advice to equipment loans. I enjoyed working with the association on their two fundraising walks in August and September, and was blessed with many friends who came to the Bangor walk to be part of my team, including U.S. Sen. Angus King. My sister, Edie, named my team “Give It The G.A.S.,” for George Arthur Smith. All members of the team had a T-shirt that read, “Give It The G.A.S.”

We were also pleased to have a visit from Deb Bell of the ALS Family Charitable Foundation, headquartered in Massachusetts. They offer everything from help with the purchase of oil to funding for a vacation. And yes, we’re going to take advantage of that.

I particularly appreciate the chance to connect with other ALS patients, including a fellow in Michigan whom I knew when he lived in Maine. And I continue to be blessed with visits and lunches with friends.

I spent a wonderful afternoon with Bill Green, who featured me in his show earlier this month. I also enjoyed my interview with Scott Milewski, who started an interesting project featuring interviews with Mainers. You can access those at www.interviewswithme.com. My interview was posted on Nov. 26.

I’m still able to type, mostly using software that types my words as I talk; and in addition to my regular columns, I’m really enjoying doing book reviews for all of Maine’s major publishers. We have lots of great authors in Maine. You can read my reviews on my website, georgesmithmaine.com.

Linda has been amazing. She has to do so much for me now. And it’s tough to travel out of state now, so we’re focused on spending time in our favorite places in Maine. We visited Lubec and Campobello four times this year.

Yes, there is lots to be thankful for.

Enjoy your Christmas.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

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