It's the Little Things that Count
Story by Jim Pittman, 2014 (First prize winner in our O.Henry Hotel 15th Anniversary Story Contest; category "It's the Little Things the Count")
Jim and Dell Pittman with their children
I enjoy receiving the Quaintance-Weaver newsletter, and saw the 15th Anniversary information in the Fall 2013 issue. I've kept it on my desk all this time, because of the 15th Anniversary Story information.
Definitely wanted to enter a story from our visit in 2011, but found it hard to pick a single category, as elements of all five categories were satisfied with our 27th Wedding Anniversary visit August 12-14, 2011, but more especially Romance, and It’s the Little Things that Count categories.
My email to the O.Henry reservation desk on Tuesday, July 26, 2011:
My wife and I will be celebrating our 27th Wedding Anniversary August 11.
On our 25th we stayed at the Pinehurst Resort and enjoyed the spa there very much. On our 20th we took our very first and only cruise. Most years we stay at home with our kids or take them somewhere with us. I have seen your ad in Our State and other publications, but have never really considered staying in Greensboro for a personal trip. We are normally passing through Greensboro on our way somewhere else. I've looked at Pinehurst again, The Umstead, Ballantyne, and others, but haven't felt like they were where we really needed to go this year, if we get to go anywhere. Then I thought about the O. Henry. And took a look at your website and looked at your rooms and package specials. Great website. Very informative. Good reviews on Tripadvisor. Your website is much better than The Umstead's website, by the way. The O.Henry really seems perfect, you see, especially since my wife's name is Dell, and my name is Jim....We've been asked many times during our marriage if we were O. Henry fans before we got married, or if we had read "The Gift of the Magi". Of course we had and have since we got married, but we didn't even think about it when we met. But believe me, we felt like that couple in the story in our early years of sacrifice and want. Due to our heavy work schedules it’s rare for us to get any time to go off just the two of us. We average about once every three-four years, if then. On your website I tried to put together a package, or click on a package, but it said to call or email... so here it is. Feel free to email or call my cell and we can see what we can come up with or what package would be best. Right now I am looking at Friday August 12-Sunday August 14, or the weekend before might work.
Peyton Eggers contacted me promptly the next day by email with her suggestions for suites and packages for our Anniversary weekend and more information. Over the next few weeks by phone and email we worked out all the details for our fabulous weekend.
Peyton really went above and beyond for us, answering all my questions, and offering a very attractive package, with us staying in the Magi suite at a special reduced rate, and including just the right dining vouchers, afternoon tea, breakfast in room, etc. Also handwritten notes in the room, flowers, a copy of The Gift of the Magi, etc. We really had a wonderful weekend due to Peyton's efforts to make all the arrangements perfect, and took a lot of pressure off of me in planning this rare get away for my wife, Dell, and I. The bellmen, doormen, waitresses...just everyone were so nice and accommodating to us during our stay. Once we got our kids taken care of in preparation for our rare weekend away, I purposely did not tell my wife where we were going. I only told her what clothing to bring. But I did not divulge any of the details to her until we arrived at the O.Henry. She was a little angry at me leading up to the trip and during the drive to Greensboro. We arrived and she was quite surprised, as we had never seen the O. Henry before, and she was a little apprehensive, not knowing what to expect. The afternoon tea was the first event on our schedule after checking in and exploring the spacious two room Magi Suite, and the downstairs area. She loved it! We had never experienced anything like it. We took pictures with our phones when the tea and food came out...sending them to our family and friends. I even sent some pics to my golf buddies, and the manager of our country club in Fayetteville (Highland Country Club) for them to see. My guy friends were none too happy that I had "upped the ante" so to speak in regards to anniversary trips for our wives!
Friday evening we snacked in the room, still full from the tea, then went shopping at the area shopping centers, before retiring. Saturday, a very enjoyable breakfast buffet, then off for a jog in the area. Storms threatened, so we came in early and went back out shopping, getting soaked in the process. That afternoon we watched golf in the suite on the large TV in the living room area as we sipped cocktails. She was determined to figure out how to get the fire place to work in the living room area. Sounds crazy in the middle of the summer! But the wind howled outside and blew cold rain against the windows as rare cool weather miraculously made a fire not only possible, but very welcome in the middle of the summer in August in North Carolina. Dressing for dinner was so much easier with a bath and a half, and two rooms. It was like getting ready for the prom or a dance or something when we were young. Peyton, of course, had taken care of the reservations for dinner at the Green Valley Grill. We went down early for cocktails before dinner, then had a wonderful dinner and dessert, with after dinner coffee. The service was great. It was a very romantic, relaxing, rejuvenating, magical evening, full of adult conversation, without having to worry about kids or anything else. Just the two of us. The next morning it was sleep late with breakfast in the room with a late check out, then very reluctantly, we packed to go home, vowing to get back to the O.Henry as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, life gets in the way sometimes. Because, you see, the 2011 trip for our 27th anniversary marked our fourth year after her first breast cancer occurrence, multiple surgeries, chemo and radiation treatments in 2007. Our weekend at the O.Henry was a celebration of life...of going through a very difficult time, and coming out to the other side, victorious. She was marking the years, trying to get to the first cancer free milestone, the five year mark. And we were less than one year away!
Unfortunately, we didn't make it. One week short of the five year mark early in 2012 she discovered another lump in the other breast. Like before it proved malignant, the same aggressive rare type of cancer as before in 2007. Furthermore, we discovered she also had the BRCA2 gene, putting her at greater risk of further breast and ovarian cancers in the future. More surgeries, to include double mastectomies, more aggressive chemo, hysterectomy, etc. were recommended and implemented. There was not much good news or fun in 2012 and 2013. 2012 and 2013 were a maelstrom of major complicated surgeries, months of chemo, double mastectomies, recovery and reconstruction surgeries. Hours and days in hospitals and doctor offices. Tears, pain and worry. Adapting and coping.
Through it all she has had to endure and sacrifice so much, her hair least of all. Twice. But now we are on the other side. Different. Older. Many scars and pain linger, both visible and invisible. But we're luckier than many. Her prognosis is good. Her outlook optimistic. Everything possible medically was done to reduce her chance of breast or ovarian cancer occurring again. Her overriding concern all along was, "how is this affecting my kids and husband". Totally unselfish. Only concerned with how the kids were doing, and what she was putting them and me through. Her anger was not for herself, but that they had to go through this, that she was inconveniencing them and causing them anguish and worry. Her quiet strength and resolve...her dignity and grace were an inspiration to many others in our church and community.
She never wanted the attention her fight attracted. But we will forever be indebted to the help, prayers and comfort we received from them through it all. She has counseled many others likewise afflicted, offering advice, comfort and aid where she can. But being female, and a lovely one at that, dark thoughts would sometimes creep unwelcome, usually right before dawn when it was the darkest, either right before or right after one of her major surgeries. More scars. More taken away. More pain. More recovery and adapting to yet another "new normal". And that line from The Gift of the Magi would manifest itself unbidden. Never spoken aloud. But always there. The doubt and anxiety. After Della had cut off her hair for the twenty-dollars to buy her Jim the watch chain, and she anxiously waited for him to come home. Afraid and concerned for his reaction to her new appearance. "Please God, make him think I am still pretty." Count me among the wise. And the very fortunate.
After almost 30 years together, and after all we have been through, especially the last two years, my Dell is more pretty and lovely than ever. More precious to me than any hair comb or watch chain. More valued and precious than any Christmas present I have ever received or ever will receive. And more precious than any present the Magi could bring. And her Jim loves her dearly A gift from above...every day.
Be on the lookout for our new O.Henry Hotel Short Stories Blog that will feature this and more stories throughout the year!