I received a most unusual and surprising gift from my parents for my 40th birthday a few years ago. My mom had made a lovely birthday dinner (as she does for all of our family’s special days), and we were sitting around the dining table chatting and enjoying dessert. She presented me with an envelope which I opened with excitement. Inside the card was a computer printout containing an image of the gift that had been ordered for me. Confusion was the dominant emotion as I looked at…a toilet. Huh? It’s true that we had recently moved from San Francisco to Marin, but I couldn’t recall having ever asked for a new commode. I was taken aback and frankly, a bit peeved. It was an underwhelming surprise for such a milestone birthday. In my parents’ defense, it was no ordinary toilet. It was one of those futuristic Japanese contraptions with an automatic lid, seat warmer, bidet and remote control. My kids named it the “magic potty.” But, even with a nifty name it was still a TOILET.
Oh, how naive and unappreciative I was! How could I have known that this toilet would become one of my most valued possessions? That I would develop a deep and abiding affection for it? Or that it would be such a comfort to me in my illness? A few months after that birthday I would be diagnosed with my autoimmune conditions. And the following year I would experience my first bout of chronic fatigue. Now, when I tiptoe to the bathroom in the middle of the night, my body a jumble of aches and pains, the seat offers me a warm (pun intended) welcome. There is no shock of ice cold porcelain to jolt me out of my half-sleep. I do my business in the dark and crawl back to bed as my toilet flushes itself and quietly lowers the lid. As I sink under the covers I offer a silent prayer of thanks to my parents for my magic potty.