“This Thanksgiving is special,” Micah said, once they’d admired the turkey and seated themselves. “It’s the first time in I don’t know how long we have all been together for Thanksgiving. In a way, this takes me back to the beginning of it all, when the four of us declared ourselves a family. Even during the years we drifted apart, we remained a family.
“We never say grace—heck, none of us is religious—but I think, before we eat, we should each say what we are most grateful for. I’ll start. I’m grateful for the three people at this table.”
Calvin paused in carving the turkey and said simply, “Second chances.”
Skye, perhaps predictably said, “My stupid, romantic heart that wouldn’t let me stop loving Reid.”
Reid reached across the table and squeezed his hand.
Micah had to prompt Reid. “What about you, Reid? What are you thankful for?”
Reid pulled his glance away from Skye, and looked at Micah. He indicated Skye sitting opposite him, and said, “I’m grateful for what I see in his eyes.”
—Excerpt, In His Eyes
I’ve been thinking about gratitude a lot lately. We’re just past the traditional season of gratitude, Thanksgiving, I know, but I’ve always operated on my own timetable.
Mostly this blog post on gratitude was prompted as I wrote out thank you cards to everyone who helped out during our dad’s illness. As I thought about who to send a card to, I realized I was grateful for the smallest things, the simplest kindnesses. I have a friend whose first Facebook post each day is: GratefulGratefulGratefulGrateful. I always wondered about this but now I think I understand.
The following is a list—not exhaustive, or complete by any means—of what I am most grateful for.
I am grateful there is a village.
Neighbors who stopped by and walked or fed the dogs while I was in New York with Dad, and Stanley was working, or with me. A neighbor I ran into mentioned that she had seen another neighbor walking the dogs. She was walking Riley but carrying Toby who is older and arthritic and can’t always walk very far, so we carry him. That someone else understood his needs and treated him as we do meant the world to me.
I am grateful for the kindness of strangers.
I remember on two separate occasions when nurses found me crying in the hall outside dad’s room; each stopped and held me until I ran out of tears.
I’m grateful for Dad’s silence.
I dreamt of our dad the other night. In the dream he stood silent, a bird perched on his head. Each time I sat at my dad’s side I waited for him to tell me something. It wasn’t until after he died that I realized we had said everything we needed to, and so we were content to spend time together in companionable silence.
I’m grateful for my home, both physical and emotional.
I’m grateful for our house and Stanley, both of which give me a safe place to lay my head.
I am grateful I stayed my feet on the path He laid for me.
When I left my last job in June after some despicable people did some truly despicable things, I felt lost and betrayed. As the Fall approached and we learned Daddy’s illness was terminal, I came to realize again that all things happen for a reason, that He has a grand plan for us. The action of others had given me the freedom to focus on Dad and spend as much time with him as I could.
I am grateful daddy knew he was loved, knew he was important.
Dad was a quiet man. Not boastful or one for the spotlight. I don’t recall him ever talking about what he did for us, or what sacrifices he made for us. Because I thought it was easy to overlook him, I worried that he didn’t know how important he was, how much he was loved. I think that changed when he was in the hospital and people he didn’t expect visited him. I remember the look on his face when I walked in with our cousin, his niece, Denese behind me. I remember the wonder in his voice when he told me Karen, my friend from college had come to see him. She arrived without warning and helped him with his lunch and ice cream.
I’m grateful we’re a family.
Death and funerals often tear families apart. We suffered two major losses this year—our Aunt Terpe in January, and Dad in November. With both losses we pulled together and got each other through it.
I am grateful for learning to be grateful.
Daddy’s hospital room had a huge picture window overlooking a courtyard. I was standing at the window staring at nothing in particular. He looked at me looking out the window and he said, “You know every morning, I open my eyes and I look out the window and I think to myself, ‘well, I lived to see another day’.” I had no answer to that. Later, when he could no longer turn his head to look out the window, I did his looking for him, quietly reminding him he had lived to see another day; I’d look out the window and describe the new day to him.
I am grateful for my writer’s talent, for the gift of words, for my ability to tell a story.
One afternoon out of the blue, dad made a specific request about his obituary. I nodded and promised I would make sure his request was honored. “I’ll probably write it,” I said. “I know,” he replied, “That’s why I told you.”
P.S. And Finally, I am grateful Doug Jones beat Roy Moore. I am grateful Americans in Alabama, particularly black Americans, stood up for what is right, went to the polls and cast their votes to take back our country—a country our dad for fought in the Korean war.