Thankful


An unconventional Thanksgiving holiday for me. My husband and I are here in Arizona, spending it with my father in his new home. The one he barely had time to share with his bride Eileen, who succumbed to cancer a few months after they were married. I planned to cook my father an old-fashioned turkey dinner with all of the trimmings. To gather at his table of round with my husband and brother, where together, we would share a prayer of Thanksgiving.

When my husband and I arrived late last night, my father hugged me tight. His home was neat and tidy. A silver tray of grapes and crackers of wheat plus  yellow cheeses sat on top of a swirling black and gray granite counter.

“No cooking for you,” my father stated,” surprising me with a slight smile. “We’ve been invited to Troy and Ellen’s for Thanksgiving dinner.” I was taken aback at this news. Troy and Ellen was part of Eileen’s immediate family. I had been looking forward to spending a quiet holiday with my father, having flown all the way from St. Louis to Arizona. Still, Dad was part of Eileen’s family too, and I was selfish not to share him.

“That will be nice, Dad, I mumbled,” munching on a cracker while pulling a stool up to the kitchen counter.

After tumbling into bed last night, I pondered over the coming Thanksgiving Day.

I realized how lucky my father was to have Eileen’s family embrace him as part of their own. Her grandchildren often stopped to visit after school, where they shared stories of love that brought smiles to his face. Eileen’s daughter occasionally dropped off a casserole covered in silver foil before going to work, or one of her sons-in-law repaired something for him in his home. Sometimes, Eileen’s family members took my dad out for an evening of karaoke, where he sang his troubles away until another day.

In a few hours my Thanksgiving dinner will be shared with Eileen’s family. It is an unexpected blessing that my father has remained part of her extended family. For that I am truly thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving to You and Yours,

Kim

*in memory of Eileen 1939-2016

Both families

 

 

 

 

Stuff


In thinking of the soon-to-be Thanksgiving holiday, I remember a quiet time spent with my mother a few days before she passed away.  Cuddled within one of her hand-knitted afghans, she sat to the side of her favorite burgundy velvet rocking chair.  We played a game of sorts, both of us tip-toeing around the elephant in the room.

Thanksgiving was only a few short days away, with Christmas coming soon afterward.  Only God knew for sure, but I suspected that my mother would not be sharing either holiday with the whole of our family.  Moving two steps back while taking one step forward, I pretended like everything was the same as the year before.  Except nothing was the same.  Not even close.  My mother was dying.

So what game was I playing a few days before Thanksgiving?  “Christmas Is Coming Early!”  Unwrapping a few decorations to delight my mother’s tiring eyes, I lit the fireplace mantle in sparkling miniature white lights.  Next I pulled a tiny tree from a new box, fluffing the faux branches of dark green up and down and to the right or to the left.  I wanted it to look perfect before placing it atop the red brick and stone hearth of the fireplace.  “Do you like it, Mom?”  I asked.  She nodded, “Yes.”

Next, I carried a box of decorations from my parent’s garage storage area.  There, I discovered some of Mother’s favorites, including various Christmas dolls made of porcelain dressed in ruffled red velvet or shades of green taffeta.  Atop their breakable heads were wigs made of mohair dyed in blonde, brunette or dark red, the color of wine. Looking at me, they smiled with eyes of glass blue.  Each had tiny hands with long, delicate fingers of polish that shined in the light.  Clasping their silk strings carefully, I held them to the rose-colored lamp in order for Mother to get a better view.   “Where should we display them?” I asked.

I waited for her then, but no response.  Instead, I saw slight hints of clear tears in the corner of her eyes.  My heart broke then.  I had tried to pretend…but the game was over.  I had drawn the wrong card, it seemed.  “Do Not Pass GO,” it read.

“I don’t want to see them,” my mother said, barely able to speak.  “Look around,” she motioned, waving her arms about the room.  “Everything you see is just stuff,” she whispered, with all her strength and all her might.

One of my greatest Life Lessons came during the end of my mother’s days.  Nothing is greater in all of this living world than FAMILY.  Remember this during Thanksgiving Day and each day afterward.  Everything else is just…..Stuff.

Angels-of-Heaven-who-bring-Good-Tidings-from-Heaven-jesus-23106858-640-480

Family


Pumpkin pie, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki...I’m cooking today.  Yes, it’s true.  Nothing like my Grandmother used to do, rising early to bake her home-made dark, Swedish rye bread.   She always wore a cotton dress, nylon stockings and “comfort” shoes, with a  freshly pressed flowered apron tied at her waist, and a big organza bow behind her back.

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Thanksgiving Memories


This Thanksgiving morn kindles fond memories of my Aunt Barb.  She was the eldest of my father’s seven siblings, always a special one to me on this day.  My aunt made Thanksgiving look and feel like a Hallmark commercial or a “pop-up” cut-out card to be treasured in a box under the ruffle of my bed.  If she were alive today, she would long be in the midst of Thanksgiving preparations, cozy and warm within the confines of her Bay City, bungalow.  Like a snow-globe found in a department store, a child’s hold could shake it to see her smiling there while stuffing turkeys, preparing pies, or filling crystal candy dishes for her nieces and nephew’s with colored, M&M’s.

My aunt Barb took it upon herself to create an extended tradition for my enormous family, one that I have never forgotten.  Generous in spirit, humble and kind, she was a special person through and through.  Blessed to have escaped a rare gene that ravaged the lives of three of her younger sisters, she made silent promises to God, I believe, in going above and beyond in ways others could not.

My aunt’s house was not a large home, two bedrooms and a bath.  Her galley kitchen was small with black and white linoleum covering the floor.  I remember the stairway going to the basement was directly in the back, with a windowed door in between.  On Thanksgiving, it was forever left open.  Once you passed through, magic began to happen. I can still hear the clicking sounds of my patent leather Mary Jane shoes as I raced my cousins down the stairway to the heart and home of Thanksgiving.

The basement was divided into two large rooms.  It wasn’t finished in a fancy custom design like basements are today.  No, simple cement block walls greeted me, painted in bright and cheery pastel colors.  I remember being in awe of an extra kitchen at the bottom of the basement stairway, making me believe my aunt was rich!  Looking back, it was nothing more than a row of necessities to make life easier on Thanksgiving Day.  An old farm sink in shiny white, a gold oven with a big round clock on top and a white refrigerator that made buzzing sounds.  Still, extra turkeys browned and baked within the oven’s warmth, jiggly salads of jello chilled in the refrigerator’s coolness, while dishes were endlessly washed within the basin of the sink.

The basement’s tile floor beneath our shoes was shiny and bright.  There was a corner where all of us kids took turns bending down to see our faces in it.  Windows were all around the bottom of the cement wall, allowing fall sunlight to peer in.  Our cousins smashed pink noses flat against the glass of dust to see us from the outside.  In return, we teased them from the inside.  They were missing all the good stuff!  The smells of pumpkin pie, the games we played and oh, the fun we had down the basement there!

In the next room was a table the length I’d never seen before.  Actually it was a combination of several little tables, all pushed together with many mis-matched cloths on top so one and all could sit together.  Anticipation seemed to last f.o.r.e.v.e.r!  Finally, my mother, together with all of my aunts took turns bringing in plates of delicious food. Carefully, they sat each colored platter and bowl on top of tables while lifting lids up above to allow steam to escape.  I marveled at the twirling smoke, watching it swirl to the top of the ceiling.  Soon my father said the Thanksgiving Day prayer, giving thanks for our many blessings, and always to Aunt Barb who had brought our great big family together, making us all one for the special day.

After bellies were full, women pitched in to help clean-up, children scattered outside to play make-believe, while men trudged upstairs to the living room to watch afternoon sports on a colored television.  Babies cried, mother’s bounced them on their knees, and daddies passed them back and forth.  Toddlers teetered, older cousin’s sneaked M&M’s from crystal bowls, little boys played cowboys, and I dreamed imaginary tales while talking with my cousin in the “woods” beside my aunt’s shingled house.  There wasn’t any woods, really.  An extra lot with a few trees, but to me it was Sherwood’s Forest….

When I picture my Aunt Barb today, I see her like she always was.  A beautiful face with skin the color of perfect porcelain.  With eyes as bright as the ocean blue, they truly were the “windows to her soul.”  She had a tremendous love for family together with an amazing zest for life.  She did almost anything she ever wanted.  My aunt traveled the world while helping others.  She laughed every day, danced with the two of her legs while twinkling her eyes.   I remember as a little girl, she used to tell me I was her special gift because we shared the same birthday.  Truth be told, she was my special gift.

Year after year, my Aunt Barb brought our overflowing family together on Thanksgiving Day.  I’ve cherished those memories ever since.  I will forevermore.

 

English: "The First Thanksgiving at Plymo...

The Lucky Ones


Like children jumping off pages of a story book, they’d skip along the sidewalk holding hands.  One  was older but slighter, the other bigger but with a baby’s pudginess.  Without words, they clasped hands to signal brotherhood.  A lifetime of protection.  Orange pop-cycles dribbled down wrists, leaving squiggly stains of wonder within their eyes.  From the window screen, I heard them giggle.  The two compared arms, pointing to each other as if a spaceship had landed!  Mandarin liquid dripped faster than quivering lips of four could lick or keep up.  It was the afternoon heat of desert after all!

I had no way of knowing it then, but my oldest son, the one who wore red canvas sneakers tied loosely upon his feet walked steps closer to being diagnosed with a chronic illness. Soon, his childhood innocence would be snatched out from under him.   Perplexing puzzle pieces were locking into place.  Different sizes and shapes were coming together.  Eventually, they would all match to make a picture portrait for me to understand.

Thanksgiving week is here.  It is no more apparent to me that good health above all else is most important in life.  Not wealth, status,  power or privilege.  Good health matters most in all of this world.  God is smart to be sure.  He gives us what we can handle, leaving the rest for us to figure out.  Still and forever more, He guides us along our way.  Often He’s there to help us discover hidden lessons in life.  Before long, we learn how hard we must work while not playing the martyr.

Without realizing it, luck is on our side.  This perhaps, is the first life lesson to learn while living with a chronic illness.   Through the years there is much more to understand. We grow and pass on what we have been given.  For we are the lucky ones.

Yes, the lucky ones….

 

First time holding hands.