Sunday, November 19, 2017

Approaching Thanksgiving

Here in Northern California, it's finally feeling like autumn. Quite a few trees on my street have turned gorgeous shades of yellow, orange and red. We've had a few gray, rainy days, which makes a nice change from the all-too-hot weather we've add through September and October. It occurred to me this morning, while I was out walking Starlie in between drizzle-bursts, that usually at this time of year I'd be thinking about Thanksgiving and coordinating with sister and brother and parents about who will be where. I'd have ordered my turkey from the local butcher.

But this year, things are just... up in the air. Everything feels unpredictable. My brother, a few years younger than me, has been battling a pernicious type of colon cancer and has started another round of chemotherapy. It's been worrisome, to say the least. Last week, my 87 year old mom fell and broke both her shoulder and her hip. So the past week has involved frequent trips to the hospital and talks with doctors and calls with family members to keep everyone up to date. Mom is doing amazingly well, all things considered. She's had two surgeries, her bones are now stable, and all that's left to do is heal and get back to normal movement. Easy-peasy, right? 

Not all that long ago, a dear friend posted about her brush with lung cancer. I'd emailed her to comment on the way she'd kept her situation to herself even while posting online about her son's wedding and lots of happy times spent with her grandson and other family members. I wrote this to her: “I suppose it is another humbling reminder that pain and joy, fear and hope, lively exuberance and physical ailments can all exist in the same space and time. It's mysterious and inexplicable and ... we'll, just LIFE.” When I wrote that, I was mulling over her situation, and my brother's, and thinking about how this is what life is -- good news and bad news and getting through hard things and just celebrating every single moment we can as it comes.

And then my mom fell, and I've spent a lot of the past week hanging around the local hospital holding her hand and watching nurses and seeing patients roll in and out. It's the kind of setting that brings things down to a fundamental, simple level. It's the littlest things that matter so much. Being able to stand up. Sitting up in bed to sip water. A caring smile from a nurse, or a gentle touch to straighten a blanket. Coming home to hug my daughter and snuggle with a happy dog.

So, that's my mindset as Thanksgiving approaches. I try to be grateful every day for all sorts of things, big and small. I generally do view Thanksgiving as a celebration of gratitude.  But this year, it feels somehow bigger and smaller at the same time.  The life-and-death things feel more immediate than they ever have. And, at the same time, those little moments of pleasure and joy and surprise and appreciation feel more frequent and more vital, too. 

I haven't reserved a turkey. I have no idea who will be where. I'm not sure there will be a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with the good china on the table and the requisite traditional side dishes. But it'll be okay. Where ever we are, we'll have moments to be together, and hold a hand or give a hug and that's what counts.


  1. So sorry to hear about your Mom's fall, and the results. How scary. I hope she is on the mend now. As I get older I also worry about falls and try to be more aware of my surroundings and where I step. I hope you and Caroline have a happy Thanksgiving.

  2. Beautifully said Diane. I hope you were able to spend Thanksgiving wrapped in love.