Giving Thanks

I've never been all that good at the traditional Thanksgiving toast, where we go around the table and say what we're giving thanks for this year. Partly because my answer is always the same: my family. I am blessed with a wonderful family that loves me and that I love, and we all mostly get along, too.

I am blessed with a husband and son whom I adore and for whom I cook bountiful meals, and they seem to like me okay. My favorite part of any holiday... or weekend, or spare few hours... is snuggling in with my menfolk to watch movies and laugh together. Our family "adventures" (as I always called them when Boy was small) are the highlights of my life.

This year the family circle is a little smaller. We've faced that before, of course; I've lost several family members, as has Jim. This year has been tougher than most, however.

I've not written in this blog for quite a while because it didn't feel right to post anything until I could write about Grammy. And I don't seem to be able to do that yet. I've had to write several obituaries in this blog - more than I like. I wrote about Jim's mother, my other grandparents, colleagues, my godmother, friends. Writing through the story of their lives is part of how I grieve.

Yet each time I tried to write a coherent story of Grammy, it fell apart in a loose scattering of memories.  Of walking through Stanley Park as a young girl to eavesdrop on the pops concert while she taught me the alternative lyrics to John Phillip Sousa. Of going "deep-spa-diving" in her backyard hot tub and dubbing the particular shade of sky over her house "California blue." Of the time she took me on my first cave tour, braving the difficult stairs because I was so excited (but nixing my wish to spelunk, which was probably wise). Of her stubbornness and her love, her faith and her heart, of all the things she taught me and all the stories she told me, and of the stories never written down.

Entering the cave, as if to say, "Are we really doing this? Ooookay..."

The trip back to the old hometown in California was beautiful, and while it's not considered "appropriate" to say it was fun, it was. Grammy would have appreciated that her memorial brought the whole family together, something that happens very rarely when the family lives scattered across five states in three time zones. She would have appreciated the nights spent around the fire pit, talking and laughing, and the impromptu Thanksgiving we celebrated three weeks early.

It was on the way back home that we received word that Jim's brother had died. They were not close - at least, not as close as Grammy and I - and he was Jim's senior by twenty years. But that doesn't eliminate the emotional impact of losing a brother, and we've both been in kind of a free fall. There was no time to arrange a trip back to Memphis for the funeral, even if we could have gotten our act together that fast.

There have been other things going on that we can't speak of publicly, but in short, this has been the most stressful time of our marriage and one of the most stressful periods of my life thus far. I am faced with the most difficult choices since I divorced my first husband and, frankly, more difficult to decide. (Addendum: Jim and I are fine, in case you're misreading this. Sorry for the vagueblogging, but I seriously cannot talk publicly about some of this yet.)

I've been trying to think about what is most important, what is the right thing to do, for what I should give thanks... what Grammy would say if I could talk with her one more time.

And then I just had to step away for a few minutes, get hold of myself and hug my son, because I'm not ready to write her life yet.

I only wish I could have been here for this picture.

Yet life goes on. Work resumes, bills to be paid, chores to be done. There was a turkey to purchase, and the annual Jenga of fitting all our ingredients into the fridge. Jim got up early with me Wednesday morning to chop up the potatoes for the mashed potato dish, because he knew I only had a limited time before my shift began and there is so much food to be made. He carries his own grief and losses with dignity, and has been unfailingly loving and supportive throughout my crises this fall, including being assaulted and the professional quandaries. Four stars, would marry again.

It's with a quiet joy that I face this Thanksgiving, not really bittersweet, cooking up the usual feast for my menfolk and snuggling in with them for one of our favorite holidays while remembering those who have left us. Once again, I will give thanks for them. For the family that loves us from afar, for my awesome stepkids, for the food that nourishes us and the ability to provide it, for the roof over our head and for the presence and (relative) health of our family.

And for my husband and my son, who remind me how truly blessed I am, sorrows and all.