In the Suburbs / Forgetting troubles and being thankful
The nation is in turmoil. The Super Committee is at loggerheads. The outlook for jobs remains bleak. My house hasn't sold, and my prospects for finding consulting work remain challenging.
Nevertheless, I had a lot of gratitude to take to the Thanksgiving table we planned to share yesterday with our friends Bob and Roberta at their daughter's home.
Preparing for it, I'm thinking about all that is going right for us and will just forget about the rest. After all, that's what Thanksgiving is all about. It's a day to be with family and/or friends, enjoy a delicious meal, share stories of hope and give ourselves permission to feel good.
I'm particularly thankful for my beautiful wife and family. We have weathered a lot of storms this year and have given each other a lot of support and strength. My wife and I have often said that the glue that holds together this marriage is our ability to get through the tough times. Anyone can sail through the good times and happy occasions, but handling the rough spots is a different ball game.
My parents, who continue to be the energizer bunnies at 91 and 89, are another of my blessings in life. They are so active, it's hard to track them down during an afternoon bridge game or during a trip to California or Florida. While there are some subtle signs that they are slowing up a bit, my dad still shops for mom and drives groups of people for dinners and other outings. And mom has her activities with the synagogue and still writes the digest for her cousins club.
I am particularly thankful this year for the beautiful life and friendship of our friend Susan, who was taken from her wonderful family and friends like us too soon this past summer. While hers is a void we can never fill, we'll never forget the lesson of her life, her upbeat attitude and her ability to connect so many people. Her mark on our lives is so ingrained, I have not been able to erase her name from the contacts list on my phone.
I am thankful for the tenacity of my old friend Mort, who is battling stage 4 Leukemia in Philadelphia, and my other close friend Lew, who is recovering from an brain tumor. I had hoped to see Morty during a trip to Washington last summer, but he just wasn't up to it. The chemo was very debilitating.
Lew is going strong now and is bouncing back very quickly. His illness struck way too close to home for me, since he's about 15 years my junior.
All this death and illness has made me that much more thankful for my own health. I guess there is something to be said for good genes and realizing how precious each day is.
And I am particularly thankful for my wife's steady recovery from her broken ankle. Eight months ago, I felt blessed just to be able to load up a van with her wheelchair, shower stool and cane so we could attend my nephew's wedding in Washington. A month ago when we danced at our friends' daughter's wedding, I felt like we'd turned a corner. The road ahead is still long, but each day gets a little better.
Moving away from the health front, it's nice that I still have the energy to work as much as I do, and I am grateful for my work as a substitute teacher, at the museum and as a freelance publicist. Frankly, I'm just very thankful for any work in these troubled times.
While we're continuing to struggle financially, I remain more optimistic than pessimistic about the future. Somehow, my gut tells me that we're going to make it.
I have a strong support system in both my workplaces and among contractors and clients, who are among the greatest people I know. Teachers rock, and so do historians. I learn so much each day from being around them. It's a winning combination. And I've also been blessed with some terrific projects this year for my own business.
I continue to count our friends as our greatest gift beyond family during this season, because they are really like family. They have laughed with us when things are good, cried with us when we've faced setbacks this year and bolstered our spirits when we've faced crises. They have always been there for us, no matter what.
My plan for Thanksgiving was to set aside all the bad stuff that's happening -- at least for one special day -- and remind myself how grateful I am just to be alive, in good health and living in a free country where I still have control of my own destiny.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer whose "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com