Today is Thanksgiving Day, and I’m making plans to have dinner with George’s daughters Laurie and Robin, Laurie’s husband Jon, and George’s four absolutely delightful grandchildren. For so many years, I have generally been away from my family for the holidays, for my sister, my brother, my children, all are back East–and once again, we are not together. But I have been blessed with becoming part of George’s family, and for that I am very grateful.
I woke up thinking this morning, however, about all the times when Thanksgiving was difficult for me, and how difficult it is for so many on this day of family celebration.
I remember first Thanksgiving after I was separated from my first husband, Frank, and our boys were with him for the holiday. I woke up in a very empty, very silent house that day. I had plans for dinner late in the afternoon with friends, but what to do until then? I decided that I would use the day to write to people–public figures–for whom I was thankful. That exercise took the sting off. One of those people was the writer Joan Didion. I told her how grateful I was for her beautiful prose, and how admiring I was of her skill with words. She in fact wrote me back, and I have kept her letter all these years. She is still working her magic with language, I am glad to see.
But there are people for whom today will be difficult. I just got word that the mother of one of my best friends died this morning. My friend’s mom was quite elderly and has been frail for a long while, but nevertheless death is always a shock in its terribly finality. So grief may move in and take over where thanksgiving would normally prevail–though grief and thanksgiving may come hand in hand, as well, as they often do at the time of death.
So my usual reflection today goes out especially to all those who find that Thanksgiving is a bit of a stretch today: to the widow and widower; to all who are separated from those they hold most dear; to the children who are with mom but not dad or vice-versa, or to the children who have no mom or dad; to the family that cannot afford a turkey, much less all the trimmings; to the soldiers who are holed up in some hostile land, thinking of a mother’s kitchen or a wife’s caress; to those who languish in a hospital bed, so ill that they cannot be home for the holiday; to those who live on the street, who will go to some church or non-profit and stand in line with a paper plate to get a steaming plate of food dished out by strangers; to those who have volunteered to work in the emergency rooms of this world today–in the hospitals, the Plaid Pantries, the fire stations, the police beats, the 911 operators–because they don’t have any place to go anyway, and others do, so why not help out.
Let us open our hearts on this Thanksgiving Day, and allow love and compassion to take us way beyond our own needs, way beyond our own family, to the larger community to which we are absolutely and irrevocably connected. Once again, let us know that we are one, all part of the human family, and all of us stand in the need of kindness and love and belonging.