12 The Grinch who Stole Thanksgiving
It is Thanksgiving day-again. I have come to hate the holidays (hell-a-days) as I have often been caught calling them. I cook till my back is throbbing, my grown kids do too. We rush in, eat an early lunch because, invariably, someone has to go to work, or there are other families that want to share the day with them. Sometimes, married kids who have out of state in-laws will have” their turn” this year. My dad, widower, had another invitation, and I encouraged him to go.
The Grinch in me creeps in. My best friend of 35 years died of cancer on Thanksgiving Day 2004, I lost my healthy teenaged son six years ago, I lost my health from the stress of his sudden loss, and still struggle with those limitations. I lost my mom nearly two years ago. I have lost two cousins to cancer since late August. I have a long list of reasons to be the Thanksgiving Grinch.
Still, as everyone reminds me, I have a lot to be thankful for. I have five other children, four grandchildren and two on the way. They all live nearby and I see them often. Despite my health problems and family issues, I am still able to cook, to keep up the family business, and to baby-sit my grandkids now and then. I am often caught having fun with my teenaged son and his friends. I am even caught laughing or smiling now and then.
As we rushed through the Thanksgiving meal today, and I was putting away food, my husband came in. He asked me if our next door neighbor, a widow, had gone to her daughters home for the day. As I filled smaller dishes with leftovers, I admitted that I didn’t know. We take our neighbor her mail and paper every day and take her trash cans up and down on trash day. I rejuvenated the overgrown flower garden her husband used to care for so deeply, back in the summer. We often sit and visit with her, just as our families have done for generations. She is like a second mother to me. We have been neighbors, more like family, for our whole lives.
As my husband and I talked, I quickly, I got on the phone and called her. After several rings, I imagined she was with her family. Then, she breathlessly answered the phone. I could imagine her struggling to the phone on her walker.
“Hi!” I greeted her.
She returned the greeting with a cheerful voice that made me smile.
“We were wondering if you had already had some Thanksgiving Dinner?” I asked.
“”No, I was just sitting here,” she replied sadly. “I’m alright, I have food.”
“ No Thanksgiving meal? Well, don’t eat anything!” I fussed, “We will be right over with a plate for you.”
“Oh, you don’t have to do that…” She started. But I stopped her and said, “We will be right over.” and hung up the phone.
Her house is right next door to our house and I mean a matter of yards, not blocks. Within five minutes, my daughter and I arrived at her door with four plates of food., ham, turkey, dressing gravy, rolls, vegetables, cranberry sauce and desserts. She was sitting on her walker-chair at her back door when we got there.
My daughter turned and grinned at me as we opened her screen door.
“Happy Thanksgiving”, my daughter said, as our neighbors eyes filled up with tears. (My eyes fighting tears as well.
She invited us in and we unloaded the plates of food on her counter. She told us how her daughter was sick and they had made no plans for the day. We stayed and talked a few minutes, all of us fighting tears. Suddenly, I realized, we were laughing and smiling, telling each other what a blessing it was to have people who loved you.
After a few minutes, we left her to enjoy her food and returned to my house next door. When my husband, son and grandson found out she was spending the day alone, they too, went over and spent a little time with her.
I don’t think there was a dry eye in my house when they returned. I looked around at the crowd of people, the driveway full of cars and realized something that I had never really thought about before. Being thankful isn’t about what we have-it is about what we have that we can give to others.
I watched as my children packed up their kids and cars and half empty bowls of food and I thought of all the other people like my neighbor, who would, indeed, spend the holiday alone. It is easy to bury ourselves in our own grief and stress. Within the sorrow, loneliness, anger and pain of the past few years of my life, I had forgotten how to appreciate what I still had.
The Grinch’s heart (my own) grew two sizes today. Happy Thanksgiving! Happy Thanksgiving to all!