Evolution of Thankful

As I sat at the Thanksgiving table last night with my kids, my mom and friends I realized while the meaning behind Thanksgiving doesn’t change, we can (and I’d argue should be) aware of the evolution of thankful wrapped in the day.

Without going through my entire history – Risa and I were married a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. After our honeymoon, we came home, ate turkey with our families and headed off for Dallas and what we expected to be the start of our lives together.

Before we got to celebrate a Thanksgiving in Dallas (or fly home for Thanksgiving), Risa was diagnosed with a brain tumor – and to the best of my recollection we were in our apartment with friends and co-workers that first year.  Risa had her first surgery shortly after that.  There was a lot we did not know about what was ahead of us – but in the evolution of thankful we were happy to be together and with people who cared.

By the time our second Thanksgiving in Dallas rolled around – Risa’s condition was mostly stabilized and we started a tradition I try to maintain today.  At the time I was still working in broadcast news and November is a tough month to get time off.  So we invited the migrant folks from the station for Thanksgiving.  These were the Dallas transplants who did not have family in Dallas.  Again, my hazy recollection is about 15 or 20 people in our relatively small apartment.  But we had a lot to be thankful for and the evolution of thankful had changed again.

Over time we moved back east, had kids, moved into a house.  All the while our Thanksgiving dinner has been a mix of small gatherings and larger “events” always open to pretty much anyone we come across.

Our second Thanksgiving in Boston was our first as parents, and the evolution of thankful had changed again as we had a healthy girl to share the day with.

By the time we added a second child we were back in metro New York and had a lot to be thankful for.  Our youngest was born about six weeks before Thanksgiving and despite the looming shadow of a brain tumor – to the outside world we were a young family and had a lot to be thankful for.

I can remember eight years ago, Risa’s last Thanksgiving in the house with us.  I can’t remember who else was here because I realized the evolution had occurred again, and while we were together as a family, I also realized that image would not last.  Although we had a lot to be thankful for I realized the next evolution would be bigger than a move halfway across the country.

So last night as I looked around the table – I saw the start of the next change.  For Thanksgiving 2018, I’ll have a college freshman coming home for a few days.  15.0 and I will have to figure out what our life at home will be like without her sister.  17.5 will have to figure out how to acclimate back in after her first four months away at school.  I’m sure we’ll be thankful – just another evolution of thankful to come.

I have a pretty good idea what I think the evolution will be after next year – but as I’ve learned you need to roll with the punches and be thankful for the evolution.

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My Weekend to Ponder

So heading into a Friday night I’ve spent most of my day turning over in my mind a conversation I had last night while driving home from New Jersey.  Now, I know full well what a bad idea it is for me to put this out there-but it’s kind of what this blog is, so in for a dime-in for a dollar I guess.

Twice this week, once on Wednesday and once on Thursday in very different ways and very different circumstance my ability to sustain my side of a relationship was certainly questioned and perhaps even doubted.  Now the first one was not one that would make you stop and think all that much and I won’t dwell on it all that much.  But taken with the second event, it makes you think a little.  Enter my weekend to ponder.

So far, I’ve realized that during the last 20 years or so my direct inter-personal relationship was with my wife who was my wife who was in a pretty steadily deteriorating state dealing with a brain tumor.  In looking back, as she slipped away first intellectually and then physically I retreated inward.  I dealt with a lot of pressure between her care, child care, nurturing my career.  There was not a lot of time for me to sustain the social tool box that I had at one point.

Now professionally I am a different person.  Even with a group of people who are good friends who I would go to bat for and watch a back for any day of the week, it’s a different setting.

When it comes to opening up and being just me, guard down, planning turned off-I feel clumsy even if I’m not I still feel that way.  And there in lies the rub for me.  There are inter-personal settings where that kind of encounter is expected, and this week I learned at least once and probably twice I have a long way to go.

When I stand in front of the mirror shaving in the morning I know the person looking back at me is doing all he can and really pushing hard to be better at it.  Still, there is a nagging sense that I could be doing better.  Now to ponder how?

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A Lemonade Moment

Mixed into the hustle and bustle of the weekend that was came news that the mother of two girls my kids went to camp with this summer passed away after a long battle with breast cancer.  That’s a lot of similarity to my house-and I spent a lot of time on Friday trying to figure out if or how I would tell the kids about this bit of news.

One of the nice things about the camp they went to is the family feel that it has-and the way they sustain it through the winter.  Barely a month after coming home the girls have been in touch with many from camp, I’ve been on the phone with the director and assistant director-it’s more than just a business venture for the camp.

And reality is that is part of what sold me that this was the right place to send the girls.

Then came the news-and a flurry of email activity among parents about how to coordinate a gift from the girls.  In the background to that was my mental tug of war over how to handle this.  I could easily send a card from the family and contribute for the gift-but that’s not how I’ve handled any of this with the girls and there was no need to make a change now.

First I told 8.5.  The younger sister was in her bunk and they were friends.  She handled it well, and even volunteered to be there for her friend if she needed someone to talk to.  It’s not an exclusive club-but at that age knowing you are not the only one is important.

Then I told 11.0.  In her case, the older of the girls is a couple of years older, so 11.0 knew her but they weren’t close.  Still my daughter wanted to extend the offer to be there for her friend-as someone who has gone through the affects cancer can have on a family.

For me, it’s a proud moment-albeit tinged with sadness.  I never wanted what my girls went through to define them-the same as I tried not to let my father’s death when I was young define me.  Rather, I want their experience to be part of their person-and for them to be able to use what they lived through and what they survived as a way to help them in life.

In this first test-I would say they did a great job, and I am proud.  I”m just not sure if I can tell them just how proud I am.

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