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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Christmas Day – What’s a Jew to Do?

Chinese Say Thank YouMovies and Chinese food is the answer.  But how did that become the thing to do on Christmas Day? And exactly how did my life become so cliché? After all, its Christmas Day, so what’s a jew to do?

For starters, short of sitting at home and watching movies the combination of movies and Chinese food are about the only things open on Christmas Day.  The roots for this were set early on based on how to kill a day.

I can remember back when Risa and I were dating going to a multiplex with her parents.  For them, it was a day-long endeavor.  They would walk theater to theatre, never seeing a full movie, but sampling 10 or more.  From there it was off to the Chinese take out (egg foo young was one of the must haves).

Fast forward into our lives.  I can remember living in Dallas going with Risa to the movies on Christmas Day.  There was not Chinese food though, in the Big-D, it was tex-mex (which is actually preferable).

But the tradition truly set in eight or so years ago when 13.5 learned the stereotype.  The expectation now is on Christmas Day there will be movies and Chinese.

In our case, we’ve enhanced the tradition from straight up take out to the Chinese buffet (its our annual trip to the buffet).

So, this Christmas Day, we will set out.  This year there will be different movies for 11.0 and 13.5 and then there will be Chinese buffet.

So, this Christmas Day, what’s a Jew to do?  The answer seems pre-ordained.

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Nosebleed Around 30K

After a whirlwind type weekend in Denver with the girls and mom (we were there for the Bat Mitzvah of my cousin’s middle daughter) we set out for the near full day of travel home.  To prevent having to take a flight before nine in the morning out of Denver I booked us with a layover (90 minutes) at DFW before continuing onto New York.

Generally, I don’t have a huge preference on airlines, I think they are all pretty much the same.  Given that, from my CBS days I have a lot of equity (miles) built up at American.  So when I was booking this trip I looked at a bunch of options and when all was said and done, based on timing, price and where there would be a lay over American worked out.

Having lived in Dallas for three years, I know there is a high probability that outdoor temperatures will be near 100 degrees and yesterday was no different.  Add that to a plane baking in the sun and the temperature inside the plane can easily approach 110 or more.  Add to that an old-school (but nicely refurbished inside) S80 with a poor AC system until the jets were on and the conditions were right for an uncomfortable sit on the tarmac.

As the temperature inside the idling plane approached 100 degrees the AA crew offered up some water.  That was nice of them, certainly a plus.  Finally (but on time) the plane pushed off the gate and the jets fired up-so full throttle AC was on.  As the plane cooled I fell asleep while 9.5 and 12.0 were playing games on their iPad.

About 40 minutes into the flight, I am guessing around 30,000 feet (on our way to 34,000) 12.0 woke me up to tell me 9.5 had a nose bleed.  I looked around, the seat belt light was still on, but I saw a uniformed member of the flight crew walking our way.  So I stopped him and asked for some napkins.  Here is where I wish I had gotten names, but I did not.

The first man (who it turns out was an off-duty first officer just taking the flight to LGA) got 9.5 some napkins and an ice pack.  Seeing all of this, one of the flight attendants jumped in and brought some more water and a couple of cold compresses.  The 35 or so minutes sitting in a 100+ degree plane dried things out to the point that 9.5 got the nose bleed.

Easily I could have taken her to the bathroom and dealt with it, but with some “light chop” outside the plane it was better to let the flight crew do its job and they did it well.

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The Video

Flipping through the Sunday Times (as I try to do each week), I stumbled upon (OK, in full disclosure this was handed to me more than I stumbled upon it) an interesting read in the Modern Love column by Dean Murphy who is listed as a New York Times editor.  Now I do not know Dean to the best of my knowledge.  But we do share the bond of being widowed with children at home.

According to the column, the Murphy’s lost their wife/mother a short time after a cancer diagnosis and just months before the Murphy;s would celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.   The vehicle of the column is how Dean kind of steps outside of himself as tears well up in his eyes watching the wedding video with his kids.

It’s a great read and is full of the insight that a single parent will have-that it’s a constant struggle to stay balanced.

The other memory this column kicked off for me though is the story of my wedding video, and I’ll kill the punchline now, it’s never been watched.

I am not an overly nostalgic.  I am not really one to look back at pictures or videos anyway.  But in the case of the wedding video, it was a kind of strange time-stranger than most go through for their wedding and year after and that could be among the reasons why the video has never been viewed.

  • Five months before I got married, my mother retired from her job and my brothers and I were able to pull off a pretty nice surprise party for her.  A good event.
  • Four to six weeks later came word that my younger brother died suddenly.  He lived in Arizona and there was a mental and physical strain to get him buried in NY.
  • Then came an accepted job offer in Dallas so I left my job in NYC and Risa started talking to her company about transferring.
  • Next was the dual track planning of a wedding and honeymoon and a cross-country move.
  • Then we got married and went on our honeymoon.
  • We came home and moved to Dallas.
  • After settling in (about 10 months later) came the brain tumor diagnosis.

Somewhere in the midst of the diagnosis and the first surgery we got the wedding video.  At the time we decided very consciously not to watch it.  We would watch it for our second anniversary-the surgery would be behind us and life would be ahead of us.

What we didn’t know, or didn’t hear about brain tumors though was that life was never really ahead of us.  There was post diagnosis and post surgery life-13 years in fact.  But that life was a constant cycle of tests and scans and doctors appointments.  All those plans-including watching the video were kind of forgotten.

2012 would be our 15th wedding anniversary. The video is still in its white box.  It’s been packed and unpacked many times.

And it remains un-played.  Maybe I should transfer it to DVD or some other digital format, although I am still not sure if viewing it is in my future.  Maybe the girls will ask about it, and I’ll pull it out.  I’m not sure.

For now though, I know where it is.

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Between Nostalgia and Dumb Guy: The New Couch

Finally I can say the remodeling I started in the family room is done.  I started the process over the summer when the girls went to camp-and managed to get what I will say is 90% of it done.  I did the painting, the new floor, new TV, home theatre system, throw rugs.  The only thing I didn’t do was a new couch and new chair-which along with the painting was what I really needed (although the new TV is great too).

The pic with this post the state of the couch today-and honestly when I came downstairs this morning it’s what made me say today is the day-I am done looking at this.

One of the more interesting traits I have is that I rarely seek out opinions from others.  There are many who have opinions I respect, but when it comes to my little world, generally if you have something to say-just say it because it’s not like I will seek you out.

It was kind of funny this week when 9.0 was asking me about the furniture we have.  It’s close to 15 years old and has been in at least four homes and four states.  We got the furniture at Dillards when we lived in Dallas.  For those who only know me in the post-Dallas days, we moved to Dallas a week after coming home from our honeymoon.  Someone gave us money to buy furniture since we basically had none when we moved.

Since then, this furniture has called Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York home.  In some of those places we’ve had a couple of homes or apartments-so it’s done yeoman’s duty for sure.

There have been people who have moved through the house and my life who believe that I did not get new furniture because I was not ready to get rid of memories of Risa.  I’m not so sure I agree with that.

Others have said it’s because of the girls and I want to let them get a little older before getting new furniture.  There’s some truth to that-but not a lot.

Really, the issue was despite it’s sagging springs and fading look the couch and chair have been functional-and at the end of the day, I am a dumb guy.  If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.  And especially in my case if it means I have to go to a store (couch is not something I am ready to buy on-line yet).

So today, while sipping coffee and having that gaping rip in the cushion staring up at me-enough was enough.

New couch arrives on Monday.  Redecoration now complete.

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