When your sole surviving parent is in her eighties, you think about thanks in an entirely different way --one day, one holiday, one small blessing at a time. Because you never know whether that person, that familiar face, that ongoing, deepening, shared conversation will be going on over the sweet potatoes and creamed onions next year at this time.
"I never thought I would live this long," Mom says, "I never wanted to be an old person. I don't like old people."
Well, unlike Mom, I do.
There are a few special older people whom I really love and am grateful for. Mom is one of them. A brilliant and vibrant man with whom I am blessed to work is another. Plus a few approaching the cusp of elderhood, who have so touched my heart and my life, that I stand in the world and walk on paths they have cleared with a steadiness of gait and sureness of direction that I could not imagine feeling without their having made the way.
Despite their aches and pains, the slower gait, the lost keys, lost words, lost memories Despite their soul sadness as they contemplate the world facing the little ones. Despite their occasional and worrisome medical encounters, the eternal health "what-if" scenarios that play like a buzz in the background, despite the uncertainty you push aside about whether you will have one more day, one more holiday, one more year, or one more decade with these special elders. Despite all of it, you learn about life, its preciousness, and the need for daily gratitude from those who march ahead of you on lifespan's forward moving curve...
When people continue to grow and evolve and serve and care over a lifetime, they are able to share the precious gift of elder wisdom, which traditional societies prized above any other form of accumulation. In a society where novelty and constant self-reinvention are the norm, where tips, items, and info flow towards us, striking the shore of instant awareness, and disappearing moments later, like an endless sea of flotsam, I am thankful for the more slowly distilled elixir of a lifetime that Mom and some of the elders serve up.
Last night, with a few friends, I trouped over to Mom's home, high atop a hill, overlooking a misty heathery landscape where two ponds, visibly, vividly blue in summertime, now seemed pale, and mirage like through the autumnal veils of fog. Down in the dunes, cranberry bogs served up the their harvest of autumnal fruits-- as we hung out with Mom, peeled onions, skinned sweet potatoes, chopped apples, and watched Charlie Rose, her favorite program. Thanks to extra hands, and friends, and fellowship, we were all prepped for the day of cooking and conversation on Thanksgiving.
And with that day, when the moment for blog writing faced me, there was nothing more important to share, no agenda or teaching more urgent, than to simply open up the space to feel the simple gratitude for another day with loved ones, another meal, another conversation, a sharing, a moment of laughter at ourselves, a tablespoon of tart orange cranberry relish, and another holiday with you, Mom.
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