I’m 88 years old and fifty years from now I’ll be having Thanksgiving dinner at my granddaughter’s house
today at 8:00 am
This is my annual reprise of a favorite post. More than ever before, with the pandemic still raging and our emotions filtered behind a Zoom screen, it’s essential we let our loved ones know how dear they are to us.
This is not a headline about spiking the stuffing with a psychotropic. It’s about the focus of this blog, cheating death by doing the things that give life joy and meaning.
For me, of all the holidays we celebrate throughout the year, Thanksgiving is the one with the most sentimientos de alegria, feelings of joy that speak to the warm-blooded emotions that ironically are not typically associated with the prim Puritans and straitlaced Pilgrims who first celebrated the harvest.
Invariably what happens to me when sitting around the table laden with the bounty from Whole Foods and Marianos, my tinnitus turns into Willie Nelson singing “You are always on my mind” with a segue to “September Song.” I turn mawkishly nostalgic; there’s a tear in my eye as I take in the presence of my family (and lost friends, sadly absent chair and place service but still in the room). I suppress a sob as my wife, wise and caring woman, raises a glass and toasts to health, her quiet benediction giving thanks to a higher power for the blessings bestowed upon us.
Typically, the younger ones look at me oddly, wondering “what’s with the tears, Papa?” “Tears of joy,” I tell them. And ordinarily that would be enough said.
But this time I’m going to add something more. I’m not going to take it for granted that they know ‘I love them.’
I want them to see me, a good Instagram photo for sure, but infinitely deeper than the pixeled surface of my face. I want them to look deep into my heart where limitless, unconditional love resides, so years from now, they can conjure up my image when I too am absent chair and place setting, yet still in the room.
I want them to have a reflection of me that comes vividly to mind when their eyes are closed, and they take a deep breath, face their fear and plunge into a moment of time when the outcome is unknown. I want them to see me then, by their side, sensing my presence, emboldened by an intuitive awareness that they are not alone; heartened by the love we shared, love that lives on long after I am a memory.
It was not always thus.
There were occasions in my past when Thanksgiving was more Edward Munch than Norman Rockwell, more like the ironic quip from spirituality guru Ram Dass, “If you think you’re enlightened, go visit your family.” I’m reminded of gatherings when suddenly, without warning, we’d be triggered by some innocuous reference or inadvertent remark, taking umbrage at a fancied slight we thought we had gotten over years ago; unconsciously reverting to the role we once played as part of the family dynamic even though the person we are now has little to do with who we were then!
But not this Thanksgiving Day. Sitting at the end of the table as the family patriarch, I will not leave unsaid what I have struggled all my adult life to say.
They will know they were loved. They will know that I loved them when my actions may have said otherwise, and that I have made amends for those regrettable times.
They will know that I love them. They will not have to wonder about that in the abstract after I am gone. I will make it clear, while I am here, at the head of the table, giving thanks for the power of love in all its glory.
My granddaughter, just turned ten years old, will not understand entirely. But she will feel the energy and hug me tight. And years from now, when those formidable moments of time I’ve described confront her, she’ll find strength and wisdom in her transcendent connection with a grandpa who loved her to the brim of the cup.
And I’ll live on.