I’m 89 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 a favorite post, written initially when the finality of a life span had a grip on my psyche, as those fearsome thoughts are prone to do with each passing holiday. I repeat it today, a week away from the family gathering, because the headline is not about spiking the stuffing with a psychotropic, it’s about the focus of this blog, cheating death by celebrating the events that give life joy and meaning. It’s essential to tell our loved ones how dear they are to us; to make sure they know they are loved.
For me, of all the holidays we celebrate throughout the year, Thanksgiving is the one with the most… how shall I say it, 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 stuffed the turkey.
Invariably what happens to me when sitting around the table laden with the harvest from Whole Foods and Mariano’s, 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 their spirits 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’ll 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 to look deeper than the pixeled surface of my face… deeper even than the aura photos of my spiritual energy. 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 picture of me that comes vividly to mind when their eyes are closed, and they take a deep breath, facing their fear and plunging into a moment of time when the outcome is unknown. I want them to see me at that moment, sensing my presence by their side, reassured by an intuitive awareness that they are not alone; uplifted by my love for them, love that will live on long after I am but 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 through 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 that I love them. They will know that I loved them when my actions may have said otherwise, and I will make amends for those regrettable times. 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.
They will know they were loved. They will not have to wonder about that in the abstract after I am gone.
My granddaughter, just turned eleven 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 challenge 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.