“Much to be thankful for, much to ponder which has passed away, much to contemplate which is yet to come.”
— Silas Smith, 1918
Thanksgiving has arrived once again, and as we celebrate our prosperity, this is a day which gives us reason to contemplate the changes in our lives as the years roll by.
When I was still a youngster, I remember sitting with my great-grandpa Charlie and wondering why he seemed sad when everyone else was in a celebratory mood for such events as turkey day.
“I miss my friends,” he said once near the end of his 84 years. “When everyone is happy, it seems that is when I miss them the most.”
I wasn’t quite old enough to grasp the message he was sharing. He had lost nearly all of his peers, his wife, a beloved daughter who would have been my paternal grandmother but had died too young to even fully enjoy motherhood, let alone days as a grandmother.
Last evening, I spent the evening babysitting three adorable children. Over a year ago, I wrote a column about Candy, the woman in our community who had lived an exemplary life and was afflicted at such a young age with multiple sclerosis. She passed away in April, 2007.
It is her dear grandchildren who I have had the pleasure to spend time with — playing, laughing, watching silly movies together.
After baby Kennedy went to bed for the night, 3-year-old Jack and Lacey, 5, told me it was time for us to go on an adventure. Lacey had a map drawn up on yellow paper and it was our job to find each item on that map while evading the bad guys who were chasing not only us but our horses, too.
One by one, we “found” the apple tree, the rippling brook, the red barn. We also found places to rest our horses and let them drink, and each of us nibbled on those delicious apples we found while sharing one or two with our horses.
“Wait! Horses eat apples? No they don’t! That’s silly!,” Jack said. I assured him I knew what I was talking about and Lacey said, “Jack. Judie knows everything. She is smart!” Ah, what a joy to hear.
One thing we simply had not found was the windy blanket that appeared on the map, according to Lacey. “We are not done with our adventure until we find the windy blanket. See?,” Lacey said as she pointed to the blue blot on the map. She seemed entirely disappointed with me that I had not managed to find the windy blanket on any of our travels through the house.
I suddenly had an idea. I had dressed warmly for the evening out in to snowy Ohio, and my winter scarf just might serve as the windy blanket for our game. When I held up the scarf, pretending the wind was about to blow it out of my hands, Lacey’s beautiful blue eyes lit up and her smile told me I had accomplished great things.
Jack shouted with glee, “It’s the windy blanket! We found it!” Not only did we find it, but a sudden tornado that blew up in our imaginary world threatened to carry us right in to the path of the bad guys. The windy blanket ended up saving our lives as we held on to it for dear life as it carried us to safety.
I count myself blessed to spend time with these fun-loving, adorable children. And I find myself thinking of Candy each time I am lucky enough to do so. I miss her, and I mean that not for my own sake, but for the sake of her family who loved her so dearly.
Today marks eight years since my dear friend Wendy passed, 20 days after an auto accident on election day morning, 2000. Not a day goes by I don’t think of her and wish she were here.
As our children have grown up, as we moved to a farm which would have made us neighbors, as life marches on, there is not a day I don’t miss her laughter and her wonderful, sparkling presence. Eight years, and I still long to pick up the phone and tell her something new.
Thanksgiving Day was one of my dad’s favorite days of the entire year. He jokingly looked forward to eating till there was simply no room for even one more bite. “Darn, I got full!” he would say as he looked over the scrumptious food remaining, his smile providing proof of how much he had enjoyed the experience.
As the years roll by, I now know exactly what my great-grandpa Charlie was talking about. The table is full, but there are seats now empty. And the heart, too, cannot help but recognize that emptiness, even on our happiest days.