Thanks for Nothing

  • OK, so I’m feeling a little bitter, right now. But I’m writing this post as an attempt to work toward a larger definition of gratitude. says: the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful: He expressed his gratitude to everyone on the staff. Not very helpful. Let’s try “grateful”:
  • 1. warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful: I am grateful to you for your help.
  • 2. expressing or actuated by gratitude: a grateful letter.
  • 3. pleasing to the mind or senses; agreeable or welcome; refreshing: a grateful breeze.
  • OK, that’s a little better. That’s what I usually mean when I say I’m thankful. I’m thankful for the good stuff. And don’t get me wrong. Despite my bitterness, there’s a LOT of good stuff. I love my husband, and he loves me. My son is growing and healthy and learning to talk, and he makes me laugh and cry every day with his verbal experimentation and sweet heart. I am part of an active and thriving writing community full of amazingly talented, caring, and supportive people. I am guided by wise and encouraging mentors and teachers. It’s currently 65 degrees and sunny outside my open windows in a comfy house that I get to work and play and sleep in. I am safe and healthy. The people I love are mostly safe and healthy, too. Those who are not at 100% capacity are getting the help and support they need, and ask for more when they need it.
  • But what about the OTHER stuff? That needs air time, too. I am a human being, and as such, I am subject to a whole range of experiences and emotions. To limit those experiences and emotions is, in a way, to limit my humanity. And I’m tired of doing that. Literally. Doing that, pretending to be happy when I’m not, or young when I’m not, or a party animal when I’m not, that’s exhausting. I’m too old for that shit. I need to be all of who I am, and I need to honor even the yucky stuff. Even–even be grateful for it.
  • I just took a deep breath. My father is dead. When he was alive, he was a chain smoker, an alcoholic, a storyteller, a charmer, a liar, a singer, a jerk, a loud laugher, and a hero. He used to host us every Thanksgiving. He made hunter’s stew, a dark wine broth with venison and goose meat, potatoes and carrots. He hated turkey, so Thanksgiving was always an adventure with my dad. I am currently learning to be thankful for all of his weaknesses and foibles, the things that pissed me off when he was alive, mostly because now they’re gone. And I never thought I would miss them, but I miss them, because they were part of who he was. And I miss him. I miss him awful.
  • My mother is also dead. When she was alive, she was passive-aggressive, artistic, self-pitying, constantly ill, and the most patient and forgiving soul I knew. She’s been gone for nearly eleven years, and I still miss her. I never won’t. I miss her knitting sweaters and afghans for me. I miss her sense of humor, the dirty jokes and songs she used to tell and sing. I miss her handmade wreaths every Christmas. I miss her rice pudding and the green-gray-blue of her eyes, which I can now see in the eyes of my son. She used to start a new conversation just as I was leaving the room to go to the bathroom. She painted great seascapes and grew amazingly lush plants and flowers.
  • In missing these whole, imperfect people, I’m learning to be thankful for the wounds as well as the gifts they gave to me. My parents’ respective diseases created patterns in our family and in me that eventually led me to therapy, homeopathic treatments, energy work, and healing school–all things that have enriched my life and made me a more open-hearted and grounded person. I paint, like my mother painted. I write, like my father wrote. I tell stories and I sing. I do not smoke. I do not drink very much. I have made my choices, as they made theirs. And all of it–even the shit–made me the person I am today. Hemingway says that life breaks everyone, and some are stronger in the broken places. So I’m thankful for my strength, even though I had to earn it the hard way. (Is there any other way? I don’t think so.)
  • But now I have no parents, no family to spend my Thanksgivings with, no one to annoy me and drive me crazy and make me wish I’d stayed home and avoided the traffic. How can I be thankful for that?
  • I’m not sure, but I wonder if Brian’s family has something to do with it. His parents are both still alive, the only grandparents Jack will ever know or remember. This year, we’re spending both Thanksgiving and Christmas with them, with Jack, so that we can all be together. At Thanksgiving, we will even see Jack’s great-grandmother, who is 91, and his great-great-aunt, who is 97. No longer do I resist these visits, because even though they’re not the family I grew up with, they ARE Jack’s family. And I want him to know them. We won’t need to dash from one family’s house to another. We won’t need to fret about hurt feelings and lonely relatives. In a way, that is a big relief.
  • Not sure yet if I can be thankful for the space left behind by my parents. I hope that in this space, I can write and live and raise my children and love the life that I create. But it’s still a pretty big nothing to be thankful for.

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