A Thanksgiving reflection

As I prepare to drive an hour south in the rain to break bread with my family—Dad, brother, niece, brother’s girlfriend, Dad’s lady friend, uncle, aunt, cousins and their kids and their cousins—I am indeed grateful for the many blessings I enjoy, day in and day out.

I am especially thankful for my family, which on this of all days, I realize is relatively functional. On the continuum of functional that is. We have our foibles, our quirks, and we can certainly annoy one another. But for the most part, we get along most of the time, respect one another, enjoy each others’ company. Most importantly, we are confident in our love for each other.

While I know that I am not alone in enjoying this particular blessing, I am also aware that there are many who have the opposite experience. Yesterday morning at the office, I had several brief exchanges that underscored this reality for me.

One colleague was leaving early for the holiday, en route to spend Thanksgiving weekend with his family and his in-laws. He’s been married for close to 30 years, and there is still no love lost between him and said in-laws, but every year, they endure each others’ company over the holidays.

Another friend just had a difficult exchange with her sister on Tuesday, and now was preparing to spend an awkward family Thanksgiving weekend with her family. Including the sister.

A good friend is mourning the fact that she has possibly spent her last Thanksgiving in her childhood home. She will be hosting the big family gathering this year, for her family and for her aging mother, who isn’t up to the task anymore.

One of my closest friends is anticipating a quiet Thanksgiving with just her husband and two younger kids, when she’s used to hosting a big dinner for her extended family. This year, the extended family members are spending the holiday elsewhere, and she’s feeling slightly abandoned, even though in past years, she’s fantasized about what it would be like to enjoy a lower-key holiday.

And another good friend has opted to spend Thanksgiving alone. When she told me her plans to “roast a chicken and stay in,” she requested that I keep that information to myself. She’s not choosing to do this because she doesn’t have other options. She usually spends the holiday with her sister, who has other commitments this year, so she’s just looking forward to some down time. By herself. And she doesn’t feel like having to defend that decision to those who may not understand it. (I’m a fellow introvert. I get it.)

I have friends who have no family to speak of, and I feel ridiculously wealthy by comparison. My nuclear family is relatively small—now that my mom is gone, it’s Dad, two younger brothers, and a niece. (The youngest brother is sticking close to home this year—in New York—for the holiday.) But my extended family is wonderfully large and loving, and while we don’t all see each other as often as we’d like, no matter where I’ve lived as I’ve grown up, at least one of my dad’s siblings and their family have lived nearby.

And so in a little while, it will be time to head out into the wet to enjoy family time and good food.

A very happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and may you exhaust yourself counting your own blessings!

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