Thanksgiving Begins Royale

I was thankful for a lot of things in 2004. In 2005 I cooked Thanksgiving dinner. In 2006, my mom decided to postpone the holiday two days so both my uncles can join us, and to give her a little more time to recuperate from her recent surgical procedure. It's still Thanksgiving though, and my parents and I will still celebrate, albeit over a smaller meal.

Thanksgiving is a time for many things, including leftovers. When Janet asked for five things I was grateful for, I knew I'd wind up listing some things I'd given thanks for before. As I reheat some of these though, two years have passed since I really compiled such a list. My experience in that time just might give this a new flavor.

1) My Parents' Health: My mother is in her late 60s; my dad is in his 70s. She has asthma and has been dealing with interstitial cystitis, though the latest procedure seems to be helping so far. He's lived with clogged arteries for over a decade, opting to change his diet and seek natural remedies rather than bypass surgery, back when doctors gave him two years or less without an operation. His stubbornness keeps him going, but also leads to risks to prove himself. I always have to fight him for a snow shovel, and wind up shoveling faster because it agitates him more when I try to stop him. He'll sometimes decide to lug a ladder out of the basement and climb up to clean gutters while I'm at work and helpless to stop him, though the last few times he's surprised me and waited for the weekend. While I can help him work on my car, moving heavy items like the jack and undoing stubborn or hard-to-reach bolts, I can't always be around when he goes off to work on his friends' vehicles.

In many ways, my concern for my folks is a selfish one. There are days when I pause and wonder how I even function as a human being and survive. They not only gave me life, but saved it on more than one occasion, being there when I needed to go to the hospital, and teaching me not to do stupid things. Many times I learned lessons when I didn't listen to them, but I know I have so much more to learn. My mom checks her blood pressure from time to time, and while I brush it off and think she worries too much, there's a part of me that grows concerned every time I hear that beeping in the other room. A few times a year, my dad will have a bad morning of dizzy spells, which he brushes off. β€œI probably just need to clean my ears!” Tuesday morning he complained of one, even as he was dusting and probably inhaling fumes from the cleaning spray. He only told me because he couldn't climb the stepstool to change a lightbulb. He shouldn't have lugged the stepstool as far as he did to begin with, and finally his stubbornness dissolved as he caved and decided to lie down. When I left for work, I heard the beeping as my mom checked his blood pressure. By the time I got home he was fine, and I was grateful.

My parents go to doctors several times a week, and take various medications and vitamins. It seems like at some point, staying alive becomes a full time job. People come and people go in our lives. I've lost touch with friends over the years, but it never feels final as long as I know they're still alive, even if there are a few I'll never see again. Death is permanent, and even believing in God and Heaven it's tough to face the prospect of life without certain people. I believe we'll be reunited, but I have no concept of what it will be like, and the time without them in between is tough. I'm glad my parents are still here, and glad every time they overcome another ailment.

2) β€œIt's just a dream.” So often, my anxiety creeps in to my subconscious. I've gone to school without studying for a surprise test, only to wake up and learn it was a dream. In my mind I've missed deadlines at work. I've dreamt that I overslept and missed church, gigs, camping trips, and outings with friends. I woke up Sunday after a vivid argument with my dad about not waking me until 10 AM, hours after I needed to get up to meet B13. When I looked at my watch, it was only 6:30. I've seen people die horrible deaths, and on more than one occasion I've fallen over a ledge or stumbled in front of a train.

Wednesday morning's dream was insane. I met some friends in Manhattan for breakfast at Starbucks. It was some new location high above the street, with an amazing view through tall glass. There was some wonderful deal in which I'd get something for free if I ordered five drinks and a pastry. As they mixed a Frappaccino, I told them to put it all in one pitcher sized container, which marvelously enough they had, complete with a jumbo straw.

We sat at the window looking out on a windy day. I noted the back of a cathedral, and the way some of the brick columns had shifted to one side over time. A man stepped in to one of these columns, only it changed to aluminum and had a window so I could still see him. The whole thing suddenly strained and pulled away from the building as some of the brick columns collapsed. I saw his look of terror and we all leapt to our feet as he tried to leap back into the building. The column fell away, the gap to wide for him to make his jump, and it all toppled out of view into a haze of smoke and debris. Sirens wailed in the distance.

Maybe my brain was trying to protect me, or maybe I'm just a horrible human being. Though at first I wanted to run down to help with the rescue efforts, when we passed the counter I remembered the offer. I showed my receipt and they gave me a plastic key. They said I had to collect these keys and redeem them for free treats. Rather than wait, I opted to trade it in right then and there. Unfortunately, one key only allowed a bite of a pastry and not a complete one. I looked in the glass and chose a donut. Then I went downstairs and was suddenly in an unfamiliar house, where all of my college friends along with their spouses and offspring sat at a round new table made from unfinished wood. I woke up, remembering the man who fell from the church, and was glad it hadn't actually happened. I couldn't help feeling guilty about the places my mind wandered to instead of helping, but dreams are difficult to control.

3) Five Days Off Without Traffic. My company is closed Thursday and Friday and, as I do whenever I can, I took a vacation day on Monday to extend the weekend. It's the largest chunk of time I don't work and while I'm consistently horrendously bored after the first few days, right now the time off is looking pretty good. Particularly, I'm glad to be off the road. As if the broken railroad crossing on Monday and the downed power lines a few weeks ago weren't enough, Wednesday offered more surprises.

Because of the holiday, I found myself heading home a few hours earlier than normal. Traffic didn't seem as bad as I would expect, but no sooner did I think that than I saw the flashing lights. For some reason the police had flares up and the main road was blocked off. Traffic diverted to a side street, and I followed the other sheep through a residential area to another main road. I had a choice of going left or right. If I went left, I'd have to make a right turn to pick up my usual North bound route, right by the train tracks that delayed me on Monday. If I went right, I'd make a left turn on a road that would take me safely under a train trestle, traffic the only possible concern. As I've said in the past, every decision I make is retroactively the wrong one.

I thought at first the traffic I encountered was due to the detour. As we crept further up, I noticed more flashing lights. It was dark and hard to see beyond them. Some cars made u-turns, while others turned off to the right down side streets. Finally, I saw an electrical pole snapped in half on the other side of the street. One SUV tried to drive around the police barricade, because commuters are nervy like that. I made a u-turn, and doubled back to my original road. What were the odds of trouble at the same railroad crossing on a day when two nearby roads had problems of their own?

The barricades were working, but I caught three different trains. At one point, I heard furious beeping a few cars back. We were stopped for a traffic light, and the line of cars extended well past the tracks. Some rocket scientist had stopped on the tracks, rather than hang back one car length. I love futile beeping. Where were we supposed to go? Each car had another in front of it, save for the first car which was stopped at a red light. In my rearview mirror I saw an SUV pull forward at a sharp angle, just as a train sped past behind it.

Once I got past that trouble spot, it was clear sailing. Of course, ten minutes from home and the nearest gas station, my fuel light decided to come on. The car was sputtering a little too and I wondered how I let it get so close to empty. Traffic moved well until that light came on, then cars seemed to materialize out of thin air before me. Red lights hung on a little longer. I was sure I'd be pushing the car when it ran out a few blocks shy of the gas station, but I made it, and finally got home on a dark and rainy evening. If I can avoid traffic for the next five days, I'll be grateful indeed.

4) The Internet: Like everything I've listed so far, this could be a post in itself. There's nothing I can't find online. If I miss a television show, or don't have a channel a particular show airs on, I can find it easily. News items like the Michael Richards tirade and his awkward apology can be found in their entirety. Blogs and message boards give everyone a voice and people can make their own decisions about things. I can stay in touch with old friends and make new ones, virtually anywhere in the world. There are games and comics and movie previews. My dad will wait ten minutes to hear the weather on AM radio; I can find out the weather in an instant. Even the Jumble is no match for the internet. The world is at my fingertips, and while I'm sure I only scratch the surface of it, I'm grateful for the ability to find answers to questions as trivial as movie stars or important as medical conditions.

5) Creativity: The world is a fantastic place, and we all perceive it differently. Sometimes reality can be bleak, and artists can enhance that. A painting or photograph can idealize a scene or immortalize its sadness. Artists are not limited by reality either. Authors can craft tales of science fiction, imagination opening the doors to thinking which leads to science fact in time. Television shows let us escape after a long day, and a surprising many can make us think and inspire us. Movies continue to advance, from special effects which make anything possible to more quiet and emotional performances. I'm grateful for all the painters, writers, photographers, musicians, directors, sculptors, illustrators, animators, and other creators out there. There are so many ways to express ourselves and communicate, and we can peek inside the minds of others while stimulating our own creativity. It's how the world moves forward.

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That's my five. I hope all of you and your loved ones have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving!



Blogger Lyndon said...

Have a great Thanksgiving MCF!

11/23/2006 7:20 AM  
Blogger Lorna said...

I love the way you care for your parents, and your inprobable outlook on life. Have a happy holiday

11/23/2006 9:52 AM  
Blogger Janet said...

There are a lot of things on everyone's thankful list that we take for granted. Five day off holiday weekends is definitely a different kind of blessing though. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Happy Thanksgiving!:)

11/23/2006 10:36 PM  
Blogger cube said...

reH yInjaj nay'lIj

*translation* may you always be served live food!

I thought that would be appropriate for a Klingon Thanksgiving, if they did one ;-)

11/24/2006 5:26 PM  

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