Our family gathered for Thanksgiving this week.
Tonight Kyle, Moshe and I sat and talked about writing styles, blog aspirations and other such things. Just normal conversation for a Friday night. Yeah right…..
My son, the absolute smartest human I know, gives wonderful advise. He also shares of how he gathers inspiration from others, as well as he and his other Grad School students rely on one another to read and edit each other’s work.
As I soaked in the teachings, an offer was made to “guest blog.”
He said “give me a subject and I’ll write for you.”
I responded “write about your thoughts on this Thanksgiving.”
Here you go.
I have no problem giving thanks. I don’t want to seem arrogant or haughty, but I think of myself as a gracious person. Let those around you know that you appreciate them, be generous with gratitude, and support your neighbor. A few simple principles I try and live by. It isn’t always easy, but it’s simple, and I like that. Be good to others, be gracious, and be kind. Tell people you love them, tell them you appreciate them. Easy as that. Be thankful.
I have, however, encountered a small hurdle on this path of gratitude. I think we’ve all experienced it; try with everything we have to be positive and courteous, try and give strength to those who have none. But I still find myself focused on the loss my family endured this past year. My grandfather, a constant in my life, left us. This makes my principled worldview harder to maintain as of late. I’m not thankful that he’s gone, I’m not gracious in his absence, I’m not satisfied with our familial deficiency. I’m still here, thinking about him, wondering what he would be doing right now. I want to talk with him; about football, about that F-100 parked in my parents’ garage, about all of the remarkable stuff going on in my life.
When I sat down to write this, I didn’t plan on spending 750 words talking about my grandfather, but here we are. Still ruminating on our loss, still grappling with the reality of missing someone very important. I want to move away from this narrative, but I can’t seem to do it. I can’t deny Vernon his voice, because he is still all around me; in the smell of motor oil, in every Roger Miller song, every time I see something red. He loved red.
It seems redundant to tell stories about my grandfather at this point; I don’t know what to say about him that hasn’t already been said. His reputation clearly proceeds him, as every time I make the drive to Ocala, I hear some new remarkable detail about him; how he brought light into the lives of so many, how he gave sound and sage advice, or how he, in very simple and small ways, was able to stay so positive in the face of utmost adversity. The loss of mobility. The lack of independence. Cancer. That damn cancer.
The good news is I find my gratitude and graciousness working properly again, if slightly inconsistently. It comes in waves, crashing heavily around the holiday season and ebbing as I return to my normal schedule. I think this ebb and flow is a strong indicator of how, at least in my case, to deal with loss. The quiet times are the hardest, as the regular has become irregular; loss takes its toll in the day-to-day, so I’m working to strengthen my resolve, to become more consistent, and to take it a little bit at a time. I am remaining thankful by remembering, allowing myself to live in the past, even for just a moment, to feel the warmth and generosity of Vernon. Not running away from the memories, but allowing them to wash over me, giving thanks for every single moment the most remarkable person I knew made his way into my life. As I drive my truck, I think of sitting on his lap, working the stick shift in his diesel Dodge, destroying his transmission with my poor shifting. As I make my morning commute, I think of rides to school. As I shape my scholarship for publication, putting my work into the world for every academic to pick apart and critique, I think about simple lunches with his friends. In every solitary moment, I think of countless time spent just the two of us. I think of secrets we have, secrets that no one else gets to know. The day-to-day is quickly becoming a stereoscope of beautiful memories, reminding me of how I have been loved, appreciated, and cared for. I have decided to take each remarkable moment and fashion my image in them; their happiness drives me forward, the lessons they taught me shape my path.
So hopefully it has become quite clear: I can’t deny Vernon his voice. He is still speaking, and I won’t ever stop listening. Not even for a second.