Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Giving Thanks

In everything, give thanks. –Saint Paul the Apostle

To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.
--Albert Schweitzer

A friend and fellow counselor recently said in our therapy group, "Gratitude is a discipline." I don't know if I had ever thought of it in just those words, but I know it is true.

And for the past few days I have found myself thinking often of those earliest celebrators of what we call Thanksgiving Day. They had left behind their homes, lost family and friends to the long journey and to the dangers and diseases of the new land they called home.

I would love to know just how their decision to feast and give thanks came to be made. I'm certain they felt relief and gratitude to have made it through the winter and to still be alive. But I'm equally certain they were still grieving the ones they had lost, and wondering how long they themselves would be able to survive.

I cannot help but believe that one reason we have a holiday like this, is that those early settlers were people of a particular kind of faith. A faith that did not give empty promises, a faith that did not see man as the measure of all things. A faith that prepared them for struggle. A faith that encouraged the discipline of gratitude in the midst of trials.

May God give me grace to live by this same disciplined faith. Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Blanketed in Love

Last night Drazen wanted something warmer on the bed. I remembered a blanket from Grandmother's house that I had stored away. Seems we didn't need it last winter; maybe we used something else. But yesterday I remembered it, a wool blanket that will always remind me of the bedroom my mom grew up in, where my sister and I usually slept. I always loved the windows in that room, five of them, with their white curtains that looked like angels because of the way they were pulled back in the center.

Our bedroom has only window, and obviously it didn't let in enough light for me to get a good picture of the blanket on our bed! So here is a close-up:

The wonderful, surprising thing was that when I took the blanket out from the cabinet it was in, unfolded it and spread it out on the bed, it still had the smell of Grandmother's house. So I went to sleep with that wonderful scent all around me. I may not have had angels at the window, but I felt a presence all about me, and I slept very well.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Grandmother's Birthday

Today is the day she was born.

These are photos from Thanksgiving Day, 2002. They are the only photos I have of her made with a digital camera.

For those who don’t know, the top photo is of her with my mom.

The bottom photo (you can click to enlarge it) shows a bunch of us in the den at her house after our long day of eating and visiting. It got so that we couldn’t do that at her house the last couple of years, and we met at the church’s fellowship hall, which had a lot more room for the children, grandchildren, and greatgrandchildren. On this particular day there were 35 of us, plus the dog. But of course we all packed into her house afterwards!

She was very tired at this time, for various reasons, and I find myself wishing that my last pictures of her were not this way. Most of her life she was so incredibly full of energy.

But maybe that’s not so bad, to have these reminders that everyone has their limits, even the people we tend to idealize.

I was telling a friend today about her—how beautiful she was, how elegant she was, how articulate she was. And yet what prompted me to talk about her today (besides it being her birthday) was the memory of her lifting her tennis-shoed foot and stomping down paper towels in a wastebasket in a public restroom, saying, “I just don’t understand why people don’t do this more often, why they make such a mess.” (I had found just such a mess of overflowing paper towels in the restroom at work, and had followed her example and stomped them down.)

She was real, very real. So she had to get tired, and eventually she had to leave us.

Happy birthday, my very real Grandmother. Thank you for all the very real memories.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Granddaddy's Garage

Granddaddy had an amazing garage.

When I was little, it seemed like a whole ‘nother house, with an upstairs and everything. Even as an adult, I thought the upstairs would make a great little apartment. It was big enough for a sitting room, bedroom, and bath.

More amazing than the garage itself, though, were all the things in it. A boat hung upside down from the rafters in the left side of the garage (second photo), and I always wondered if it were the same boat I remember sitting in on the Hatchee river when I was about nine years old.

As the photos show, Granddaddy kept an organized garage. Everything had a place, and he kept things where they belonged. By the time these photos were taken, quite a few tools and other things had been given away, so you don't get the full picture.

But he had everything! Not a project was undertaken in all the decades of my life that required a trip to the hardware store, or a call to borrow something from a neighbor. He had all kinds of tools and gadgets, probably some that he never used, for all I know. I wish I had more specific memories of things that got worked on, but I don’t. I just remember starting to do something, and him or my grandmother saying, “I think there’s a wrench (or drill or whatever) in here that would do a better job of that,” and after a bit of looking around, there certainly was.

Perhaps his garage was a companion to Grandmother’s freezer and pantry. A symbol of preparedness, a reminder that these things were not always available, but thanks to grace and hard work together, now we have them and will use and share them.

Granddaddy died on this day, in 1989. I was in Italy and unable to be here. That was hard. It took me a long time to realize, make real, that he had died. There was no tool or gadget to make that job any easier.

Tonight is not the night because of other projects, but I hope to write more about him when the time is right. Like my grandmother, he is worth writing about.