I received two lessons in gratitude over the Thanksgiving holiday. I bonded with a kindred sister who reminded me that family is often not blood. Also I’ll never again overlook supportive family members in lieu of the other kind just for geographical reasons.
For Thanksgiving week, John and I flew to Washington State to spend time with his wonderful dad – who recently moved into an independent senior living building – and his family. John’s sister, Pat, lives nearby with her husband and mother as do their adult sons.
It was a big week of celebration. Along with seeing Jack’s new home and meeting his friends, we celebrated his 94th birthday which this year landed on Thanksgiving day. Talk about blessings…
As my readers know, I’m way diligent about the self-care discipline of exercise – and the holidays are no exception. If anything, we need to move our bloated-bellied bodies more as we march from banquet to banquet. So I had a date with a YMCA heated pool in a nearby suburb.
After my heavenly one-mile swim (Good God, that water felt glorious!), I was drawn to an attractive brunette in the locker room. She exuded warmth, strength and wisdom – my favorite combination as I knew she’d had tough knocks and managed to come out the other side.
Not long into our ever-deepening conversation, Mary shared that her husband had recently passed from cancer. Only 40 years old, he died just five months after being diagnosed. Perhaps more tragic, she confided with a flash of hurt and anger that upon learning of his prognosis, all nine of his siblings not only abandoned him but their children as well. Tears brimmed Mary’s eyes as she closed with, “I walked away from all of them.”
I related so very closely sharing how last year I finally walked away from my toxic siblings – and how I’m so much better off for it. Sensing Mary was in need of a pep talk, I spoke about spending most holidays with the loving friends John and I are now blessed with – along with family members who stay in our corner despite my illness.
Mary surprised me with her angel. A girlfriend they’d be spending Thanksgiving with. A girlfriend who was walking through the fire with her. A girlfriend “who of all my friends was the last person I thought would step up to the plate.” A glow of gratitude replaced her tears.
We hugged and with a nod of knowing dark times wished each other a happy holiday. After Mary left, I sat in my chair and reflected upon how much John’s side of the family means to me. They may be further away, we may not have grown up together, but we care, love and support one another – and that’s what real family does, blood or not.
Since walking away from a myth of a family last year, John and my holidays are different. Utterly. We look forward to them with joy in our hearts. We feel appreciated and nurtured. We’re surrounded by people we love and love being with.
Like Mary’s girlfriend, these beacons of light are nearby. They’re all around us. We lose sight of them when we tangle ourselves with those we mistakenly think we need.
I’ll be spending Christmas with angels. I hope you will too…