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A Faux Thanksgiving

A Tempting Proposal

It all began with good intentions.  Randy knew I worked hard on Thanksgiving day (not to mention the weeks leading up to it) and he wanted me to relax and enjoy the holiday.  I taught school at the time, and the four-day vacation surrounding Thanksgiving was not a break from my hectic schedule.

“Let’s go out to eat this Thanksgiving,” he blurted unexpectedly a few weeks before the big day.  “We can skip the preliminary planning, the shopping, and the full day of cooking.  And we won’t have to figure out how to get the leftovers in the fridge.”  He shouldn’t have mentioned the leftovers.  That’s my favorite part.

Randy was clever with his timing.  His proposal came on a day when I was exhausted and cranky from dealing with second-graders.  His suggestion gradually transitioned from absurd to enticing as the holiday approached.  One week before Thanksgiving, I embraced the offer, grateful I didn’t have to purchase a turkey or a pomegranate, two items I buy only once a year.

No Favorite Pie?

The fourth Thursday of November came without fanfare or stress.  After watching the Macy’s Day parade (for the first time sitting), the family climbed into the car with varying amounts of enthusiasm.  It was uncharacteristically silent as we drove to an all you can eat buffet.  Promising a movie to follow our meal made little difference in the existing mood and I sensed disaster in my hasty decision to change years of tradition.

The Thanksgiving buffet offered many choices but didn’t come close to the savory, homemade delicacies that took hours to prepare.  Feeling physically rested didn’t compensate for the joy I missed serving my family.  Unlike past Thanksgivings, I didn’t rise early to dress the turkey or bake eight different pies to cover everyone’s favorite.  Instead of a morning filled with the laughter of family working together in the kitchen, we all sat in a cold restaurant filling our stomachs, void of conversation or smiles.  I was surprised how much I missed the mounds of dirty dishes and the football game blaring in the background.

More Than a Feast

Why did I feel hungry sitting in the crowded theater watching a newly released Christmas movie?  Pondering the day’s events, I discovered the reason for my emptiness.  Thanksgiving is more than a meal with all the right foods.  Thanksgiving is a day to demonstrate gratitude and loving service.  It is when time is spent together, cooking, playing, and talking.   It is the season we give thanks for a year of prosperity and blessings, the reasons behind the First Thanksgiving.

As we entered our home late that evening, absent were the smells of sage dressing and pumpkin pie.  Gone was the need to browse through my recipe box of twenty different ways to fix leftover turkey.  Missing were the anticipated meals of turkey sandwiches on day-old rolls.  The fridge was void of fruit salad with brown bananas and gooey marshmallow-topped yams.  We might as well have slept through Thanksgiving, and even though my feet weren’t throbbing, and the kitchen sparkled, I vowed we would never skip it again.

Because of Lisa

Four days after publishing The Cancer Effect, I heard the news that no one wants to hear.  Lisa, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer only months before I received the same news, passed away.  It couldn’t be.  I didn’t hear right.  Lisa, who had endured six rounds of chemo, lost and grew back her hair, and selflessly returned to raising her family, had lost the battle.  Lisa.  After being cancer free for several years, she bravely faced more treatments when cancer traveled to her bones, then the liver.  Five years, cancer free.   Then it crept back, uninvited, unexpected, unwanted.

Like lightening, cancer strikes where it wants.  Sometimes there is a warning, such as sounding thunder in the distance, or light drops of rain.  What are the chances?  Even less that it will strike twice in the same place.  But it happens, and when it does, it isn’t kind.

Because of Lisa, I stopped in the middle of my day and cried.

Because of Lisa, I pondered once again the miracle of each day as I watched the evening’s sunset.

Because of Lisa, I paid attention to the changing leaves and cool breeze, remembering it is her favorite time of year.

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Because of Lisa, I vowed I would make my life worth living every extra day I have been given.

Because of Lisa, I added to the dedication in my book, “. . .and to those who valiantly fought, but lost.”

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