Thanksgiving: The Season for Gratitude
By NANCY PATRICK
Thanksgiving holds special significance for me because my wedding anniversary always falls during the week of Thanksgiving. This current one, November 23, marks the fifty-second for Mike and me. Anyone who has maintained a long-term marriage understands when I say, “I don’t know where the time has gone.” In some ways, I can’t remember life before marriage, but in other ways, it seems like my wedding occurred yesterday.
Our wedding and subsequent long-term marriage begin a litany of gratitude for me this Thanksgiving season. I might expand on my gratitude for my marriage here by saying how much I admire and appreciate the many families around the world who have made their families high priorities in their lives. One such family I admire, the Bergerons, live in Houma, Louisiana.
The wife, Sandie Sherrard Bergeron, and I became friends at the age of seven. I have many friends I have met at different times and places in my life, and I treasure all of them as true gifts from God. I guess what makes Sandie so special relates to the nature of life-long relationships. We spent many hours, days, and weeks together as children. She even traveled with my family to Arkansas for a summer vacation, and I went with her family on a camping trip to Junction one summer. When we communicate these days, the years between us seem to vanish.
Sandie, a student at Abilene High School, met Keith, an airman stationed at Dyess AFB, in 1968. They dated, fell in love, and became engaged to marry after Keith returned from Viet Nam. Keith’s large family has deep roots in Louisiana, so shortly after their marriage, the couple moved there and has remained. They set their wedding date for November 16, one week before mine, and I served as her maid-of-honor in the intimate wedding her parents hosted in their home.
Because they left town on their honeymoon, she did not get to participate in my wedding the next week, but we stayed in communication for the rest of our lives. Fortunately, Sandie’s parents stayed in Abilene, so she came to visit a couple of times a year, giving us the opportunity to see each other. Watching Sandie and Keith live their lives, raise their sons, nurture their grandchildren, and become senior citizens along with Mike and me has been an exciting journey. I value long-term relationships as a mark of substance and integrity.
I also appreciate the members of my extended family. My dad had four siblings while my mother had three, so I obviously had several cousins. I grew up with those people. We shared grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins for many years. Then as we grew up, moved away, and established our own lives, we drifted apart.
I didn’t realize how much those cousins would mean to me again until all my aunts and uncles began dying. I could see the fabric of my family disappearing as an entire generation left one by one. A few years ago when my mother’s older sister died, I felt a deep urge to attend her funeral in Arkansas. I had not seen her daughter, my cousin Linda, in thirty or more years. I knew I could see her and her family at my aunt’s funeral in Arkansas along with my remaining aunt and her two daughters, whom I also had not seen in decades.
The urge to reconnect with my cousins compelled me to travel to Arkansas to reestablish contact with them. I can’t describe what a lovely time we had (in spite of the sad circumstances that brought us together). As senior adult women, we told each other things about our mothers that none of us ever knew. In some ways, we felt sad, but in other ways, we learned the limitations we have within our own family units. As people say, “No one knows what goes on behind closed doors.” This visit opened a communication pathway for us via Facebook so that we at least stay current with each other’s lives.
Because of reconnecting with my maternal cousins, I also wanted to reconnect with my dad’s nieces and nephews. Although I have not seen them in person, we message on Facebook and stay in touch. I am thankful for that.
While in Arkansas, Mike drove me to various cemeteries where we found the graves of many of my family members as far back as the 1800s. I discovered that the headstone of one of my dad’s uncles lacked his death date. I felt so honored and grateful to have his headstone completed. No one will know or care, but I felt privileged to complete something for a man who participated in a significant part of my life for many years.
Thanksgiving reminds me of the importance of love in our lives. I have written earlier pieces that describe my childhood and its often fearful and unhappy memories. In spite of sad memories, I can say I never doubted my parents’ love for me. I never doubted I would have food on the table or a bed at night. In the midst of an often-tumultuous atmosphere, a stable foundation of security existed. Gratefully, I acknowledge my parents and their provisions for my sister and me. Sadly, millions of children around the world have neither. Many suffer trafficking, humiliation, abuse, and abandonment.
One of my greatest blessings has been the gift of motherhood. As a little girl, I didn’t play with dolls and pretend to be a mommy. In fact, I often contemplated skipping motherhood, but when my younger sister produced two of the cutest little red-headed twin boys in the world, I fell instantly in love. Shortly afterward, Mike and I produced the cutest, sweetest brown-haired boy I had ever seen. That sealed my destiny. I realize that all parents have felt this same emotion, but astonishing love so overwhelmed me that it seemed to ooze from my pores.
Again, as all parents know, the story gets complicated with twists and turns, but what a story unfolds! I believe love has taught me almost everything of value in my life. The Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 13:13 “but the greatest of these (faith, hope, and love) is love.”
I appreciate my parents, my extended family, my son, my granddaughter, my friends, and of course, my husband Mike. I don’t think marriage is easy for anyone, but the long-term results from stable and secure relationships makes the effort worthwhile.
And so, for all these reminders of blessings, I thank God and hope your heart and mind will also fill with thanksgiving for the blessings in your life.
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing