Today, I am giving thanks.
As you read this, I’m in New York, spending the holiday with family, having turkey at the table of my niece, who is awaiting Senate confirmation of her nomination to a federal judgeship in this state’s Eastern District. Full congratulations are not quite in order just yet, but we are happily anticipating …
Meanwhile, I’m looking backward as well as forward, and offering a silent Thank You to so many who have helped me in the past, but are not sitting at this table today:
A Thank You to my Mother, who taught me how to shop: “If your think something has your name on it, buy it immediately! But if you don’t, and it’s gone by the time you decide to go back and get it, don’t be regretful; it never had your name on it in the first place.” (She also taught me how to make trash can liners from folded newspapers, a necessary skill back in the days before plastic bags. Good thing we have plastic bags; there’s probably not enough newsprint around now to do this with, anyway…)
A Thank You to my Father, a practical doctor in his time who wouldn’t even recognize medicine if he could come back and see it today, but whose advice is timeless for health, and in all other facets of life. He gave me this, my own life’s mantra: “None of us knows what we’re going to get. You get what you get. The longer you live, the more you get. And if you can manage to live long enough, you have a chance to get everything! So all we can do is take whatever life hands us and make the most we can out of it. Because ne plus ultra — there’s nothing beyond …”
A Thank You to My Boubby the Philosopher, who taught some Jewish basics: “Not all Bible stories are literally true, and the Messiah isn’t coming so fast,” and also the basics of contentment in life: “If everyone hung their troubles out in their backyards like wash on the line, you’d look up the block and down the block, and you’d grab your own laundry, take it back into the house, slam the door behind you and lock it as fast as you can.” (Nobody hangs wash outside these days, although sheets and towels smell much fresher when they dry in the sun than when they come out of any machine. But her image is a beauty, isn’t it?)
A Thank You to My Zaidy the Plumber, who taught me not to gamble – not even at gin rummy, at which I remain very good indeed. (Special Thanks here to my late Uncle Ben.)
A Thank You to Uncle Srol (short form of his Hebrew name, Yisroel), the last of my mother’s 11 siblings. Now 94 years old, he calls me early every Sunday morning, without fail, just to check in. This is to remind me that he’s still alive, and to reassure him that I’m the same. A good thing for both of us…
A Thank You to My Children, who have, after several decades, forgiven me for not being a perfect parent, as they patiently wait for their own children to do the same…
A Thank You to Pirke Avot, with attribution to Rabbi Akiba, for this: “Everything is foreseen, yet freedom is granted.” It’s a wonderful conundrum I’ve pored over for many years as I (still) try to understand both the possibilities and ramifications of free choice.
And, finally, A Thank You to Tom Conboy, a friend of my high school youth who became a Presbyterian minister and now, in retirement, continues to send me updates and uplifting messages. Here is his latest: “My prayer is that we all can find some measure of peace and hope in this troubled world, and in our own time.”
Amen! I wish everyone a Happy, Thankful Thanksgiving!
Today, I am giving thanks.