Still grateful, after all these years

A fall (level-ground!) hike with the Beans. I'm grateful for moments like this...even when they don't fall on the traditional day.
A fall (level-ground!) hike with the Beans. I’m grateful for moments like this…even when they don’t fall on the traditional day.

What? Another Thanksgiving? Like a carousel, they keep coming around, these special holy days. But they come faster, not slower. I haven’t had time to make pumpkin pickles for years. Or preserve autumn leaves by pressing them and coating them with glue, for use as table decorations.

Could it really be decades ago that around Thanksgiving the Preacher and I baked a dozen loaves of bread, tied them up with ribbon, speared through with a few stalks of wheat, and presented them to every board member in the churches we served as thanks for their service? That on Thanksgiving Sunday the front of those churches were laden with produce from the gardens of our congregation members, along with baked and canned goods, all destined for the parsonage, as a love-gift from the congregation?

Was it last Thanksgiving that my harvest pumpkins froze on our front stairs? That the wind stripped the scarecrow clean of one of its raffia legs? That our family gathered, as we have for decades, around our nine-foot harvest table (now at our daughter’s home)?

The big table barely fits us all now. The Beans are taking over. Adding a few friends, we had to use two tables at our last family dinner.

And when was it we joined hands to sing a grace of thanks, than shared it on Facebook, hoping to inspire other families?

And was it two Thanksgivings or three ago that friends Glenda and Lornen brought two orphaned kittens to dinner? Carried them in in a paper bag, bottlefed them when they mewed for milk.

When did our family take our last traditional Thanksgiving hike? 2007? That year, I recall, I bundled up the Preacher in his wheelchair (still in rehab after contracting West Nile) and rolled him partways around Wascana Lake – almost dumped him in when the chair’s handles nearly slipped off on a downward slope.

So many family traditions. My favourite holiday.

“Dad, what are you thankful for?” I asked my father, two provinces over, tonight. (Thanks, God, for the phone, and that my parents can still hear and understand me.) Dad recently turned 91.

He turned on his thanks tap. Listed all the things I’ve heard since I was small enough to lisp, but big enough to understand that his blessings were mine too; that there’s always enough to share. “For so much,” he said. “Shelter and food and home. Especially for Jesus who forgives my sins, and for the hope he brings…”

“It always boils down to that, doesn’t it Daddy? Without Jesus, none of it means a thing.”

He agreed heartily. Handed the phone to Mom, 95 now. “Mom,” I asked, “what are you grateful for?”

“For my wonderful family,” she said. “You and Beverly and David and all the rest. For this nice place where we get to live. And that Daddy and I can still be together.”

I picture the two of them, each body a bundle of pain and disability. Age has weathered them hard, but they’ve not forgotten: Gratitude softens life’s bitter hand. And that without God , they’d have nothing, but with him, in spite of it all, they have everything. Me too. And you?

Blessed Thanksgiving, friends.