2009 has passed by, leaving in it’s wake many changed lives and conditions around all of us. Thankfully, and gratefully, my own personal circle remains relatively unscathed. To be sure, we’ve had our share of medical misfortune, some experience with aging and it’s ability to change those we love, and other “trifles”. Around Thanksgiving, I was going to post the almost obligatory “what I’m thankful for” essay. I was. I wrote it out. I didn’t. Because I felt funny about it. I felt as I did sometimes when I was younger. Bashful. Scared. Unworthy of what it contained.
I’m determined, in this new year, to change that thought process. Here below is that post, as written the day before Thanksgiving 2009. Better late than never.
I’ve been putting this off, sort of, for close to 30 years. 30 “adult” years of personal pain, identity searching, joy and happiness, desperation, complication, and long periods of pure dead calm. Why am I so hesitant to consider all the things to be thankful for? I’ve thought about this often, and here is my conclusion; just arrived at. Because I live in the absolute here and now most of the time.
I live in the minute that is attended by the idea that my job is less than I want. In the week where I’m short for the mortgage payment and the washer just died. In the minutes where I beat myself for not picking up the phone to talk to Mom and Pop. Why don’t I call my siblings? In the minute that a deer has caused thousands of dollars of damage. In the moments when you’re holding and crying with your wife, wondering just why, why, why does her Dad have to be fighting for his life? Why is Mom so sick? Thinking about the unthinkable. Thankful?
Truth is though, there are many, many more minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months of simple happiness surrounding all the trials I seem to focus on most of the time. In fact the list is quite long. I’m not going to list them in order, or bullet them to draw individual attention to them.
I am thankful to have been born to Mike and Betty Strong, on May 25, 1962. Followed by Martin, Mary, and Peter. We are a family, often troubled by things, not the least of which are our own personal demons. But we are a family, and we hold each other up, laugh and cry like one. We suffer and we celebrate like one. Not always together, but always in my thoughts and prayers. I love my family and I’m thankful to be able to say that. I’m thankful that we are family.
I am thankful to have met Lisa, my wife of 23 years in Beacon, NY. I was a guy living in a room along Main Street, having recently cleaned up my life. I’d run away to the army after high school trying to get away from what turned out to be me. Big mistake. Now I was newly sober and free from drugs, working to eat. She and her family immediately accepted me. They took me in actually. We fell in love, and we married May 25th, 1986. For the record, that was the happiest and one of the scariest days of my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Our first son, Gregory was born about a year later. He struggled early. We were afraid we’d lose him the first year. And for a couple years afterward, the thought that he could go any night managed to creep into the back of my head. Even now, I catch myself being fearful of that. I was thankful then, and now, for every day we share. He’s 22 now, healthy and working at life. 11 years ago, our family grew by one more with the arrival of Ryan. We were happy, and we asked ourselves if we were crazy? We decided not, and we have again been blessed and thankful to be in the presence of a someone so special as him.
We’ve had jobs, bought a house, cars, and piles of other stuff along the way. All of which I often take for granted. I am thankful to be able to have these things. I often think about families and children who are not so fortunate. We give our time and what other things we can to the community and to those less fortunate than us. I’m thankful to be able to do that little bit. We volunteer at schools, coach sports teams, bake for bake sales, clean up at church, make the coffee. For all this I am thankful.
I am thankful to have been able to push myself to write this down. It’s not detailed, and stuff is missing. Many people and events are not mentioned. Dear friends. Extended family. Weddings, births, etc. Not because I’ve forgotten or that I’m not thankful for the missing. I truly am. Only because this is kind of hard. I’ll take the big items and honor them now. Maybe later I’ll be able to dig out the joyful things that fill the nooks and crannies of life. And I’ll be thankful then that I can do that.
It’s sufficient now to simply say this. Thank you. Each of you. For all you are and all that you mean to me.
To my wife Lisa, I love you. I’m a jerk, and I focus on the crap that infiltrates the joy of the last 24 years. I’m so thankful that you’ve managed somehow to not give up in those moments.