A Jackson Pollock Thanksgiving

A friend and I exchanged text messages this week, each of us revealing trepidation regarding our preparations for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.  Every so often, if I do say so myself, I completely nail a text message, and on this one to her:  I nailed it.

Holidays are good, but not without challenge.  It’s OK to be anxious about that.  There’s always that expectation of the ideal Normal Rockwell family gathering.  Ours ends up being more like a Jackson Pollock painting.

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The idyll you envision your Thanksgiving table to be. . .

pollock-painting

A linear representation of MY Thanksgiving preparations.

Every year since I began telling my tale here, I’ve written a message of thanks and gratitude on/around Thanksgiving.  Though I’m struggling mightily these days, the show must go on.  I’ve left no trail of daisies and unicorns in my wake in 2019, but despite my, shall we call it “malaise,” it matters that I acknowledge the supporting cast and crew who make life a little sweeter and the spirit of Thanksgiving ring a little more true.  If I fail to offer up thanks to the enormous army of good friends, family, and even strangers who showed my family and me kindness and goodwill this year, I’ll regret it.  As I reviewed previous Thanksgiving posts, I was tickled to notice that many in my “I’m thankful for you” crew have stuck with me for years.  Boy, I thought 2015 was going to crush me, but 2019 makes 2015 seem like amateur hour.  I was less tickled to notice I was a better writer in each of 2016, 2017, and 2018.  I thought you’re supposed to get better with practice, right??  Lies.  I’ll just chalk this little slide up to 2019 too.

If you even so much as thought about me or my family in a positive light this year–thank you.  If you didn’t verbally express it or text it, email it, or snail mail it, but you so much as thought about us for one poof of an instant and wished us well–thank you.  I do believe my husband’s miraculous physical recovery is based in his own indomitable spirit bolstered by this type of support.

If you provided dinner for us or if you sent us a gift card for food after the accident, if you brought pie or ice cream–thank you.  You helped nourish our bellies and souls.

If you sent us or handed us money to help cover our bases this summer–thank you.  Prior to our life-altering May, I hadn’t really understood the tradition of slipping cash into a get well card or sympathy card.  Oh, terrifically humbled, I get it NOW, and we wouldn’t have bridged the summer gap without you.  It’s balance enough not getting paid all summer, but to have been docked several days’ pay while Tom’s income took something of a hit, felt insurmountable.  But you helped us climb and summit that hill.

If you visited Tom in the hospital or in our home at any point, and visiting us isn’t something you’d have otherwise normally done–thank you.  I vividly recall him propped up in that complex, behemoth hospital bed, affirming over and over to his visitors that he just wanted to get back to the old Tom Weir.  Before May, I was the type of person who believed that one’s hospital stay was an intensely private affair, and visiting was an intrusion beyond good grace.  My husband loved those brief though exhausting visits.

If you donated to our Muscular Dystrophy Association Muscle Walk this year–thank you.  I was unable to attend the event last June myself, but Team Greater Than Gravity pulled in almost $2700 to support kids like mine and adults with muscle disease.

If you offered assistance for household chores or if you maintained our yard all spring and summer long–thank you!  Yeah, that one’s a little specific, but short of monetary remuneration, how do you thank someone for landscape maintenance?

If you dedicated your band’s performance to my husband’s survival–thank you.  Sure, a little specific on this one too.

If you encountered a very sullen, scatter-brained, ornery, or quiet me and granted me a wide berth–thank you.

Another term I tossed in the text exchange with that same friend is “functional depression.”  I’m not sure I have that, or that functional depression is even a DSM-5 diagnostic code, but here’s my working definition: keeping your shit together in public and for work, because work, and seeking little company beyond the 9-to-5.  I’ve socialized little since the accident, almost none.  At first it was because my husband needed round-the-clock support and I quite literally couldn’t leave his side, and now it’s by my own design.  I participate in the mandatory–jury duty, work, my kids’ school activities, concerts, and games–and I look and mostly behave like a human, but I am not seeking company.  And right now I’m OK with that even if you’re not.  It’s not personal.  Actually, I suppose it is personal, but it’s truly an “it’s not you, it’s me” kind of deal.  It’s me.

Sure, my brain and my Thanksgiving table resemble a work from Pollock more than one of Rockwell’s slices of Americana, but we’re still here.  Messy and frazzled, but rolling out of bed to face each day.  Some days getting up and at ’em is the greatest victory.  Happy Thanksgiving, all!  May you find yourself surrounded by good food and great people!  And if you’re like me, shying away from the spotlight for now, may you be surrounded by good food and great people who accept your laying low.

 

So, Uh, Thanks

The cranberries are sugared up and boiled down into a compote, green beans layered with cream of mushroom soup and whatever the hell French’s does with onions, and the turkey’s stuffed. The aroma of the single biggest shopping day of the year wafts through the kitchen. Truth be told, my only culinary contribution for this year’s feast is one pumpkin pie.  I don’t even like pumpkin pie.  My kitchen wizardry is woefully underutilized this year. I feel incomplete, inadequate.

The real reason we collectively eat ourselves into a food coma, drunk on tryptophan and/or a nice Beaujolais or Gamay? The Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys!! NO, silly, it’s Thanksgiving!  Happy Thanksgiving, America. And that would be a Happy Thursday to the rest of my friends around the globe.

If you’re my friend on any of the social media outlets or hey, if we actually get to speak to one another in the real world, you see I am pretty consistent in my expressions of gratitude.  I’m good at dishing it out, but I’m great at deflecting any expression of thanks directed back my way.  Why is it that gestures of thanks from others take such effort to accept?

I am grateful for what I am and what I have.  My thanksgiving is perpetual.  –Henry David Thoreau

Me too.  Nice job outta you, Thoreau, you beat me to it. I’d like to be reverent, but because I am a juvenile masquerading as a middle aged woman, this is what comes to mind any time I hear Thoreau’s name bandied about–

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Image from Wal-Mart. I don’t shop there, but I do appreciate having found this image on their webpage.

Henry David Catch! Baaaaahh!! Hi, I’m 12.  But I’m a grateful 12, and like Thoreau, I find happiness and gratitude in things great and small each day.  I’m happy that I make it to work every day after driving along Capitol Drive, the nearest I ever want to get to driving on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, here in the central city.  It’s disheartening to see how motorists have so little regard for life–mine AND their own–that they drive like something out of an action film, or maybe what’s depicted in Grand Theft Auto (I’ve never played the game, so I’m postulating here).  I’m glad I arrive at work not dead every day is the point.  I’m happy for tulips in the spring.  I’m happy my children are achieving academically.  I’m happy for Kopps Frozen Custard sundae of the month.  I’m happy my dog thinks antibiotics and pain meds are treats–he will chomp down and ingest whole tablets and even sit in order to receive them.  Good boy, Caleb!

But of course there’s more than the little things to be happy about.  I’d be remiss in not sharing some of my favorite turkey day thankful main dishes, so here goes: a few things I’m thankful for this Thursday.  My Thanksgiving not-list is neither perfect nor pretty, and come on, you know me. . .  it’s certainly not symmetrical.  But it’s sincere.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, or Happy Thursday if you’re not from ’round these parts.

  1. My best friend is flying from LA to Milwaukee IN DECEMBER to see me. She loves me enough (or is off-kilter enough?) to leave sunny SoCal in December, and all I have to do is loan her one of my winter coats.  You guys, my best friend is gonna be here next week!!
  2. My Barenaked Ladies besties love me enough to spring a ninja concert trip on me.  Nikki and Bek arranged a ticket and transportation to the December 9 Toronto gig I was absolutely not attending. The girls announced their scheme after the purchase was made so I couldn’t say no.  To be perfectly honest, I said nothing for a day or two. I am so undeserving of this kind of over-the-top generosity, so I sat mute.  I’m not very good at people being nice to me, so I was reluctant to come around to my “yes.”  I should try to get better at people being nice to me.
  3. Hey, speaking of Barenaked Ladies (who, me?) my coworkers, hale and hearty souls, are making it a team effort for the June BNL show in Milwaukee. “We don’t need to sit in the front with you, but let’s make a night of it!” They’re choosing to spend time with me when they don’t even have to. Of course, once the band hits the first note, I won’t turn around again until it’s time to leave, but we will be together in spirit. Well, they will be together, and I’ll be by myself, zoned out a bit closer to the stage. Christine will be the one silently dying in embarrassment for me while I sing & dance my butt off, but that’s cool.
  4. I’m thankful my husband who, not a huge BNL fan himself, gives me space for my unbridled, giddy glee when a new album is released, and shares some measure of excitement when I call him on the phone, all choked up shouting, “YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO THIS SONG!! ED USES WESTLEY AND BUTTERCUP IN THE LYRICS!!!!”  If you don’t know the reference, Westley and Buttercup are the star-crossed, nothing-can-separate-true-love lovers from The Princess Bride, which happens to be the first movie Tom and I watched together at a time in my life I needed more than anything to believe in true love.
  5. I’m thankful my husband leaves me little notes like this one he wrote Saturday morning before departing for work.  I know, “you guys are so cute we wanna barf.” We get that a lot, but aren’t Westley and Buttercup what we’re all shooting for? You + Me Vs The World, baby.
  6. Got Weirs on my right and Wolfgrams to the left. Looking forward to a long weekend, spending time with almost every branch of fruit or nut of my extended family tree at some point.
  7. I’m thankful to the point of speechlessness that I have an all-star supporting cast of luminaries whose generosity helped me raise over $5000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in 2017.
  8. I’m grateful for my friends, a cast of characters you wish you were your friends too. This year I offer special thanks to P.J. She killed it with her own shoulder rehab a couple years back, and within hours of reading about my injury, delivered a box of implements and tools designed to simplify life in the kitchen. And also wine, because wine! I opened that gift tonight, enjoying it in the spirit of thanks for her support and concern.
  9. I’m relieved that my friend Matt who was nearly killed in his home last spring, is safe and sound, and that two of his attackers have been sentenced.  You can hear Matt’s story about the sentencing here.  In related news, I’m glad his physical scars are continuing to heal as well.
  10. I’m fortunate to have a boss who says and means family first. This credo is especially important when your child has a disease that requires ongoing management and intermittent therapy appointments.
  11. I’m happy that a song can catch me on the precipice of the abyss and pull me back.
  12. I’m grateful I can read, write, and reason.
  13. And that you’re here reading.  Really.  THIS is my greatest wonder of the last several years: I write. You read.  There are so many ways to pass one’s precious time, and you’re here reading my words.  It means the world.
  14. I’m happy that I have enough.  I’ve never known hunger, and I’ve never had to worry about finding a safe place to sleep.  I’ve worked in the inner city for twenty-seven years, and finally I’m forced to acknowledge that I am struggling with the sequelae of urban poverty. The lack of basic needs being met, the language, hollering, the physical harm, the violence perpetrated–inflicted!–upon the city’s smallest people–it’s too much.  I’m increasingly less well able to handle a preschooler tell me, ‘F-off, white bitch! I ain’t gotta listen to you.”
  15. I’m happy that my children have enough. We do not live like royalty, but I can say that when mine were preschoolers, the worst I feared escaping their lips were “toot” and “fart.” Watch this. You won’t regret having spent the twenty-four seconds here, even with the poor quality videography. And yeah, to this day, the minute he gets home, he tosses off just the one sock.

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For what are you thankful, dear readers? What wraps your heart up with contentedness the way this video of my no-longer-babies does for me?  Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.  Can I make you a leftovers plate to take home?