Friday, November 26, 2021

Important Reminders from a Stranger Thanksgiving

When I look back on my life, I'm sure there will be many contenders for strangest Thanksgiving of my lifetime.  Perhaps I will think about last Thanksgiving, the one in the first year of the pandemic where we all stayed home.  Maybe I will remember the year when I didn't bring any of my sewing supplies, one of the only years when I didn't travel with a quilt in progress, and my cousin's child was counting on me to help with the creation of a tree costume for the pageant (no problem--off we went to one of the many craft stores in the area).  But this year has been pretty darn odd, and may well end up one of the contenders for strangest Thanksgiving.

The holiday itself has been great, full of the usual stuff:  a great meal, a football game of sorts, great conversations, various projects, children who are growing up too fast.  But some of our family members decided that the pandemic is still not under control enough to gather as a group.  I support that decision, but it's still strange to be here without them.

In fact, we had a bit of a COVID scare.  Both of my cousins have children too young for the vaccine.  One of them had sniffles a few days before they came.  The rapid test said the sniffles weren't because of COVID.  We didn't get the results of the more reliable test until Wednesday morning, so on Tuesday, the day when we all arrived, my parents spent the night in a nearby hotel.

On Tuesday as we drove north, my spouse got a phone call to tell him that his favorite uncle was at death's door.  That uncle has been at death's door before, but this time seemed different.  And sure enough, Wednesday morning we got the call that death had come to claim him.  We spent some time thinking about the implications as my father-in-law and stepmom-in-law made their way to Indiana.  Would we go to the funeral?  Would we need to buy some funeral clothes?  What is the bereavement leave policy?

All those conversations needn't have happened.  If there will be a memorial service, it won't be this week-end, and thus, we would make different travel arrangements from South Florida, instead of from North Carolina, where we spend our Thanksgivings.

In some ways, spending a Thanksgiving where sickness and death keep intruding is a potent reminder to be grateful for the time we are given and to keep trying to make the most of it.  Small children do that too, and I confess that I prefer the small child to deliver the message that time is fleeting.

As I'm writing, I'm thinking of other messages that came our way during the day.  I'm thinking of Shanghai Rummy, and the message that even if you're winning or losing, one decisive round can change the outcome; it's a hopeful message or a sobering one, depending on which hand you held.  I'm thinking of the minimalist fire pit my spouse made and the fire that refused to catch flame.  I'm thinking of the bird that baked for hours but the juices still didn't run clear at meal time; however, fifteen more minutes at higher heat made for a cooked turkey that was still tender. 

I suspect that every day is full of these kinds of reminders and metaphors, if only we had the eyes to see.  When people wonder why I continue to write long blog posts, that's one reason, that it helps me to pay attention.

Today the festivities continue, in their subdued state.  We will continue trying to make the most of our remaining time together.  There will be leftovers and more good conversation and time for an outing or two.  There will be time to work on papers, for those of us who have papers to write.  

I will be thinking about Rahab (in the book of Joshua in the Hebrew Bible) and our current political situation, but I won't bore my relatives in talking about it.  I will say that it's strange to be working on that paper about Rahab and comparing New Testament versions of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus during the same week that the verdict came back from Georgia in the Arbery case--my essays will be slightly different because of that.

Happily, I still have time to write that paper, which means I can take time away from my computer and revel in togetherness time.  The strangeness of this holiday reminds me to prioritize that time.

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