Eleven months ago, my nephew Gil was witnessing his first Christmas dinner. My niece, Ivy, had given her first babbling holiday hello via Skype.
And Heather and I? We were about to announce our own addition to the family.
“We’re going to become guardians for Missy in the new year.”
That brought surprise from some, knowing smiles from others. And underneath it all, a steady theme: that’s wonderful … but are you sure?
Yes. Yes, we were.
And this November, it easily tops the “thankful” list.
It’s a funny thing, that list. It’s the centerpiece of every Thanksgiving, the chance to realize what we have and be properly grateful for it. We all know the litany: family, friends, food, health, employment and so on.
Yet … and I almost feel like a traitor saying this … a lot of years in a lot of places, it almost comes off as bragging. It becomes the mirror image to the Christmas list: “Here’s what I’ve got. Isn’t it great? And tomorrow, I’m going to ask for even more.”
True thankfulness has a touch of humility. A recognition that this didn’t have to be, that these wonderful things could have passed us by. Maybe even a recognition of obligation, to treasure these blessings and use them well.
It’s a feeling I understand very well with Missy.
Regular readers know who I’m talking about. For the rest: Missy is my wife’s physically and mentally disabled aunt, a 38-year-old with a much younger view on the world. I’ve written before about reading to her, dancing with her, bowling with her, watching her on the softball diamond. She’s become a part of my life in a way I could have never imagined.
And it’s a way I so nearly missed.
Because when Heather first brought up the idea, I was terrified.
Not of Missy herself – except for the occasional tantrum, she’s about as violent as a butterfly in a mountain valley. But of what she represented. This was a huge commitment, one that raised every imaginable “what if” in my mind.
What if I lost my job?
What if Heather’s own health problems worsened?
What if this proved to be much, much more than we could handle?
Two little words. And they can be so paralyzing.
Heather, though, found three words of her own: She needs us. The rest will work out, she insisted. It always has. “This feels right.”
And it did. Scary, but right.
In the end, I had to trust that. To trust her. To trust our blessings and their source, that this would work … that we could make it work.
Now, I’m thankful we did.
“That’s so good of you, to take on so much.” I heard that a lot for a while. But after the first few days, I never really understood it. Because it didn’t feel like a lot. It felt so much lighter than my fears had warned, so much more wonderful than my wildest hopes had dreamed.
That’s family. Parent, child, sibling, ward.
That’s work and love and joy in one wonderful package.
That’s something I could have so easily missed.
And that makes this the truest Thanksgiving I have ever known.