Whenever I begin to formulate a sentence about Thanksgiving, I think of my mother painfully contorting the sentence into “We have so much for which to be thankful.” She was determined to avoid ending a sentence with a proposition if she could possibly avoid it. And then I usually think of Winston Churchill who, mocking the same rule, referred to something as “an indignity up with which I shall not put.”
I really do like Churchill’s take better. Sorry, Mother.
A more evenhanded culture would insist on a national day of lamentation, to balance off the national day of thanksgiving. We could skim through our calendars for the past year and highlight the good things and…oh, I don’t know…lowlight, I guess, the bad things. But “evenhanded” is no way to build a culture and we are all probably better off because of that.
My goal for quite some time now has been to find a really good retirement center and to get us there–Bette and me–before I turned 80. Did that. I am so thankful for that that the words I really want will not likely be available to me for some years. I won’t even be 79 until next month and our apartment here in Holladay Park Plaza in Portland, Oregon is a really good apartment in a really retirement center. This picture shows a little of the living room and a little of Bette. She is having a wonderful and warm conversation with her first mother-in-law, who lives in North Dakota. I am in the kitchen kneading dinner rolls for our upcoming Thanksgiving feast at the home of a much-prized stepdaughter who lives here in town.
Bette is looking east, the direction our “back porch” faces.  Outside, you can see what Oregon is really supposed to look like by Thanksgiving. It is cool and wet, always with the promise of what Oregonians call “sun-breaks.”
When you get old–that’s the category I place myself in–you have lived a lot and a lot has gone wrong. And…not to be all Sammy Sunshine about it…experiencing these things gives you a whole new register for appreciation. Imagine a twenty-something who, on waking up in the morning, says, “Wow! The arthritis pain in my thumb is barely noticeable today!” This kid knows nothing at all about arthritis pain and on his behalf, we can all be happy about that. On the other hand (no pun intended), he does not have the buoyancy I feel when some ordinary bad thing–arthritis is just one example–is not happening. The experience of an old person enables him or her to celebrate the fact that something is not there or that it is not happening right now. Woohoo!
It helps me a great deal when I remember that the “thanks” at the first thanksgiving was about the likelihood that fewer people in Plymouth Colony would die in the coming winter than had died in the previous one. Roughly half the population, as I recall the story, died during the first winter. Imagine that for just a moment. We are now into the second winter and the leaders of the colony are saying to each other, “How wonderful. Thank God there are fewer deaths this winter than last. The colony may survive after all.”
There are other way to mark the day, of course, and this cartoon suggests several of them. If it were up to me, the Redskins (from Washington) would play the Patriots (from Foxborough) every year at Thanksgiving. This year, the Redskins are playing the Cowboys. Really…what kind of history is that for our children to learn?
 The “front porch” is across the hall, just outside our front door. It is my favorite place to sit and write and greet our neighbors/