Tomorrow inaugurates what could well be renamed our National Season of Chaos. Folks rushing to dysfunctional family meals with an assumed sense of gratitude though it does not always appear in their actions. The next day is Black Friday, where long lines of riot ready shoppers arrive at 4 AM for the doors to open in the stores, looking for those Christmas savings as they empty their already strained wallets of this week's and all next year's paychecks trying to create an illusion of that perfect Christmas most never really had but they don't remember it that way.
Now our family, that is, Robin and I, got off that merry go round several years ago and have never regretted the move. Our holidays are spent relaxing, attending certain events, getting together with friends.
I remember those Thanksgivings as a child. Often since Dad was home that day, we would get up bright and early to go squirrel hunting down at Big Eddy, now submerged under Lake Palestine in East Texas. Or perhaps we would go to Dallas to share the holiday with the extended family, or some years they would come to Tyler. After a grand feast the women would gather in the kitchen, talking quietly while cleaning up after long hours of cooking while the men collapsed on couches and the hardwood floor to watch football games that were never seen in their entirety, drowned out by the roar of riotous snoring from excessive doses of tryptophan and sometimes a bit too much beer as well.
Am I the only one who ever wondered why the women got stuck with all the work while the guys did mind melds with hardwood floors? Us kids would be running around playing, or often sitting quietly listening to the conversations and family gossip. Soon the sleeping giants would awaken, watch the replay footages from the games they were allegedly watching, and the roar of snores was replaced with the roar of conversation throughout the house as the women rejoined the living room scene, dishes all clean and ready to go for next year.
So what am I grateful for?
To ask that, it is good to understand what I am NOT grateful for. I am not grateful for a family that felt I was expendable, to be cast about because I was gay and transgender. It is really hard to lose so many people in your life that you genuinely love them, but they can't handle this new reality. Indeed they felt I did it to them? How could I tell them that I did what I did because it was my only shot at happiness? As the song goes, "They would not listen, they're not listening now..."
I am not grateful that I have a fully grown daughter who won't speak to me at all and heaven knows I miss her so much.
I am not grateful for losing my beloved Skip though I did find love again with Robin. Skip was a beautiful soul and his death was just too much to bear.
I'm not too thrilled about about the health issues I've had to confront in recent years.
Why then am I grateful? I am you know, and it is for these reasons and more that I give thanks this holiday.
I am grateful for a roof over my head, a steady income, a loving wife whom I adore, a rat terrier, and two black cats who love me without condition.
I am grateful for some members of my extended family who did not turn their back on me, or in recent months have reestablished contact. I never left my family. They left me. I truly miss the marvelous dysfunction of family, knowing I'll probably not experience it again in this lifetime. But their friendship means the world to me and I am grateful.
I am grateful for the level of happiness and contentment I found by pursuing those very things that cost me the ones I loved the most. The price of self truth is expensive, but worth every heartbreak. If one cannot be true to themselves, where else can it be found?
I am grateful for a wonderful church community who embraces me for the person I am today. Thank you First Universalist Church of Minneapolis, for your connections, for your love, for who you are.
I'm thankful for my many friends, here and elsewhere. This world is not meant to be a solo adventure, and the threads of their connections strengthens and secures my place in the wider scope of things.
I feel such gratitude for a clear mind and a gift for writing, and a penchant for photography. They form the means by which I don't always express as well verbally.
I am grateful for a program of sobriety without which I would not be alive today.
I'm thankful for that Creative Force, that Mystery, speaking through intuition, synchronistic events, daily miracles leading me through this life journey.
I am grateful for other writers and authors, some of whom have offered gentle direction, others inspiration through their own works, helping me be not only a better writer, but a better person.
For these and so much more, I give thanks.