As more holidays pass, like Thanksgiving last week, I find that it’s easier to look beyond my awareness of whose hand I’m not holding while I muscle through myriad family events. Last week’s holiday marked my fourth national day of thanks that I quietly pondered things I’m really not very thankful for. All too easily I can reflect back on our last Thanksgiving together: She was fresh off a tough chemo treatment toting around two automated pumps delivering both a slow drip of extended chemo drugs and meds to dull the pain of her worsening condition. It seems like a different lifetime ago.
Thanksgiving Day I was privilege to share a poignant and unforgettable moment watching my grandmother lovingly spoon-feed my ailing grandfather who, by all accounts, was aware of little other than the gentle pressing of each portion of food into his mouth. I empathized all too easily with the deep yet staid emotions my grandmother poorly camouflaged with a look of determination. In her face I saw the reflection of my own memories. Her humble service to my grandfather was nothing less than a glimpse of a wonderful love story that has played out for generations but is now crawling dolefully through its final chapter. In those moments witnessing a most lovingly assisted dignity, I felt sadness and anger yet I couldn’t have been more proud of both my grandfather and my grandmother for they truly embodied what Maggie and I aspired to become. It was heartbreaking and beautiful.
With our wedding vows Maggie and I declared proudly to the world our shared long-term dreams that ended with hearing aids and rocking chairs. Instead, fate gave us final directives and morphine. Our moment in time together hand-in-hand certainly didn’t last nearly as long as we planned. I’d like to believe that if it weren’t for the damn cancer, that one day long, long in the future we would have ended up just like my grandmother and grandfather sharing poignant, loving moments until our last days.
Actually, now that I think about it, I suppose we did exactly that. Just like my grandmother and grandfather, Maggie and me, we were good together to the end. I guess that’s a love story, too.
I suppose I have more to be thankful for this Thanksgiving than I thought.