As we prepare for this year’s Thanksgiving Day, anticipating a wonderful time of food, family and fun, my mind drifts back to Thanksgiving 2002 that wasn’t so “happy”—at least not on the surface. My Dad had been in the hospital for several weeks after suffering another stroke, and his recovery wasn’t moving along nearly as quickly as we’d all hoped.
Before we realized it, Thanksgiving Day was upon us, and I don’t think any of us were in much of celebratory mood. In fact, we were all pretty exhausted from taking turns spending the night next to Dad’s hospital bed, and though we wouldn’t admit it; I think we were all a little discouraged, too.
“Happy Thanksgiving,” I said sarcastically to my sister, Martie, who had spent the previous night next to Dad’s side. She had already sent Mom home to take a shower and rest by the time I arrived that afternoon, and now I was sending her home to do the same.
Dad ate his doctor-approved Thanksgiving Day meal on a plastic hospital tray before drifting off to sleep for a much-needed nap (since he had been up most of the night), and I awaited the arrival of my little family.
When Jeff and our daughters, who were only 9 and 7 at the time, showed up to wish Papaw a “Happy Thanksgiving” later that afternoon, the nurse on call suggested that we grab a bite to eat and let Dad rest a little longer.
“There are a few restaurants open today,” the nurse urged. “Go ahead and go out to eat. I’ll keep a close watch on Walter.”
She was our favorite nurse; I trusted her. So, we took her advice and ventured outside of the hospital walls for dinner. TGI Fridays didn’t exactly scream “Thanksgiving Day dinner” but it was nearby, and it was open. So, instead of turkey, dressing, and green bean casserole, Jeff and I opted for a hamburger and fries, while Abby and Ally had the chicken nuggets meal off the kids menu.
I realized that it was the first time in my whole life that I’d ever spent Thanksgiving anywhere but around the family dinner table at my mom’s or my sister’s or my mother-in-law’s. And, though I had been feeling sad because things were so “not how they were supposed to be” that year, I couldn’t help but feel thanksgiving in my heart, too. After all, my Dad was still with us, and my family had come together to rally around him, drawing all of us closer to God and to each other.
I did have much to be thankful for…I just had to look a little harder that year.
As Abby and Ally happily colored their kids menu activity sheets, I looked over at my husband and with tears in my eyes, I said “Happy Thanksgiving,” and I meant it.
May you find something to be truly thankful for on Thanksgiving Day, no matter the circumstances.