No Thank You’s

Like many people, it is a tradition in our family to talk about what we are thankful for at the Thanksgiving meal. This year it will be tough and I’m not even including the election in calculating my difficulties. Since I am on record as predicting a Clinton landslide, some of my friends thought I would be devastated by her loss. But that’s completely incorrect. I admit to being stunned by Trump’s win, but I am only mildly disappointed in Clinton’s loss. I’d like to see a woman president and she was clearly more qualified than Trump. I am grateful that I wasn’t alone in my prediction, almost everyone, including much of the Trump camp thought Hillary would win. But, I didn’t bet on the election so I didn’t lose anything.

Oh, I’ll admit to feeling like mom and dad just handed the keys to the family’s only car to the drunk uncle who has a habit of wrecking things. But in a democracy like ours, Trump is our President for better or worse. I am grateful I don’t live with another system of government. And I hope our Constitution is strong enough to keep it that way. Either way I’ll have plenty of material to write about. I can also take solace in the fact that when Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a holiday in 1863, things were looking bleak for the country then too.

But being wrong about Trump isn’t even a bump in a road for the disaster of a year that 2016 has been for me and my family. Putting up with my father-in-law’s gloating about Trump is nothing compared to everything else I’ve been through. Physically, I have had chemo and surgery for skin cancer, a hernia operation, a gall bladder removal, and two cataract surgeries. As far as mental health issues, I almost killed somebody and I had to watch my son’s life explode when his cheating wife left him after cleaning out his bank account when he was laid off from his job in the oil industry. He lost almost everything he had spent thirteen years working his butt off for- first in the Navy and then in the oil fields. Good times. Then there’s my father, father-in-law, stepmom, brother-in-law and sister-in-law who are all in various stages of circling the drain with cancer, dementia, heart trouble, and strokes eroding their lives. On top of it all, our four-year-old cat, the best pet we have ever had, has a life-threatening condition.

It’s not quite biblical, but that’s a crap-ton of trouble for one year. But in spite of it all, there’s hope for the Thanksgiving table. Exhibit A is what I once told a student in my sixth grade class. This was before team teaching and it was just me, 28 kids, and all of the subjects. Classic teaching and I loved it. Every day, I had my students start with journaling and for part of it they had to write a specific goal for the day and one thing they had done well the day before. Early in the year, a boy raised his hand and told me he hadn’t done anything well.

“Do you ride the bus,” I asked.

He nodded.

“Did you get run over?”

“No,” he answered with a smile.

“Then you did something right… sometimes it’s not what you did but what you didn’t do that makes a good decision.”

Years later I remembered that conversation when one of my students got killed trying to get on the bus. She didn’t see the car coming as she crossed the highway. Sometimes being right really sucks. But the point remains the same. I didn’t die this year and neither did anyone I love. In spite of all my physical struggles, I actually have good vision for the first time in my life. And as hard as it’s been for my son, at least there are no children involved. Once the divorce is final, none of us will have to have any further contact with the psychobitch. Definitely something to be thankful for.

And while having a boomerang kid in the house is hard, at least we get to spend time with our son now that he is an adult. Since he left home at eighteen, we never had that luxury before. Having time to develop adult relationships with children is something many people do not get to do. It is a precious thing.

So it looks like this year I’ll be sharing thankfulness for the many bad things that didn’t happen. The asteroid didn’t hit, my loved ones didn’t die, and I didn’t lose my job in the recession. Of course, since the cat is still hanging on, I have to keep cleaning the litter box. But that’s okay… I can feel a strange kind of gratitude for that as well. This year, that’s as good as it gets.