Thankful

Five o'clock used to be my favorite time of day, for the obvious reason that work was over and I could do whatever I wanted with my evening. Since I used to be a morning runner, I actually have no idea what I once did with my work nights other than eat dinner in front of the TV, but it was relaxing, nevertheless. I ate what I wanted, watched TV shows of my choosing and fell asleep as early or late as my body determined reasonable.

Kids make life after 5 pm (and before 9 am) very hectic and tiring. The post-work routine includes rushing to preschool/daycare, bundling kids up, having snacks ready for the car ride and dodging deer for 27 miles of darkness (and often, snow and sleet). Once home, we make multiple trips in from the car, carrying kids, bags, kid's crafts and trash. Then we get everyone out of winter and work wear, rush around like crazy getting more snacks for kids while we make dinner, serve dinner, get up and down while getting more drinks, more helpings and dropped utensils. Somewhere in there, we eat a bit before clearing the table, washing dishes and battling meltdowns during bath, story and bedtime. Andy and I try to talk about our days and decompress from work between baby cries and toddler whines but we are more or less on autopilot, doing what needs to get done and meeting the demands of our demanding little people.

Each evening, I do, however, take a moment to look out my kitchen window and over the darkness into my neighbor's living room window. Our neighbor, a widower who also just lost his post marriage girlfriend, is well into his eighties and is a quiet and kind man who sticks to himself most of the time. He has lived in his home for over forty years, a home he has manicured to perfection, creating stress for Andy who tries to keep our grass at an evenly trimmed height. When we first moved to the neighborhood, he even invited us to swim in his in ground pool. I always enjoyed taking a dip after work on a hot summer day and chatting with he and his girlfriend about their lives and the history of our town.

A few years later, we had Caroline and he closed his pool for good. We got busy raising a family and fixing our house and we saw him less and less. He walks to the mail box daily, takes care of himself and drives to church each week. His son and daughter visit for holidays but he lives alone. A year ago we woke up one Sunday to the ambulance lights reflecting off our kitchen window. He'd had a mild heart attack, recovered and was back home in just a few weeks. I'm always wondering if and when we'll wake up to the ambulance again.

A few weeks ago we cooked a big ham and lots of good sides. I piled a plate full of food and quietly stole across the yard and delivered it to our neighbor. I left my house which was full of noise-the TV played Barney, Caroline sang along while a few house guests chatted with one another. Charlotte chirped and banged her fists on her highchair. When I knocked, our neighbor opened the door and smiled when he saw me. A small lamp lit the living room and the only sound was the evening news anchor reporting. He invited me in and I told him I had to get back to the family before they realized I'd left. I gave him my condolences about the loss of his friend and he matter-of-fact told me she'd had a stroke and died a day later. I reminded him that Andy and I are always available to help, said good bye and ran back across the lawn to my warm, bustling home.

Right now my life is so busy. I feel like I hardly have time to reflect or look toward the future. Sometimes Charlotte's cry makes every minute feel excruciatingly long and Caroline's temper tantrums turn an easy outing to the grocery store into an hour of sheer hell. I start to get sad about how hard my life is and how unfair it is that, as the mom, I have so much responsibility. These feelings are always strongest at night, when the whole family is tired and cranky and I'd rather just put my feet up than rock my children into slumber. Then, I look out my window to the see the little light shining dimly from my neighbor's window and I'm reminded that life is short. Our children grow up, our loved ones pass away and the body and mind we've relied upon for years begins to give up on us. This life-my life-is a gift.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I want to give thanks for the all the wonderful people and things I have in my gifted life. I am thankful to/for:
  • Mom, for giving me life, loving me and doing EVERYTHING she has done, and continues to do, to help me grow into the person I am;
  • time and age, for allowing me the maturity to let go of grudges and to understand my dad and brother and find a place of love for each of them in my heart;
  • Andy, for knowing my soul and being my rock;
  • my extended family, for making me rooted to home;
  • my in-laws, for being supportive, loving and understanding of watching us grow into ourselves;
  • my friends, old and new, for always listening, reading and for being amazingly talented professionals and dedicated parents;
  • my employer, for giving me a paycheck at a time when many people do not have jobs or do not feel purpose in their work;
  • my health, allowing me to be strong and active so I can take care of my kids, work and do so many things that keep me happy and sane, like running and yoga; and finally,
  • my beautiful little girls, the greatest gifts that keep on giving.

Comments

Such a sweet post! Made me cry. Sorry to have missed you in Boston. Can't wait for a Feb reunion. W. Mass says hello. I even had a drink last night with Neil, Ryan, Scotty and Ben Johnson. Just like old times. Ha ha...

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