As I sat here pondering what I should write, it occurred to me that, perhaps, one of the best ways to come to know someone would be to read their gratitude list. Not everyone has one, but everyone truly should. I wrote mine many months ago when I fell into a funk over the separation, although friendly, of my husband and I - a marriage of over thirty-three years. A dear friend suggested that I make such a list. I did and I was amazed at the things that sprang to my mind, unbidden yet urgent. They were all simple things.
So, I've decided to share this list with you. It is quite lengthy at a list of forty-two; I'll divide it in half. You need to know those who people my list. Bruce, my husband, niece Ashley (17 years old), niece, Haley (six years old) my "baby" brother, Allen (thirty-four years old), my beloved Doberman, Manny or Little Man whom I had to have put to sleep before he reached the age of seven. Oh, Bruce is fifty-eight. Putz is my working/service dog (four years old).
It will also help you to know that, by some unexpected and cruel lies and accusations, I have not had any contact with Ashley for about four years now. My phone number and email address have changed; Ashley can't even surreptitiously reach out to me. Her father is my brother a, supposed recovering alcoholic and drug addict. He and Ashley's mother have long been divorced. This incident with Ashley caused great pain, but my gratitudes have soothed the suffering.
Haley is also my brother Paul's child, to another woman, a prostitute. My sister and brother-in-law rescued Haley from the streets when she was five months old. It was winter and the mother was living on the streets; my brother was in jail. My sister, Barbara, is now a widow. Her husband died at home on Feb. 2008 from lung cancer. My sister is forty-four.
Several friends are mentioned and their nicknames may seem quite odd. They are people my husband and I met while participating in period re-enactments of the Fur Trading Era, an event called Rendezvous. I am also legally blind, which has nothing to do with the rest of this paragraph; I just thought you should know.
1. I'm grateful that I can see well enough to read and write.
2. I'm grateful that I have some talent with words, whether it is recognized by others or not. Known or unknown, my poetry gives me joy; whether tearful, painful or filled with joy, my words define me and I am satisfied.
3. I'm grateful that even though I have lost my sleek athletic body, I still have all of my limbs; others must learn gratitude with a mere torso.
4. I am grateful for my home here at Sherman Hill Apartments. It pleases me with its esthetic beauty created by my nesting. Every morning I awaken and peer into the corners of my space and find peace.
5. I am grateful for Putz. Many others do not have, cannot afford a service dog and must live without a pet or companion to make them smile, to give them something alive to live for.
6. I am grateful that I had the years with Ashley. I gave her something that can never be stolen from her heart, nor mine. But, even if she were to forget me, I have the same joy and gratitude for those moments of time.
7. I am grateful for our tea parties, when we dressed in our gaudiest best, in heels too high, while she sipped her tea and me my wine, for the summer's party when we sat at the bistro table outside my bedroom window and she sang to me Broadway songs without any self-consciousness. I am grateful for the memory of blasting her favorite group at the time, Santana, while Uncle Bruce would teach her to dance. Such lovely tea parties we had - an annual tradition over summer vacation. Clothing and shoes, feather boas and hats purchased at thrift stores.
8. I am grateful for the memories Ashley gave me within her own gratitude, that she told me she believed that our new found relationship was like a gift. Such profundity from an eleven year old child.
9. I am grateful for my sister's strength. She is my mentor. I am grateful for Haley, grateful that I can make some difference in her life. I am grateful for her phone calls when we play a sort of hide and seek, sing songs, do the ABCs and count her numbers.
10. I am grateful that I raised Allen. Those years cannot be taken from us. Our love can never be torn away. I'm grateful that he loved me enough to find a way to Lake Harmony on an occasion of great mental and emotional need. It took great effort for him to travel the 600 mile round trip just for one day together.
11. I am grateful that by the generosity of friends I heard the ocean surf for the first time.
12. I am grateful for all those future opportunities to hear the same sound of the pounding surf. I feel great gratitude for this ocean, where I can be renewed and strengthened.
13. I am grateful for the friendship of Jim and Diane, for the time spent at the shore with them, to repay their kindness to us.
14. I am grateful that we had the opportunity to take Allen to the shore, not once, but twice.
15. I am grateful for Little Man, even though it brings tears to my eyes, even though I suffered terribly after his death, even though I had to make the decision to eliminate his pain. Manny gave me more than many people. I cry with longing still. I yearn with an ache that will never disappear. I am grateful to have shared the ocean with him, not once, but twice.
16. I am grateful for the friendship of Jim, Becky, Gary, Duane, Lisa, Guthrie, Ginger, "Parle' Vou, The Woods Fairy, Thumper and his drum. Cindy and Frank, Jim and Diane, Bob and Bev, Janet and Tom, Henry and Frank, Bobby B and Laura. . .so many friends, too many to name.
17. I am especially grateful for my friendship with Robert, a friend to whom I can reveal my vulnerabilities and who will listen and give wise advice without criticism, who watches out for me. I am grateful for his being there when I needed to be held and to talk endlessly.
18. I am grateful that I no longer have guilt feelings for Paul's circumstances, that I realize I have done all that could be done by me in his behalf. I am grateful to be firm and well-grounded in this lack of guilt. I wouldn't waver even if he had to take a job as an organ grinder's monkey.
19. I am grateful for the DREAM I had that allowed me to know the feeling of unconditional love. That can never be taken away from me.
20. I am grateful for cancer because it has taught me to prioritize my life. Even though I have stumbled and fallen, a higher power has kept me alive and given me the strength to change a situation in life that took away my priorities.
21. I am grateful for the wisdom of my oncologist, Dr. Torres, not just because he is an excellent doctor in his field but because he treats the whole person, mentally, emotionally and physically. I'm glad he cherishes the letter I wrote to him and gave me this advice, "Never go to bed without writing something."
22. I am grateful to have met Bruce, although saddened by our past, present and seemingly powerlessness to change our future.
Whew! I'm sure you're glad this first half is done! My comment about my brother's being an organ grinder's monkey might sound callous, but you would have to know the circumstances. Let's just say I've found a way to deal with him that includes a sense of humor.
Till next time Pilgrim!