Thanksgiving has never been my most memorable holiday, always following the same routine: family dinner at my grandmothers. The table just my parents, grandma, and me.
We always seemed to eat an early bird special compared to the rest of America, usually around one or two p.m. but we followed every other American tradition down to the smallest details. Turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, mac and cheese, cranberry sauce, bread, and pies. Hours spent cooking in the kitchen, preparing and perfecting, but before we sit to eat we take an extra moment as a family.
I can always predict what my family will say as we go around telling each other what we’re truly thankful for: for my mom it’s my father and me, for my dad its family, friends and good health, and for my grandma it’s just the togetherness and getting to see us all. It all just turned into a routine.
Then in September of 2014 my grandmother fell and broke her ribs. Just as she was recovering she contracted a virus and was hospitalized before being admitted to rehab. That was where I visited her on my birthday, another special occasion meant to be celebrated at home, it wasn’t the same.
We didn’t know when she’d be released and my family tried our best not to get our hopes up. Even as November approached the doctors couldn’t predict if she’d be well enough to return home for Thanksgiving.
My grandmother was far too beautiful to be locked up in a dreary rehab center with her youthful face that lights up when she smiles and laughs. We didn’t see those smiles as often when she was in rehab. I even feared she’d fade away and match the dull, lifeless rooms but she was determined to return home.
Thanksgiving just couldn’t be at her house without her. The table would empty no matter how much food was piled on it. The key point in our family would be missing, the head of the table empty.
She was able to return home just a week before Thanksgiving. I had never taken the saying “count your blessings” seriously but for the first time I felt a thankfulness with all my heart. The value of having a day where you just appreciate all the blessing you’ve been given never higher in my mind. That year my family was all thankful for the same thing, a blessing I’ll never forget.