What am I thankful for? Here’s my short list

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By Paul Rhodes, editor and publisher

This week is, of course, Thanksgiving…and we’re preparing to celebrate it in the middle of a global pandemic.

This makes 2020’s Thanksgiving wildly unique, unless you go back a century and compare it with Thanksgiving celebrations during the Spanish Flu outbreak. Who would have imagined that we’d be dealing with something like this?

In truth, many experts knew this was coming. But most of the general public did not. We were smacked on the side of the head by all of this.

We’re all tired of what we’ve been through this year. And it’s genuinely hard some days to slap on a smile and move ahead.

But even in the middle of darkness, there can still be rays of light shining the way forward. A friend of mine called this “finding gratitude amidst our troubles.”

I thought about gratitude this past weekend as I chatted with all three of my kids. Grown and with lives of their own, I am thankful for the relationships we’ve built over the years.

There was a short stretch, comparatively, in each of their lives when I wasn’t the best father that I could have been, but I worked past that and today I think my kids know without any shadow of a doubt that I am there for them, period. If they need help in some way, I can usually sense it, or they’ll just tell me straight up. And I will help, without question.

That makes me think about the whole picture of parenthood, and I’m thankful that I decided to be a parent. Back when I was young and jumping into marriage (I jumped more than once) people were less likely to think about the life they had ahead of them, and whether children would be a part of that picture. Still, I’m glad I went the direction I did through two marriages, and I’m glad that I had three children in the process.

Three was enough, though, so I’m thankful I knew what to do when it was time to stop that process. Actually, it was my second wife who knew what to do, and she sent me for a quick visit with a local veterinarian. Just kidding…but it did seem close to that.

I am thankful that I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and approach to my work life. I’ve been a journalist most of my six and a half decades of life, but I’ve almost always had some kind of side hustle along the way. I ran a tie-dye T-shirt business on the side for many years, launched my own newspaper operation, and now I’m a picker with my girlfriend Kim. I’ve never enjoyed keeping a time sheet, and the entrepreneur in me loves that.

Six years ago, I found love late in life, and I’m really, really grateful for that. Yes, I had love in my life before that…but it didn’t stand the test of time. By the time I met Kim six years ago, I had worked out a lot of things in my life, and she had done the same in her life.

“He’s done the work,” Kim used to tell her friends when they asked about me. It’s wonderful to be starting the “senior” years of my life with a soul mate who doesn’t need any fixing, and who shares the same goals and values that I cherish.

And oh, yes…she’s got a daughter that I love like one of my own. And I didn’t have to raise her.

Somewhere along the way, Kim and I were sharing some similar parenting skills, and that makes life pretty good now that all of these kids are grown and on their own.

We made the choice to not be with any of the kids for Thanksgiving this year, which really stinks. But being safe these days is the most important thing, and I’m thankful that my kids feel the same way.

We’ll get through this pandemic by staying safe, and maybe – just maybe – the holidays will be back to normal again next year.

And when that happens, we’ll be thankful all over again.