Gratitude

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Of late I have had the strangest dreams that are filled with images of family members and friends who have died. They seem to occur just before dawn, and while they make absolutely no sense, they are somehow disconcerting. I have an injured arm and I take a prescribed pill before retiring that may be the culprit in creating my nighttime dramas, or perhaps I am simply thinking about some of the people who meant so much to me in life. Sadly, I doubt that they ever knew the extent to which I was incredibly grateful to them. Somehow I never seemed to take the time to adequately express my feelings. I remember trying to do so in a generic letter on one occasion and I ended up receiving a flood of phone calls from people who were concerned that something was wrong with me. I suppose that we humans are a bit unaccustomed to being showered with thanks for simply being ourselves. We become a bit embarrassed, uncomfortable with public announcements about the positive contributions that we make to society. Most people just quietly do their good works without any expectation of gratitude. Some of those folks have been showing up in the nightly dramas that are creeping into my mind of late. 

I have been quite fortunate to be surrounded by incredibly generous people for all of my life. My parents were always kind and loving. While I only had a brief time with my father it was enough to observe and understand his thoughtfulness and loyalty to family and friends. My mother was a true saint. Literally every thought and action she made was for others. In spite of a life so difficult that it would have broken most souls, she remained optimistic and happy save for the times when the chemicals in her brain created chaos in her mind. She literally sacrificed her entire life for my brothers and me and for her mother and her siblings. She was the very definition of unconditional love. 

I have countless stories of unselfishness from my grandparents and aunts and uncles. My grandmother Minnie is still the angel who watches over me. My grandfather William taught me how to tell a good story and gave me a most excellent male role model after my father died. He watched over me and I delighted in just being in his presence. It was my Aunt Valeria who was there for me on the day my father died and every single day thereafter. My Uncle William was the sweet man who most understood my grief on that horrible day. My Aunt Polly seemed to know exactly what I needed to hear at frightening times in my life. My Uncle Jack was my hero. My Uncle Paul was a silent hero who demonstrated his love for my family without fanfare or recognition. My Uncle Louie and Aunt Maryann introduced me to the young man who would become my forever companion. My Uncle Andrew awkwardly seemed to think that I was eternally a little girl that he needed to spoil. My Aunt Claudia, aka Aunt Speedy, was my idol, an icon of beauty and intellect who seemed in many ways to be my kindred spirit. 

During the years after my father’s death my cousins brought me unimaginable joy. The Friday evenings and Christmas Eve celebrations that I spent with them saved me from the depths of despair that lurked inside my heart. Our games and laughter and silliness together created a montage of beautiful memories that still make me smile. While I no longer see them as often as I once did, my love for them is profound. They are part of the foundation of my very soul. They are like extra brothers and sisters who complete my great big extended family.

I have had the most wonderful friends, beginning with my time in school. I remember meeting Judy, my forever idol, in the second grade. In that same year Lynda, became my best friend and to this very day we can talk for hours like two little girls excited about the world around us. I encountered Monica in that time and she became like the sister I never had. Carol and her twin Cindy showed me how to be confident and caring. Susan and Karen and Kathy were neighbors with whom I played and then grew into a woman. I was in awe of guys in my class like Jack and Terry and Tommy and Larry and Paul. Later I would find soulmates like Nancy and Linda with whom I could bare my soul and never feel embarrassed or judged. 

I entered the adult world and during the journey that seemed so long at the time, but now feels like the flicker of a single moment, I found more wondrous people who filled my life with joy. Some are still with me. Others are gone. Egon, Marita, Pat and Bill became like family to me. Adriana, Jenny, Maggie, Chrystal, Tricia, Aimee, Sharon, Angie were new sisters that I never expected to have. I found joy with Dee and Glenda and Stephanie that was such a delightful surprise. 

Then there are the members of my family starting with my very best friend, Mike, my beloved husband, and beautifully complimented with my precious daughters, Maryellen and Catherine. Of course my mother-in-law, Mary, and father-in-law, Julio showed me a world that I had never before known and then when Mary died, sweet Janell came into my life as well. My sons-in-law, Scott and Jeremy, are good kind men and with my daughters they have given me the most fabulous grandchildren anyone might ever wish to have. Andrew, Jack, Ben, Eli, Ian, Abigail and William are my pride and my joy. I even got two wonderful new sisters, Becky and Allison, along with nieces and nephews, Kim, Daniel, David, Shawn, Ryan, Scott, Nathan, Julie, Katie, and Maria plus Lorelai, Birdie, Lex, Penny, Logan, Cody and Tyler.

Life was very difficult for me at many times but there were always people who came to my rescue just when I needed them. I know that I have left off many names. My students are not listed here, but they were and still are the loves of my life. Many of my work colleagues are not mentioned but they have appeared in the dreams of which I spoke. They inspired me and made me the person I am today. My teachers helped to educate and form me. The people at my church like Shirley and Judy embraced me. If I attempted to list every single person for whom I am thankful I would have a list many pages long. Still, I remember each and every moment when a person in my life touched my heart and saved me from despair, often at times when they had no idea what they had done for me. 

How do I possibly or adequately thank the countless souls who have played such important roles in keeping me happy, centered, certain that the world is a good place? There are no words, no gestures, no tributes that come even close to conveying my gratitude. Simply know that if at any time or in any place our lives have intersected you no doubt touched my heart and left me better than I might otherwise have been. I thank you for my beautiful life and want you to know that my love for you is unending.    

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