My Wobbly Bicycle, 51

Posted by on Nov 27, 2013 | 11 comments

ThanksgivingA lot’s been written about Thanksgiving as a peaceful, family holiday vs. Christmas as a mad materialistic grab. I wouldn’t argue with that. Many of us still have in our heads something like a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving scene, and try to replicate that in our own families. You’d think that would create the same tension as Christmas does, as it also tries to be Rockwell plus Clement Moore plus the old Coke Santa image. But it mostly doesn’t.

I love Thanksgiving. But I’m thinking about the “thanks” part. I’m thinking of the danger there of the same sort of exchange, of cash-nexus, that Christmas often promotes. Lord knows I’m grateful to have gotten through this last year. I’m grateful for my dear family, my friends, my work, my community.  I’m grateful for the history of cancer research that has saved me from early death. I could go on forever. I’m grateful for the snow, the birds. I’m grateful for those who’ve dedicated their lives to helping others, to rescuing the environment.

But I’m aware that each time I recite part of that litany, I separate myself and I separate the situation into me-and-them. I also put myself in the center of the dynamic—all those who’ve given me something, even secondarily. When actually, this is all an interdependent web that operates without the need for that pushing and pulling, that “Thank YOU for what I (also in bold) have.”  That expectation of gratitude or reward.

So then, how to respond? Nothing wrong with a simple “Thank you” to the universe, but I’m thinking that the best response is simply my attention. To attend to the amazing fact of being alive, to attend to the lowliest of moments with the same awareness and appreciation as one gives the dramatic ones.

So. . . .  We’ll have Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow with my sister and brother-in-law at a restaurant here in Traverse City. My sister’s severely handicapped and can’t easily cook. We decided this would be more fun than watching me do all the cooking. Then later, Jerry and I will visit our good friends in Empire for dessert.  My daughter Kelly and her big family are hosting a huge dinner in Washington D.C., where they now live.  My sister’s children and grandchildren and my son and his family will all be in D.C. I’m sad not to be there.  You should see the snow here. You CAN see the snow here. Here it is. Actually, this is an old photo, but it’s the same scene. Except less sun today. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We’ll be on our way Sunday to Ann Arbor for Jerry’s back surgery. His surgery, he reminded me this morning, is exactly five days from when I had my surgery last year.  Amazing, that this winter will have some of the same flavor as the last one. Recovery. The human spirit is also amazing, the way we pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and start all over again. If you’re singing along, good.

I see now how this aging thing goes, one little (or big!) thing after the other, each one a surprise, “Oh, I didn’t think this would happen to ME.” The mind/ body coasts on, thinking it can still manage the same things, and gradually learns that it can’t, that things have changed.  It adjusts to the change, The mind/body compacts in the same way our old spines do, into a denser, more intense awareness of being alive. It enjoys being alive, maybe more than ever.   


  1. Beautifully said, Fleda, and, yes, you had me singing along. Tell Jerry I’ll be thinking of him while he’s in Ann Arbor, as I’ve thought of you so often this year.

    • Thank you, Jerry. We’re both relieved that we’re closer to the surgery. It’s been a long time anticipating.

  2. such lovely thoughts. I, too, am missing Kelly because I’m in London and she’s not.

    Enjoy your quiet Thanksgiving.

    • Ironic, that you’re in London and she’s not. It was great to have Facetime with the whole bunch yesterday, though. Although I got teary when we hung up.

  3. You remember this:
    For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
    For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.
    For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
    For it this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
    For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
    For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
    For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
    For this he performs in ten degrees.
    For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean. …

    From Jubilate Agno, Christopher Smart

    Oh, how thankful can a person get?
    Hugs and Happy Thanksgiving!!, Fleda. Enjoy those friends in Empire. (I wish I were there for the chocolates and hugs myself.)

    • One of my favorite poems. Dear Kit Smart, what hard times drew out those wonderful words!

  4. Yes, singing along. And grateful for the last paragraph. Eloquent words for what my body and soul are learning.

    • We learn or we don’t learn, it looks like. If we don’t learn, we end up bitter and resistant to everything. So, glad to learn it.

  5. Yes, well said, and Happy Thanksgiving. I’m thinking of you both and hope all will go well for Jerry.

    • Thanks, Mary Rose. I wish we could have lunch together, with vodka, as in ye olde past.
      Love, Fleda

  6. Cruce and I will be thinking of you both this week… hope all goes well. nancy

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