Sharon Randall: An every day Thanksgiving

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 10, 2022

Thanksgiving is not just about turkey and pumpkin pie. Not that those things don’t matter.

But the point of the holiday is (1) to give thanks; (2) be with our loved ones; and (3) eat turkey and pumpkin pie.

A friend wrote recently to say, “For the first time in 49 years, we won’t have all our children and grandchildren here for Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

Her long-kept family tradition is being uprooted by changes in jobs and lives. It’s true for a lot of families, including my own.

My husband and I share a big “blended” family with five children, their “others” and nine grandchildren. For years (except 2020, when the pandemic kept us apart) most of us have been together for Thanksgiving.

This year, due to jobs and other commitments, we’ll still be together in spirit, but in small groups miles apart. We’ll still give thanks, connect on FaceTime and I won’t have to cook. But I will miss the hugs.

Things change. If we’re wise, we try to make the best of them.

Yesterday, I stood in a grocery store staring at a frozen turkey I wasn’t going to buy. Suddenly, I recalled getting a voicemail from Chip a few days ago. I’d forgotten to call him back.

Before I tell you about that voicemail, I should tell you this. I lost my first husband to cancer some 20 years ago. He was a high school teacher, basketball coach and father of our three children. His years of teaching and coaching brought a lot of teenagers into our lives. A few of them lived with us for a while.

Chip was just starting his senior year of high school when his dad’s job required them to relocate. Chip asked if he could live with us until he graduated. We said yes, if he didn’t mind sleeping in the attic. If he minded, he never complained.

Our kids were ages 8, 5, and 2. Chip gave them lessons in ping pong and basketball. They gave him headaches and chickenpox. Somehow we survived that year.

Then Chip left for college, got a masters in finance and landed a job that took him around the world. He’d call me and say, “Guess where I am now.”

I never guessed right. He’d visit once a year or so and often phoned, especially after the Coach became ill. He couldn’t make it to the memorial service, but came to see me soon after.

I remember the day he called to say he was getting married in Holland, and that I had to come be his “Best Man.” Which I did.

There were other memorable calls: When he and his wife learned they were with child; when his daughter was born; and when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Over the years, as MS took its toll on his health, Chip and his wife and daughter have lived and worked all over the world.

Today, when I apologized for not calling sooner, he laughed at me. He does that a lot. Then we spent a good hour catching up on each other’s life and loves.

His daughter is a senior in high school, the age Chip was when we met. They recently took a two-week trip to visit schools she might attend in various countries next year.

Finally, Chip gave me the really big news: “Four months ago,” he said, “I started a new kind of therapy. And now I’m climbing stairs with no pain.”

   Two memories flashed into my mind. In one, he was sitting in a wheelchair. In the other, he was shooting hoops in my backyard.

We said goodbye with a promise to talk soon. Then I sat for a while, celebrating an early Thanksgiving, overcome with gratitude for Chip’s good news.

Family is more than blood kin. It’s every soul that we hold dear. And Thanksgiving is more than a holiday. It’s every moment in life when we are truly thankful.

We don’t need to be in the same room with our loved ones to count our countless blessings. We just need to remember we’ll be forever in each other’s heart.

Whether you’re cooking for a crowd or celebrating alone, I wish you a true Thanksgiving.

Sharon Randall is the author of “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or