What Celebration?

On Thanksgiving Day, it is not uncommon for me to write a bit about the holiday. I write either from my personal perspective or about the holiday’s emergence and evolution. Seven years ago, I wrote a rather long treatise that included lengthy direct quotes from several official governmental proclamations proposing and recognizing a “day of thanks” to “Almighty God.”

As I re-read some of those proclamations, I began to consider what the term “religion” meant to our forefathers. I think Christianity, in its various flavors, was on their minds. Though I would like to think they were more open-minded than that, my reading of their proclamations suggests otherwise.

Today, though, I will not get deeply into Thanksgiving. Instead, I will ruminate on whatever happens to cross my mind, travel through my fingers, and spill onto the keyboard. That is to say, today will be no different than most days.

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Yesterday’s attempts to find Spanish chorizo were unsuccessful, so I’m adapting a shrimp/chorizo recipe (using a German-style smoked sausage, instead) and abandoning the recipe for poaching Spanish chorizo in red wine.  Suddenly, this morning, I’m no longer especially enthusiastic about making tapas, but I won’t let that alter my plans. Once I smell the food, I’m sure I will recover my interest in another non-traditional celebratory holiday meal.

Two years ago, I was in the hospital over Thanksgiving; having just had surgery to remove the lower lobe of my right lung. Last year, we abandoned plans for a non-traditional meal at home in favor of going out for an Indian buffet. This year, my wife is the one unable to enjoy our non-traditional meal at home. I hope she will eat and enjoy the tapas I deliver to her.

While COVID-19 is forcing many people to experience a rather lonely Thanksgiving, my wife and I have a long history of just the two of us or, more recently, fragmented holidays. We are used to being alone.

Perhaps it’s those recent experiences with Thanksgiving that lessens my enthusiasm for the holiday. Or perhaps I am recalling a recent conversation about “giving thanks,” and the question that followed: “Thank to whom?” That conversation led to more discussions about gratitude and whether it’s gratitude “to” or gratitude “for” and, in either case, whether an external entity of any kind deserves credit for one’s appreciation. It’s so easy for people to dismiss these simple but ultimately crucial questions; do people dismiss them because they are too obvious or, instead, because they are too hard to answer?

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Tomorrow—the day called Black Friday—begins in earnest a seasonal celebration of naked greed, an orgy of materialism I find appalling. While I understand and appreciate that businesses depend on Christmas sales for a significant portion of their annual revenues, in my opinion the encouragement toward unchecked avarice erases the importance of compassion and goodwill. Those attitudes have been diminishing for years; every year, it seems, they become less and less important, replaced by want, want, want. I am guilty, though, like so many others. I could get by quite well without so many consumer goods at my disposal. But I don’t.

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I wish I could visit my wife this morning; not just go to her window and talk to her by telephone, but go inside her room and do whatever she needs to be comfortable. It is not fair that she is alone. Yesterday, just before I left the house to visit her, a nurse called to tell me the staff needed to draw blood to check my wife’s potassium levels, but had been unable to do the draw. They called the EMTs to do it (“they do it all the time, so they are really good at it,” she said), but they could not do it, either. So the nurse in charge directed the staff to hydrate my wife overnight and try again today. If they cannot get a good draw, they will have to send her to the hospital to have the draw done. I hate this. I absolutely hate this. If the nurse calls to tell me my wife must go to the hospital, I will abandon meal preparation and will join her there. At least in the hospital, I could be at her side.

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Well, I can go peel shrimp and make meatballs. That will give me something to do.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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