Lord, I am thankful

Dear Lord, I am thankful.

I am thankful that as I drive through this grey fall landscape we know as Iowa after the harvest, it is cold and my windows are up. Once, years ago, my best friend was driving through Iowa to interview for a teaching job. It was hot and her car windows were down. A pheasant flew in and landed in her lap. Lord, I am grateful that happened because over the years we have laughed about it until we can’t breathe. Not that I would mind a pheasant flying in the window. But it can be a little unhandy when you’re driving. So I’m grateful she didn’t crash or anything, too. I can’t remember how the pheasant made out in that one, but I’m grateful for it as well.

I’m also thankful that when I was about 10, and I bet you’ll remember this, that time I got off the school bus and ran up the lane? Remember I leaped over that giant clump of daylilies there by the LP tank? I’m thankful I didn’t land on that huge skunk that ran out in front of me. It was a close call. For both of us. So, thanks.

When I think of being thankful, I, of course, think of my mother. After her heart surgery, when she was confined to the house and a little too focused on what the neighbor was doing, I told her we were going to have a one-day moratorium on saying that man’s name. Later, when she was making her laps around the dining room table, she casually told me that “someone’s mother-in-law had died.” Who? I asked. Her response: “I can’t mention names.”

I have a cat named Willie. Actually, I have five cats and I’m grateful for each of them. But this one goes out to Willie because he is special. This morning when he barfed on the carpet? He pointed it out to me. I’m thankful for that. It was way too early to step in cat barf.

I’m thankful for memories, Lord, especially those foggy ones that link back to childhood. I love the way they surface as we mature and the years of too many cocktails give way to something closer to sobriety. Here’s one for you, Lord, and stop me if you’ve heard it: That red-haired kid who got his tongue stuck on the freezing metal fence post at recess? I always wondered who that was. Well, now he’s my next door neighbor. Isn’t that a laugh? Come on, Lord, you had to chuckle at that one. I mean, what are the odds? Right? OK, so it wasn’t funny then. But really.

Speaking of memories and too many cocktails, with the holiday season upon us you’ll know I can’t go through what’s behind me without dragging this one up. My best friend and I? Yes, the same one with the pheasant. We were (sort of) invited to that fancy Christmas party at the country club in West Branch. Remember? Remember when the one-armed guy twirled my friend on the dance floor and she landed on that long table of drinks? Remember how those drinks spilled all over the the hostess’s mink coat? I’m thankful we got out of there before she got back to her seat.

Through the years, you have always been with me. I am thankful for that. I’m particularly thankful for the wakeup call you sent that time I drifted into the oncoming lane of traffic coming out of Ames that night years ago when I was impaired. And I know you were watching when, in Oregon, that gigantic tire flew off a logging truck on a two-lane highway in the forest and bounced to the side of the road right before it hit my car. Thank you. Looking back, I don’t think it dawned on me what that tire would have done to that little Nissan. You knew. I’m thankful, too, for that night in New York City, coming out of the Matisse show at MOMA, when I was able to give $5 to a homeless man. I’m thankful for experiencing his gratitude. He truly was surprised. I told him I knew what it was like to be broke. Thank you, Lord. That was a blessing. Not so much the giving, you know? But the experience. I mean being broke. You knew that I wouldn’t appreciate what I have right now nearly as much if I didn’t know what it was like to have nothing.

You were right, Lord.

For that, I am thankful.

Jane Curtis is the editor of The Messenger.

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