Yesterday, I wrote a gratitude post, to which this is a companion.
My aunt was an early positive influence in my life, when so much around me was negativity and despair. I still miss her, although she passed away over twenty years ago. She was the salt of the earth, as some describe that sort of honest, grounded, but very giving person. She helped to bring me out of my snobbishness about education, showing me that common sense and a good heart were often more important in navigating daily life. I thought of her as a grandmother, although in many ways, she was more a mother to me than my own mother. She taught me various kinds of needlework, wheedling the “fairy child” out of her hiding place to bask in her attention. I didn’t realize at the time, but she loved me, and in so doing, countered much of the negativity I felt about myself.
Although my mother still lives, she is absent from me. Her lifelong depression, which made her distant from me when I was small, has been subsumed into the raging bitterness that rules her now that she is in severe dementia. I regret that I didn’t listen more to her lessons on gardening, botanical names, and the occasional herbal remedy she remembered from her grandmother. That part of her brain, which she shared with me far too seldom when I was a child, is locked away. It is there in the frail, wasted body burning with anger, only speaking when there are words formed as weapons to shred the last remaining positive memories I have of her, but I can no longer find the path to it.
Despite present reality, I treasure the knowledge I gained from my mother, the fragile bridge that she managed to forge with me through her depression to pass on something of value to her. When I was about four, she gave me my own small garden, where I insisted I plant a piece of rosebush accidentally torn from a wild rose. My mother doubted that it would survive, but she helped me prepare the ground and watched me thrust the rosebush into the dirt, watering and watching. Despite the odds, that rosebush flourished, growing over ten feet up the side of a nearby tree, festooned with wild roses every summer. I feel a kinship with that rose, and I appreciate my mother letting me try, even while she was convinced I would fail.
Thanksgiving is a time to cherish those around us, but also to remember those who had an impact on us, in many ways making us who we are. Who are you thankful for, and why?