No matter where we live or how much we have, gratitude is an acquired skill.
It’s especially hard to remain thankful when the well water churns cloudy or our cars won’t start. Walking through the wind tunnel of everyday life can blind us to those simple reminders of how glorious it is to be alive.
My wife, Susan, our dog, Lilly, and I whirled through this past week. There were floods, power outages, hefty taxes due, and my trying to pass a flexible endoscope through a speech pathologist colleague’s nose without making her cry or shriek (I failed, spectacularly.).
By the time the dust settled Friday night, Susan was in San Francisco visiting her folks and I’d rubbed salve on my bruised clinician’s ego.
Lilly and I were alone.
When I took Lilly out to potty after getting home from work, the eastern sky billowed with cotton candy clouds bathed in sunset hues. I took some shots on my iPhone and sent them to Susan, thanking the ether for real-time sharing.
Snug back in our warm abode, I prepared Lilly’s dinner - kibble sprinkled with shredded chicken - and heated one of the meals Susan prepared for me. Lilly gobbled her goodies, then jumped up on the futon in the den where I sat lingering over my turkey burger with mushrooms and spinach while watching a rerun of M*A*S*H. Lilly dug out her customary trough in her frayed afghan and flopped down beside me.
I ran my fingers over the small, black crown on Lilly’s two-tone, Boston terrier head. She sighed. Then me.
Lilly squiggled her butt against my hip. Whether I sail or stumble through my day, Lilly always shares her warmth. As evening stretched on, I drifted from watching YouTube videos on retirement planning to reading the last chapter in Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, Wild. Through the author’s trek along the Pacific Crest trail, I simultaneously touched my own profound influence upon the world and my insignificance in it. For the first time in my life, I could hold the magnificence of both.
Not everyone in our family was physically present to share this epiphany, yet I sensed the invisible tethers that bind my wife, our doggie daughter and me together. Though the duty and devotion to others some might wear like a noose, I embraced as a silken-steel thread connecting father and daughter, daughter and mother, mother and father. A spiritual string theory woven into reality.
Bound, yet boundless, I found again that gratitude is not a random, rarefied state in response to the chips falling our way.
It’s a blanket we re-weave every day with the threads of our love.