Wednesday, November 23, 2011
It's Thanksgiving. A time to celebrate with our family and friends and to pause in our busy lives to give "thanks" for our many blessings we have received this year. As I compose my blog today, I am sitting in the family waiting room at St. Francis hospital. My father is having open heart surgery to repair his mitral valve, among other things. My mother is surrounded by her children, a few grandchildren and sons-in law. We are passing the time playing cards, surfing the 'net, browsing through magazines or carrying on silly conversations. Of course, I am writing and plan to grade some papers as well. We are looking at a total of seven, long excrutiating hours until we know how Dad is faring. As the holiday season begins, my musings circle around my parents. My upbringing is a testament to the person I am today: compassionate, silly, family oriented, opinionated, determined, hard-working and loyal. My character is a product of my parents and of my two older brothers and my older sister. My parents married with barely any income to start their lives together. After their brief elopement in a courthouse, my father whisked my mother away to begin her military life. My memories are scant and few but my home was filled with love, discipline and laughter. No family is perfect; there were arguments among children, bad days for mom or dad, but never was the home filled with abuse, neglect or other horrible ailments that we hear in the news today. Holiday meals were plentiful. Sometimes we traveled home to Georgia, but mostly we stayed in our home. If the weather was nice, we'd play outside with such games as "catch the flag," "kick ball" and "the green box." (the last one was a game we created on the air force base) It's amazing what sweet memories we hold and what others can't remember. There were certain events, no matter how miniscule or trivial, that left a lasting impact in my life. One year, I was very sick at Christmas time. Santa Claus had brought me a gift - Rub-A-Dub Dolllie. Usually, we would all go to the Christmas tree to open presents but since I was ill, my sister brought me my dollie while my mom soaked me in the tub to cool my fevered body. I held my doll in the bathtub and thought how nice it was that they had thought of me first. There was a night we experienced severe weather (we lived in Oklahoma at the time). It was so severe that numerous funnels were reported, high winds and our neighbor's house had been struck by lightening. My parents had placed us in the bathtub with pillows on top of us. My feelings of fright were muffled a bit under the coverings, but the fear shook me quite to the bone. It wouldn't be until years later that the significance of parental love would be recognized. We didn't have basements in Oklahoma. The red clay was too tough to dig through to build such protective rooms or it was extremely expensive. The fact that my parents stood in the hallway in order to ensure the safety of their children was a testament of their love for the kids. I have that same devotion toward my children today. My parents' priority list is family. They have always put us first in their lives. Every sacrifice was made in order for us to have a bright future. My father worked two jobs at one time in order to make ends meet. He didn'tcomplain and either did my mother. She kept the household in perfect order, had meals prepared, clothes laundered and made sure we made it to our extra curricular activities. Both my parents were figurative cheerleaders throughout our entire childhood. My family is not without flaws. We still have sibling rivalries at times. Feelings can get hurt, poor communication occurs and stubborness can prevail for incredible amounts of time. However, I am so thankful to be a part of this crazy relationship. My father is a compassionate, intelligent man. He is logical, quiet and reflective. He allows us to make our decisions but is open to give advice when asked. His spirit is gentle and his love is never ending. My mother is fiesty, opinionated and fiercely protective of her children and grandchildren. She will boldly speak her mind if someone is treated poorly. She has a big heart, but doesn't wear it on her sleeve. She exhibits her love for others through her actions. It's just her way. My thankfulness is derived from the fact that I have had a good life. My Christian upbringing has led me to a successful marriage, two beautiful daughters and a fulfilling career as a teacher. I could not have accomplished any of this without two of the most important people in the world: Herschel and Judy Middlebrooks. Happy Thanksgiving, Mom and Dad. I love you very much. Saying "thanks" cannot ever pay you for all that you have done for me, but I hope that my life has made you proud. To everyone else: may the holidays bless you all.