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Every year when Thanksgiving rolls around, my family has a tradition where we go around the table and each person shares something we’re thankful for. In recent years, the theme has been pretty much the same: we’re all able to be together still – even though my brother and I are over 30 and have busy lives of our own – good health, a roof over our heads and enough food to feed a small army on Thanksgiving day.
But this year, I’ve spent the last few weeks pondering what I would say when my turn came up, and frankly, I’ve pretty much drawn a blank. After all, 2016 has been the most challenging year of my life. Mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January and has since battled a myriad of health problems related to it. In fact, as I write this, mom is resting on the other side of the wall in a hospital bed provided by the hospice group that has helped get her settled at home again in the last few weeks.
So really, what could I possibly have to be thankful for? I’m constantly overwhelmed by the extra care mom needs, on top of the additional assistance dad needs because he’s always been so dependent on mom’s support. I’m an emotional roller-coaster day after day, and I often don’t know, from one day to the next, whether the day will be filled with happiness, anger, frustration, fear or even guilt.
Then it hit me on Wednesday, while I began to prepare for my first solo Thanksgiving dinner that I have plenty to be thankful for. Of course, we still have the roof over our head and plenty of food to feed half of the neighborhood. But more importantly, we have each other. You see, one major lesson this year has brought for me is that life isn’t all about the hustle and bustle of the daily grind, the money we make, the bills we pay or the things we have to show for that hard work.
Instead, it’s about togetherness, it’s about cherishing the memories we make, even in the small moments of each day. It’s a silly smile, an inside joke, even the bickering over whatever small annoyance hit you on any given day. Because when you’re no longer together, you’ll have all of those wonderful memories to fall back on that will carry you through the tough times.
Sure it’s been tough preparing for this Thanksgiving. Mom normally took the lead, did the shopping, gathered the recipes and just told me where she needed assistance. This year, I made the menu, made the shopping list and picked up everything we needed. I worked alone in the kitchen, meticulously following those recipes mom has in the kitchen, hoping to live up to the delicious production mom has put on for so many years.
But all the while, I fumbled through the kitchen, recalling fond memories. There were the messes I managed to make while trying to measure and bumping into something. There was the time when I made my first homemade pumpkin pie and tried to dump the filling on the floor on the way to the over. Then there was that year that mom and I shared a bottle of wine (yes a whole bottle) while we were cooking and just laughed and laughed all day.
Of course there was that time where we didn’t get all of the gizzards out before we cooked the turkey and ended up pulling them out while we were carving… oops! A few years ago, we had a PVC pipe collapse under our back yard, causing us to have an emergency plumber visit before we could start anything that day. And those are just some of the Thanksgiving memories we have to cherish as life changes.
Aside from being thankful for those memories I hold dear, I’m very fortunate to have an amazing support system by my side, led by my good friend (and Editor-In-Chief) Tom Bowles. Without his ear to talk to and encouraging words throughout this whole journey, I may have lost my sanity and had a full breakdown. The rest of my crew here at Frontstretch has been a huge part of my support this year too, even if many don’t realize just how important their impact has been. I’m definitely thankful for my NASCAR family.
And of course that includes you too, each and every one of my readers. Thank you for allowing me to keep doing what I love, even if you’re not crazy about the choices the sanctioning body has made in the caution clock, the Chase, etc. Thank you for challenging me when you think I’m nuts and for making me think in a different way with your comments here and on Twitter.
This year, for all of you, my wish is that you cherish every moment with your friends and family, no matter how trivial they may seem. Life is fleeting and could screech to a halt on any given day, but in the meantime, appreciate the little moments and look to find the positive in as many situations has you possibly can.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. May your day be filled with love, laughter and the companionship of those you hold dear.
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