Some unlikey reasons to be thankful

Published 3:37 pm Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My favorite time of year is Thanksgiving, but for the past six years I’ve been without the best things the holidays bring — family.

This will be my sixth Thanksgiving without my family.

My first Thanksgiving away from home, I stayed on a college campus with just a handful of other students to catch up on papers I needed to write.

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I was writing a paper on Aristotle in my dorm room when Mr. Woodward, a local attorney, knocked on my door at 5:30 p.m. and invited me and the only other person on our 300-person campus to dinner with his family.

Since then, I’ve been blessed to spend Thanksgiving at roommates’ homes, kind stranger’s homes and with friends.

As a result, I’ve learned how to cook my own turkey and put together a Thanksgiving dinner, but I’ve also learned the finer points of being a guest at someone’s home and had the blessing of seeing how others celebrate the holidays.

One of the more unlikely advantages of my situation is realizing the truth in the old maxim “distance makes the heart grow fonder.”

What I’ve learned is that when distance is coupled with a holiday of thanks, it can have positive results that I may have otherwise taken for granted.

Since I’ve been gone, my younger sister began and ended her first romantic relationship and went from being in junior high to starting her first year at Colorado State University.

My brother went from being a loud-mouthed 11-year-old to being the youngest and greenest competitor to win a national debate tournament. He just finished a college interview with Yale University.

While these are events I am sad to have missed, I am able to take joy in their successes and comfort that I will be part of their lives for a very long time.

Around Thanksgiving, I always make sure to give them a call to tell them I love and am proud of them and tell them I’m so sorry for not being better at keeping in touch.

The same aspect of Thanksgiving that makes me call them, however, makes me ask my dad how my grandpa is doing. That’s when I learned that the man who brought me in as part of his family when I was five years old — without a father or paternal grandfather — is calling my dad by my great uncle’s name and asking him about things that happened when they were kids.

I don’t know how long it would have been before I found out about my grandfather’s deteriorating state, given that I’m more than 3,000 miles away from home, but making those realizations before it’s too late also makes me thankful to have a holiday of thanks.

So, here is to learning what I’ve taken for granted and being able to make things right before it’s too late.

I hope your holiday is filled with lessons of thanks and realizations that you’ll be thankful you’ve made.