Family is NOT everything. That is sentimental bullshit. But family is something. For many of us, today is filled with nostalgic memories of a gentler, kinder time—of family members once dear to us now lost to death, divorce, or estrangement. Memories of a life without the coronavirus and a Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade with real people cheering and laughing and celebrating.
2020 has been a challenging year. It is a fitting end to the 2010’s—a decade which has been the most traumatic season of my life. A mid-life crisis (a search for identity) resulted in losing most of my family, friends, and tribe. For almost a year, I was homeless and alone, except for Gina. After a lifetime of prosperity and undeserved good luck, it was a devastating wake-up call.
But today (this Thanksgiving Day), I am grateful. I’ve found that if we let it—suffering will bring unexpected gifts. And healing, though once inconceivable, has permeated my being. And so finally, today I can say I am grateful (once again) for my children.
A few weeks ago, I had a reunion with my old friend Ken Davis at my farm in Tennessee. Yes, I now have a 54-acre farm, a beach cottage near Clearwater, Florida, and financial security-but that is a story for another day.
It was the first time Ken and I had been together in over ten years. It was an awkward but beneficial time. He traveled over two hours from his home so that we could spend the day together. There were many times of laughter (for those of you who know Ken-that is not a surprise) and tears as we sat on our beautiful deck overlooking the Appalachian foothills. He still lives in my old world, and one of my daughters and her husband has worked for him for almost ten years. He told me how proud I would be of them. What hard workers they are and that they were entrepreneurs—a chip off the old block. He also told me my other daughter was doing great and that she and her husband have a remarkable career. He told me I have five grandchildren.
I urged him to tell me any details he felt comfortable sharing because I know virtually nothing. I have not been able to look at anything on social networks or online concerning my old life. It is much too difficult. I have come to understand deeply and profoundly that when we raise our children to be independent and confident rather than co-dependent and needy—it will probably result in them going their own way. Hell, I did the same thing. I left home to find my own way at age 21 and have never returned home to live.
I have come to realize that our children (if they are healthy) pass through our life for only a brief time on the way to the grand mystery of their own life.
And finally, I can honestly say I’m okay with that. Do I miss them? Yes. Would I like to meet my grandchildren someday? Yes. But if not, that is okay. It is out of my control.
Today I am grateful beyond words for an intimate Thanksgiving with Gina at our tiny little beach cottage here in Florida. She is my companion in life, and I told her this morning there is nowhere I would rather be and no one I would rather be with—than at this moment here with her. She is grieving the loss of her beloved Daddy. My heart aches for her. They had a fairy-tale relationship, and it is her first holiday season without him. And because of COVID, I could not travel home to see my Mom and Dad and siblings. My Dad is very sick—he had a stroke last week—and so he must stay isolated when at all possible. I miss them, and I will miss my Mom’s comfort food. It has been a tough year.
But I’m grateful. I’m thankful once again to feel healthy—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. To feel like Randy again. I’m grateful for Gina’s unconditional love, for the Elrod family, and for friends old and new. It has been very gratifying to renew friendships and acquaintances both physically and virtually.
Here’s to a day of turkey, dressing, cranberry salad, candied sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie in a small but cozy cottage. I am very aware there are many people less fortunate doing without food today in America and the world. Gina and I plan to do our part this season by helping stock our local food bank.
But today for us, there will be a great wine, Old Fashioned’s, and mimosas accompanied by thoughtful conversations about the past and about our children. And there will be thanks given for our good fortune and our countless beautiful memories. Why? Because even though family is not everything—it is something.