Thanksgiving at 80

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For most of my adult life, my family celebrated Thanksgiving at my brother’s home in Michigan. We would come from Chicago, a sister would come from Toledo, another sister sporadically came from Seattle, and my third sister and folks lived near my brother. After my dad died at 90, I remember my mother who would need to nap in the afternoon but not be willing to admit it. She would lie down on the couch with us gals talking around her. Every now and then she would say, “I’m not sleeping. I’m listening to every word.”

I pictured that scene last week as I arrived early to my daughter’s for Thanksgiving dinner. We supposedly had agreed on 3pm. I had 2pm in my brain, so I planned my day around leaving home about 1:15. I texted her when I was leaving and hopped into my car, not waiting for her response.

When I arrived, I caught my daughter hurriedly picking up the living room, the cook—her husband–watching soccer, one child in the shower, and the other still needing to take a shower. It didn’t feel like we’d be ready to eat shortly, but oh well.

When the showered child came to sit next to me on the couch, she said, “Grandma, why did you come early?”

Oh, that was it. No wonder it didn’t feel like dinner was imminent. My daughter lovingly showed me the text where I’d confirmed a few days earlier that 3pm was good for dinner. Then she showed me her response to my “Leaving now” text. “Sounds good. Dinner is at 3, so we can hang out a bit.”

I wonder if I’d read that response if it would have dawned on me that I was an hour early. I almost doubt it! But I was ready with my new and now ever-present answer: “Well, I’m 80, and I’ve decided I can do and say what I want.” So there. If I want to be early, I will be early.

I no longer will claim senior moments. I’m 80 and everyone that deals with me will just have to accept the wisdom I exhibit. In fact, my grandson included me in his prayer, thanking God for Grandma who was “wise.”

Being 80, I think, is a marvelous thing. I’ve outlived my three sisters and their husbands, my brother, and my husband. Just my sister-in-law and I remain. I’m aware each morning when I get up what a blessing life is. There are many wonderful things about being 80! I was reminded of several last week by a witty 80-year-old “friend” * who wrote about things he’s been able to give up as he’s grown older, things like: I have given up suffering in my old age. I don’t go to loud restaurants…I don’t hang out with boring people… He’s downsized his closet and possessions.

My “friend,” Garrison Keillor, ended his column like this: I was the oldest person at our Thanksgiving table and I didn’t say much because the kids were so lively and funny and why bring them down with a lecture about the wonders of old age, including the fact that every morning is an occasion of gratitude. I’ll let them discover that for themselves, Lord willing.

As a fellow 80-year-old, I agree. I’m fine with letting go of unpleasantries of all kinds. I’m fine with letting go of things that were pleasant and fun in the past but aren’t anymore. For example, I started women’s groups in all the churches I’ve attended. Loved doing it! But no more. I’m willing to sit back and be the invitee rather than the inviter. And I’m fine with taking each day as it comes and being thankful to God for granting me this longer life.

And if I want to arrive early for dinner, I will. And if I want to nap after dinner on a couch, surrounded by a conversation, I will. But I also will claim I don’t need a nap, I’m not sleeping, and I am listening to every word. My mother taught me well.

What have you given up and not missed at all as you’ve aged?

3-11-18 – One of our last times together with our kids–Marv passed away on 7-25-18. That year I went to Israel and Jordan over Thanksgiving.

*Garrison Keillor. An old man thinking at the Thanksgiving table. The Column. November 25, 2022.