Giving thanks in a different way, because this is a different year

And I am a different girl.

So here we are, at Thanksgiving again...one of my Dad's favorite holidays, but he's not here.

As I think back to the person I was just a year ago at this time, and I feel like she's not here, either! I feel like I can't even relate to her. I can remember myself a year ago, being almost gleeful that I had made it though chemo, and the oophorectomy...and wanting my hair to come back in...and just being generally pleased with the idea of becoming regular again.

Today's Pam thinks last year's Pam was a little too naive, and certainly a little too focused on herself. Being regular is such a non-state, don't you think? How long does one ever exist in "regular"? I don't think I ever even got to regular before we were unregular again with my Dad's pancreatic cancer diagnosis. But beyond me...does anyone exist in "regular"? I doubt it. We all have our own challenges and hard times and good times - ups and downs.

This year's Pam sees all of that a little more. Whereas 2008 was maybe a journey of self-discovery, 2009 has taken the "self" out of that discovery a bit, which I think is a good thing. I think grief will do that for a person more than fear will - and while 2008 was more about conquering fears (such a personal thing, and puts you so in touch with your inner strengths), 2009 is more about losses and recovering from them, or grieving (which seems to also push a person in the opposite direction, like fear to strength...from grief to love.)

I can feel myself moving towards love. I have an acute feeling that I do need to embrace this life - to love life - because it can be so fleeting. Honestly, a year ago my Dad may or may not have had some abdominal upset...but would he have thought that he would be in another place 9 months later?

I also feel like I need to embrace the time I have with people, too...because people don't last forever, either. Here I lie in my house with my 3 children who are all so busy growing up and I know I shouldn't waste my time sitting around and feeling badly. Like it or not, this is my time with them before they all go off and live their own grown-up lives! Beyond that, do we know how much time any of us will get with each other before we are pulled apart? Not really...and I want to embrace the time that I have while I have it.

And then I think back to my Dad, who wasn't older than me when he had no parents left, too...and I think about how he embraced and loved his life. There is no denying that he really did that, in such a way that was really admirable. And though we might have gone in opposite directions when faced with how quick life is (he with work and accomplishing great things there, and me with my little family)...all in all we were/are exactly the same...going all-or-nothing towards something. That's a pretty cute thought.

And thanks to the help of several varied individuals (not just those I've mentioned, but also people who have sent me little messages here and there, or said little things to me in passing, and my sisters, who have gone over and over these things with me on the phone for hours upon hours - esp. Amy), I think I am coming around to the love in ALL of it. Because I loved, and love, my Dad...despite our differences and the way that our sameness was maybe hard for us (because how can two people really connect or make time to understand the other when they are going all-or-nothing for something totally opposite?). And I am thankful that I had him while I did.

And I'm starting to put away his shortcomings for good now, because he was human and flawed just like the rest of us...he just had the misfortune of being my father, and so I naturally expected him to be a semiperfect individual, which of course no one is. And I am wanting to think of our happy moments...the times on the boat together when he was so loving towards my girls, the times when he cozied up with Nathan in the chair in the living room, the time when I woke up flailing and yelling and in such confused and unbelievable pain from my mastectomy (there had been a problem with the pain meds) and he was there to hold my hand. And I remember him coming in with his work clothes from out-of-town to meet Katie for the first time, and I remember being so proud of him for the steps he had made in the 2.3 years since he had become a grandfather, begrudgingly and embarrassed, after my surprise pregnancy with Emma. He had stopped to get both girls a little teeny gift, but stopped for nothing else in his rush to get there.

And life does suck, sometimes...the losses and the pain and all the little hurts that pile up. But life is also so beautiful, too...the new little people that enter into your heart and your lives, and family in general - my uncles, my aunts, my cousins, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and my two shining, wonderful sisters, and all of the precious moments that you never want to forget.

I'm thankful for it all.