Of course there are better days, and there are many good memories my son, but any holiday is a reminder of what shining light is missing from my life.
3 years ago in 2003, Ken & I had set up a time for us to chat on the internet; he being in Sadr City, Iraq and we being in California. For these purposes *we* means my parents, 2 sisters, 2 nieces, my nieces fiance', and the fiance's family. We had a houseful of love and food, too. We were all looking forward to sharing a meal of thanksgiving and chatting with Ken. We were thankful he was alive and well, albeit 11 time zones removed from our family gathering.
I was nervous about making sure we had a connection- what if Ken came online and we weren't there? What if he thought we weren't thinking of him? This was the year that George Bush flew to Baghdad, and served turkey dinner to the troops safe within the Green Zone, wearing a 1st Armored Division jacket. Of course it was dangerous and how could the President of our country, the man who started this ugly war go beyond the safety of the Green Zone? For those outside the Green Zone, one day is like the rest; no respite from the daily mortar rounds, the ied's (improvised explosive devices) and the war.
Ken did not appear at the appointed time and I started to panic. I thought it was the internet connection, or maybe he popped on while we were eating. Finally, the instant message noise on the computer rang and Ken was with all of us for just a little while that Thanksgiving day. The delay in meeting us was a result of an extended firefight and unlike the women in some of the September 2006 Doonesbury comics, I always knew that our meetings online could be delayed.
Ken got to chat with everyone, mostly it was back and forth trivialities, but we were together that day and that was good enough for me.
As I raised Ken, I wanted him to be the kind of man that other women would tell their partners- Why can't you treat me like Ken treats his woman? I wanted him to be able to be as comfortable in the kitchen as he was driving a 65 ton tank. He should be able to do his own laundry and be able to balance a check book. When he got married I wanted it to be because of the woman and his commitment to her and the relationship, NOT because he needed someone to do his laundry or fix a meal.
Ken did feel comfortable in the kitchen from a very young age. Every Thanksgiving from the time he was about 4 years old, Ken made the cranberry sauce for our family dinner. Yep, from scratch, real cranberries and real sugar. He loved stirring the pot while the cranberries popped and released the juicy pulp. Look at that face, how happy he was to be part of our families tradition. As I continued Ken's tradition of making the cranberry sauce last night, I know that Ken was with me; always in my heart.
Over the years, Ken spent many Thanksgivings with friend's families and with his Army buddies and always, the families told me what good company he was.
So, this week, while our president yuks it up at the White House with the traditional pardoning of the National Thanksgiving Turkey and a gratuitous nod to the military, my thoughts are of Thanksgivings gone by.
He also commended U.S. military personnel, whom he said "have set aside their own comfort and convenience and safety to protect the rest of us." "Their courage keeps us free. Their sacrifice makes us grateful. And their character makes us proud," Bush said. "Especially during the holidays, our whole nation keeps them and their families in our thoughts and prayers."
Most people in this country are detached from the war, including our president. They won't have to, don't have to think about the 140,000 troops currently serving in Iraq who are so far from their families and another 18,000 in Afghanistan on this national holiday. There is no impact, no rationing, no personal commitment to this war, except for the military families.
While happiness is a distant memory for me, I *am* grateful for many things and many people. I am grateful for my fellow Gold Star families at Gold Star Families Speak Out and the other 2871 Gold Star families, who know this bereavement. I am grateful for my new friends that I have met along the way and of course my old friends, my dear friends; the hugs that are freely given when people find out I am a Gold Star Mom; and my family, who has been supportive of this journey we are taking. I am grateful for the relatively good health of my family and that I will share Thanksgiving with my 2 favorite sisters, my favorite parents, my favorite niece and her new puppy. I am grateful for my 3 favorite brothers and 2 other favorite sisters and ALL of my favorite nieces and nephews, who are with their families this holiday. I am grateful for Ken's friends who stay in touch, who let me know that he will always be remembered. I am grateful that the voter's finally understood the futility of this occupation in Iraq and I hope the newly elected Congress responds in kind. I am grateful for ALL members of the military past and present, who made a commitment to serve their country; and to their families & friends who know the cost of this war.
I hope you are spending the day with those you love, as I am, and that there is comfort and gratitude in your heart. I do wish you a HAPPY Thanksgiving!