Reuben just had his sixth birthday. Not that it's a big deal to him. For Labradors, every day is a celebration, every meal the best, every walk a grand exploration.
Over the river and through the woods? Bring it on.
A scratch behind the ear? Ecstasy!
His entire life is followed by an exclamation point.
Even sleep comes with complete abandon, lying on his back, legs wide open, snoring like a truck driver.
Reuben knows how to live in the moment.
What Reuben doesn't know is that he has a large tumor growing on his mouth, a tumor that is likely malignant, a tumor that will probably succeed in robbing him of a seventh birthday.
The blasted thing comes off today, at which time we'll know exactly what it is, and how much damage it's done.
Sign, Jennifer, sigh.
I would love to put this matter out of my mind, place it on the back burner for the time being. Thanksgiving is upon us. There's turkey to be thawed, pies to be baked, potatoes to be mashed.
But our lives are never all that Norman Rockwell painted them to be. We suffer loss in many forms. Loss of youth. Loss of job. Loss of control.
A loved one succumbs to cancer, a soldier dies at war, a family is murdered in Mount Vernon. You'd have to be living in a cave not to see the tragedy around us.
It would be easy for most of us to look around and say, "Well, at least my life isn't that bad. I am thankful for that."
And, that is good.
I'm wondering, though, could we take it one step further?
I often speak of my father, because his life and death affected me so profoundly. He died in 2003 after a five-year battle with what is termed Multiple Systems Atrophy. It is a clever little disease that methodically destroys the neuromuscular system until the victim is eventually bed bound, with nothing intact but the mind.
I tried to visit Dad once a week during that time. We played a lot of dominoes and watched every Western movie ever made. We talked a lot.
I asked him once if he ever questioned, "Why me?"
He told me he might have questioned it early on, but over time he began to look at it as a matter of, "Why not me?"
He said that he was even thankful for the disease in some ways.
"It gives me time to think," he said.
I have a friend who went through a painful divorce. Ten years later, she says she is thankful for that experience. She didn't delight in the breakup of a marriage, but in the process of the divorce, she went to school and came out standing on her own two feet. She knows her strengths, and knows what she wants in a life mate, if that opportunity should arise.
I think it's called living a life of gratitude.
My brother Matt wrote to me when I lost another Labrador named Malabar.
He said, "I am very sad to hear about Malabar. Some dogs are so special that they will never be forgotten. You loved him deeply. You know that he loved you back. You really can't ask for anything else."
No, you really can't.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I want to life a life of gratitude, not just on the assigned holiday, but every day. Let me be thankful for, not only the abundance of blessings, but also for the challenges I am given.
May I learn from them and see the gift within.
Let me live in this moment.
I wish for you all the happiest of Thanksgivings. May you celebrate with vigor, eat your very best meal, and then sprawl out on the floor and snore like a truck driver.