The last few Thanksgivings have provided fodder for good stories: extended family loving on me and my kids, uncles loving on each other, the good souls who married into this family smiling and shaking their heads and banding together for mutual support and assistance in translating.

This one might be different.

Our children will not be with us, which is not new and still not easy. We will wake up thinking of them as we do every day, and they will knock particularly insistently on the insides of our hearts as we perform the rituals we instituted with them.

One cousin is divorcing her husband, or trying to. As the newest veteran of divorce, I have been prevailed upon to talk with her. Is my assignment to talk her into staying, or talk her through going?

Another cousin moved out of his parents’ house into a highly questionable situation, moved back in, was in a terrible car crash and lost a kidney, in that order. He has since allowed/invited two of his friends from the aforementioned situation to invade/share his living space. (The details are a little sketchy.) His father is tolerating the arrangement because these young men have nowhere else to go, but indicates the household estrogen-to-testosterone ratio has gone seriously out of whack.

A third cousin’s sister-in-law is sitting in jail without bond on charges of meth production and distribution. Meth has invaded the last remaining safe haven that never really was.

And there’s the rub: we are faced with the ugly truth that poverty, substance abuse, violence, and infidelity are as much a part of the human condition as abundance, health, kindness, and faithfulness. They’re all rolled up together and have been since the beginning of time. Different strands become more apparent as the ball is turned in the sunlight and in the moonshine, but they’re all there. So what do we do?

Hold onto those threads. Pull ourselves along them, hand over hand, like we tried to on the ropes in gym class. Work with spotters and carry others when we can. Let go of rough strands that hurt our hands and grab onto the satiny soft ones – or just smooth out the roughness the best we can until we get to an easier patch.

Hold on until next year.


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