I've haven't liked Thanksgiving for a long time.
I've only known death in my family once. Twelve years ago my maternal Grandmother died, and ever since then family holidays have never been the same. Every year I look at my mom working her ass off trying make everything perfect and trying to make my Grandfather happy (which he never truly is), and for a long time I turned a blind eye to it. It was about food, the parade, and the National Dog Show. Tupperware, lots of leftovers, and the start of the shopping season. And it wasn't until I got sick my senior year of high school that I truly knew what it meant to be thankful. I was thankful for my own life, for my sister's life, and for the lives of the rest of all the people that I knew and loved.
It was that point when I started paying attention to the memories and the decisions that I made and what they meant for my future. I mean, it was also the end of my high school life, so that probably had something to do with it too. But most high school seniors hadn't had a brush with death and an uncertain future like I had. It was scary. It was humbling. And it was eye-opening.
After that year, I paid attention to my life. And I remembered what I was thankful for.
This year is different. It's different for many reasons.
Six weeks ago my sister was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Fuck that. She's been such a badass through this all, and I can't express how proud I am of her more. Last week she got half her thyroid taken out, and all she can say day is day is, "I'm just really sleepy."
If I was her, I would be so angry. But not Libby. Libby doesn't cry when she has her own problems. Libby cries when her pet rat has to be put down. Libby cries when her childhood best friend accidentally fatally shoots himself in the head. Libby cries for others. And I'm so thankful for how strong she is. The only thing I could do when I heard that she had cancer was escape my house for the night and get drunk with my friends and wallow when a guy I liked didn't come back and want to make out with me. What she did? She made jokes about it on Facebook. "The funniest thing is how much more graduation money I'm going to get than you." Really, Libby? You sassy little shit.
And for right now, Libby is cancer-free. Boo yeah.
This year is different because it's probably going to be my 85-year-old Grandfather's last holiday season. My mother had to call 911 on several occasions for him last Summer, and we just wanted September to go away forever. He almost died so many times that it was almost obnoxious the last time. But through all that, he's still here. I don't know what to think, because he's not happy. He hasn't truly been happy since Grandma died, and that's why the holidays kind of suck. But this year I'm going to make them not suck, if just for his sake. Maybe we'll make him some edibles for Christmas. Get him stoned. I dunno.
Through all of this I'm still here. And everyone else is still here. And I'm thankful for this life that I've been given. So I couldn't care less about your new recipe for a vegan pumpkin pie, or your cute little Pinterest-y DIY decorations. I couldn't care less about the "outrageous" Black Friday sales. I couldn't care less about the shallow, wasteful, capitalist holiday that Thanksgiving has turned into in this country. But I care about my life. And that's what this Thanksgiving is about for me. I'm thankful for all the opportunities and privileges I've had, as someone that has grown up in a relatively safe, but also sheltered community.
I'm thankful for what my parents have given me.
I'm thankful that my health has consistently gotten better every year.
I'm thankful that my father has never been laid off from his job.
I'm thankful that I've found a group of friends that make me feel not only safe, but wanted.
I'm thankful that I've never experienced depression, betrayal, or true fear.
I'm thankful that my family isn't full of bigoted assholes.
I'm thankful that the women in my life have taught me to be a feminist.
I'm thankful that - as a woman - I've never been assaulted.
I'm thankful that - with all the unrest in the world surrounding Ferguson Missouri - I get to be angry about issues that don't "directly concern me" instead of terrified.
I'm thankful that I don't have to walk down the street every day afraid that someone will shoot me dead because of the color of my skin.
So when you're watching the parade today, remember that there are hoards of protesters taking a route parallel to the Thanksgiving Day Parade because of Ferguson. Because of what happened to Michael Brown. And because of what didn't happen to Darren Wilson.
Be thankful for what you have, but not blind to what others don't have. Be thankful for what you have, not what you need to get at 8 p.m. at Best Buy.
Be thankful for what you have, right at this very moment.