There are so many things to be grateful for this time of year. Having people who love you, who care about your wellbeing, who would miss you deeply if you were gone. Having a roof over your head and food in your belly. Having a job or a hobby to give you something to do with your time. It’s hard to pick one thing above the others for which you are the most thankful. Life means different things to different people. Each of us holds some things dearer than others. For me, it is my husband. He was the love of my life and I give thanks every day that that wonderful man came into my life. My sons, grandchildren and I built a memorial to him to show the world how grateful we are for having had him in our lives.
Thanks for going to the base gym that day to work out. Thanks for picking my best friend’s boyfriend to work out with. Thanks for agreeing to go on a blind date with his girlfriend’s bestie. Thanks for getting out of that car with the sweetest, cutest and most adorable smile on your lips. I fell in love with you at first sight. A wee thanks for those tight white jeans that made your butt look really scrumptious.
Thanks for a summer of mini-golf and movies and picnics. For making me laugh. For making me cry when you said you’d gotten orders for overseas and would be leaving at the end of August to go to Armed Forces Radio and TV School before your deployment to Pakistan. If I hadn’t shed those bitter tears, I would never have realized just how much you had come to mean to me. How much I’d miss that cocky smile and those twinkling hazel eyes or that wild mop of dirty blond hair. Thanks for telling me you’d spend your leave between graduating school and going overseas to take me to the first football game of my senior year. When it didn’t look like you would be able to make it, thanks for telling me to go with someone else but…
A mighty thanks for driving non-stop from Ft. Slocum, New York to Georgia and showing up on that Friday afternoon to make good on your promise. Thanks for not being mad that there was another boy waiting there to take me to the game. A giggling thanks for showing up at that game and sitting down on the other side of me, putting your jacket over my shivering shoulders and turning that other boy into a heck of a green-eyed monster. Thanks for laughing it off and a shake of my finger for following me and him in your car all night long. An exasperated thanks for finding you sitting on my doorstep waiting for that boy to bring me home and for out-lasting him that night as we sat in the den together. For making my mother laugh when she finally had to shoo you both away because you lagged behind to be the last guy to leave. Thanks for not giving up. You earned my mother’s admiration that night.
Thanks for telling me the next day that you’d been sent back to the base there in town and never thought you’d ever be happy to turn down an overseas assignment to be with a girl. Thanks for allowing me to be that girl.
Thanks for proposing to me during the middle of the Ed Sullivan program that Sunday night. On bended knee with ring in hand, you rocked my world with those never to be forgotten words: “Would you like to marry me?” Not the most romantic way to propose but certainly all Tommy. Those twinkling eyes were serious for once and that expressive mouth trembled just as little as you waited for me answer. Thank you for nearly breaking me in half when I said yes. That whoop you gave scared the heck out of my little dogs and sent my cat scurrying for cover but it filled my heart to overflowing.
Thanks for taking me to the prom. The photo of us dancing is one of my absolute favorites. Thanks for making the other girls jealous as hell. In that tux, your butt was the stuff of legends. You couldn’t be there at my graduation because you were with your parents in New York. Thank you for the tears you shed because you would be missing one of the most important days of my life up until that time. Thank you for caring enough to send a big bouquet of flowers instead.
Thanks for agreeing to wear your uniform for our wedding instead of a suit. I was so proud of you and wanted the world to know it. Thanks for buying that Baby Carriage VW in which we tried to make it from Albany, GA to Naples, FL for our honeymoon. Thanks for flagging down a helpful driver on the road when that car conked out on us. In your suit, with the July 10the heat hovering somewhere around 100, you were sweating bullets. (I know I was in my linen suit!) Thanks for not having a car with air conditioning! You also need to thank me for sitting in the driveway of the Dutch Kitchen motel and revving up that little piece of crap when you ran in to register us for a room. I sort of felt like Bonnie to your Clyde.
Thanks for our first son and for not yelping too loudly when I clawed your hands to pieces during labor. For sleeping under a few pages of newspaper there in the waiting room all night long to be near me. For the single red rose you gave me when I woke up. For taking your son into your arms for the first time and with tears in your eyes mouthing the words thank you over his little head. It was my honor, Tommy, and my greatest pleasure to name him after you.
Thanks for coming how from Vietnam all in one piece. For every single letter—all 372 pf them—you wrote every single day (a few times twice a day) that you were gone. For every MARS call to me when you could get back from base camp. For taking emergency leave in the middle of the war to fly home to Georgia because I was so very, very sick and you were so very, very worried about me.
Thanks again for our second son born three years later. I was more than a little angry at you when you dropped me off at the base hospital then went to your college class at USC. I know you thought I’d be in labor as long as I had been in Tampa but you were wrong. I would love to have seen the look on your face when you got to class and everyone stood up to clap when James Dickey—the author of Deliverance—told you you had a new son. Thanks for breaking the land speed record and getting a ticket you talked your way out of getting back to the base to meet your new boy.
Thanks for returning from the war a second time without the nightmares and brooding silences and quick anger that had accompanied your first tour. Thanks for the 369 letters you wrote to me from the Central Highlands. For the designer clothes you had made for me in Hong Kong when you took leave there. For coming home to be spat upon by some nasty little hippy chick and for smiling at her and saying: “I hope you haven’t lost someone close to you in this terrible war”. To this day, I still remember the look of shock and shame that flooded her young face and the way she hung her head as she walked away. Thank you for your service. For putting your life on the line so a little twit like that could show you such disrespect.
Thank you for the forty sunflowers you gave me on my 40th birthday and adding the two 220 plugs as a joke. Thank you for not trading me in.
Thanks for working hard all your life—sometimes holding down three jobs at once to support your family—and getting three college degrees. That Masters of Business Admin took the longest and the most out of you. Thank you for never giving up despite commanding officers who threw every roadblock they had at you. You pushed those suckers aside and YOU prevailed, not them. Thank you for your courage, your endurance, your strength and your drive. That showed the world the kind of man you were.
Thanks for going to little league games, football games, band concerts and being a band parent for all the away games even when you were sick as a dog. Thanks for coaching wrestling and being a referee at our boys’ games and matches. Thank you for teaching catechism at Church and for substitute teaching at the middle school in Milton, FL. A special thanks for working every year with the mentally handicapped programs in both Milton and Grinnell. For taking special needs young men to football games down in Kansas City. For picking up trash on the highway and for the many, many times you picked up the handle of a coffin to take someone to their final resting place.
Thanks for all the places you took me over the years. Nearly every state in the Union, every province in Canada and quite a few Mexican states. For Cancun and Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. For Jamaica and St. Bart’s. For helicopter rides, balloon rides, plane rides and horseback rides across Georgia red clay pastures. For dinner cruises in the Gulf of Mexico and railroad rides in New England the fall. For trips to the CNN Tower and the Sears Tower. For the motorcycle rally at Sturgis and the trips to Niagara Falls. For every book convention and book tour to which you escorted me. For every time you sat beside me at a book signing and told passersby how proud you were of me. For every time you sat sweltering in the Reaper costume to draw attention to my books.
Thank you for every person you ever picked up on the highway hitchhiking although you scared me every time you did. For every ramp you built for a disabled person and every dollar you gave to the needy. For every animal you ever rescued.
For all the good that you did in this world.
Thank you for being the basis for every hero I ever created. Thank you for being the love of my life.
Thank you, Tommy, for being the kind of man you were and for leaving your family as comfortable as you could when you left this world. For making sure you left behind a legacy of which your sons and grandchildren could be proud.
Most of all, thank you for coming to visit me when the house is still and quiet. When it’s just me and you in our home together. I feel the touch of you hand on my back and I know you’re there. Thank you for making me the strong, independent and confidant woman you always knew I could be. Thank you for being proud of me and telling everyone you met what a lucky man you were for having married me.
Thank you for loving me.
I know you’re waiting patiently, my love, but—as always—I’m running a bit late. Not to worry. I’ll get there eventually and we’ll be together again.
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