Our family has a special reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving. We’ve been blessed with knowing and loving the man who devoted his life to his family, my father-in-law, Joe Curtis, who celebrates his 97th birthday on Thanksgiving Day.
In a world that can often seem gray and cold, Joe’s broad smiles and uncanny mimicking of favorites like comedian Jackie Mason can warm the coldest heart. His awe and curiosity about miraculous life – crying when we first landed on the moon, wondering how an iPhone or Alexa stores all of that information, telling you it takes about eight minutes for the light from the sun to reach us – is an inspiration.
And we should all thank Joe, a former Warwick resident who’s been battling pneumonia, for what he did to allow us to celebrate this day of thanks, and every day of freedom – serve our country in the Navy on the USS Minneapolis during World War II, enlisting when he was just 17.
But the first person Joe would thank is the woman who’s graced this earth with her inner and outer beauty for 94 years – his wife of 74 years, Peg, who celebrates her 95th birthday next month, and with Joe raised four children, two of whom died as adults, way too soon. Peg – “Peg o’ My Heart,” Joe sings in his still-rich tenor – is still so thoughtful and generous, she always saves extra cookies for Joe and his sweet tooth. She’s so busy savoring life in their senior citizen complex, we often must leave messages on her answering machine because Peg is at an exercise class, playing bingo or out for an invigorating stroll.
I know it may seem difficult to find a whole lot be thankful for these days, with covid still raging and our country so bitterly divided. I also know few of us have been blessed with 96- and 94-year-old parents. But I’ll bet that if we all just pause for a moment to look at our lives, we’ll find plenty of reasons to be thankful, on this day of giving thanks and every day.
I know I’m thankful for the greatest gift Joe and Peg have given me – my wife, Eileen. There is no greater comfort than the touch of her hand on my back in the darkest night, and no more wondrous, welcome sound than her laugh that lights up the dreariest days.
In this region where one of every 10 of us may not have enough to eat and one third of all our children must turn to school for nutritious meals, let’s all please give thanks for something we all too often take for granted – the food we eat on Thanksgiving and every day. I’d especially like to thank the folks who feed the hungry at places like the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley, the Sullivan County Federation for the Homeless, the Guild of St. Margaret soup kitchen, Catholic Charities and so many, many more.
As we approach a second year of this horrible pandemic which has killed more than 765,000 of us, let’s all pause to thank the folks who are still putting their lives on the line for us every day – the doctors, nurses, aides, office workers and all front line and emergency folks who work days and nights to keep us safe and healthy. You are our heroes.
Even though we now take it for granted that we can bring the world to us with the push of a button, let’s not forget how wondrous it still is to heat the homes we’re fortunate to have by turning a dial, to turn the darkness to light with the flick of a switch and to quench our thirst with the twist of a faucet.
Finally, I’d like to thank all of you. I’m blessed to be able to share my thoughts with you – and to be enlightened by all you share with me.
A happy and healthy Thanksgiving.
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