by Father Mark Goldasich
I haven’t had a chance to check the TV listings closely, but I’m hoping that the Hallmark Channel televises this heartwarming holiday story:
A recently retired couple relocated to Phoenix from the East Coast to enjoy a warmer climate in their golden years. The wife was particularly downcast, though, as Thanksgiving was approaching and the kids were not coming to celebrate the holiday — for the first time ever. School and work commitments were keeping them busy at their respective locations.
Concerned about his wife’s increasingly depressed mood, the father decides to call his son in New York a couple of days before Thanksgiving. When the son answers, the father says, “I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are getting a divorce. Fifty-five years of misery is enough!”
“Pop,” the son gasps into the phone. “What in the world are you talking about?”
“We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer,” says the father. “The move out here to Phoenix just made that clearer. We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this. So, you can call your sister in Chicago and tell her if you want.”
Frantic, the son calls his sister who, when she hears the news, goes ballistic.
“There is NO WAY they’re getting divorced, “ she shouts into the phone. “I’ll take care of this.”
She immediately calls Phoenix and, when she hears her father’s voice, bursts out with, “You and Mom are NOT getting divorced. Don’t you dare do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t you dare do a thing. DO YOU HEAR ME?” Angrily, she hangs up.
At that, the man turns to his wife and says, “OK, cheer up, honey. It’s settled. The kids ARE coming for Thanksgiving this year. And, best of all, they’re paying their own way!”
Doesn’t that just bring a tear to your eye?
I hope that when you gather with family and friends during Thanksgiving there’s an abundance of laughter, memories and gratitude. A great way to begin that day is by attending Mass. After all, who is the source of all the bounty that we celebrate? Ultimately, it’s the Lord.
And I’m sure that my parish is not unique in this, but at Thanksgiving morning Mass, our parishioners come forward at the offertory and bring gifts of nonperishable goods and personal hygiene items, which are then placed in front of the altar. Later, those donations are delivered to the Good Shepherd Thrift Store, a ministry run by mem- bers of the various churches in town. When I start Thanksgiving Day by being grateful to God and sharing something with the poor, I know I’ve already celebrated it in a most appropriate fashion.
Thanksgiving Day, to me, is something that should be savored and never rushed. With that in mind, here are a few activities that may help your celebration be something that people will linger over.
• Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade as a group and marvel at the creativity on display there.
• Unless your meal is terribly formal, put down some butcher paper as a tablecloth, along with crayons by everyone’s place setting. In between the various courses, let guests color, doodle or simply create some artistic masterpieces. After the meal when the dishes are cleared, display this work of art . . . provided it can be seen through the gravy stains.
• Before a formal meal prayer, or maybe in place of it, do a litany of gratitude. Invite each person around the table to mention one thing that they are grateful for and respond to each with: “God, we thank you!” Go around the table a couple of times at least.
• Take plenty of time to share family memories and stories, both serious and funny. And be open to noticing and remembering new ones as they take shape.
Incidentally, if someone says they’re too busy to come over for Thanksgiving, give the father’s “divorce ploy” a try. Who knows? They may even end up paying their own way!