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AMEND CORNER: Counting my blessings

It is that time of year once again.

This week features the day we Americans call Thanksgiving. We’ve been doing it ever since Abraham Lincoln called for such a day in the middle of our Civil War

I’m a Christian, so giving thanks to God is something I should do every day, and I think most Americans believe they owe thanks to some sort of god. But even non-believers can benefit from being thankful for the people and circumstances that have shaped them and helped them throughout their lives. Hardly anyone can claim that he or she is a totally self-made person. Even the most self-reliant person benefits from the family, friends, teachers, employers and others who have crossed his or her path. Being humbly thankful for them is good for a person.

Because I was taught as a Christian to be thankful, no matter what my circumstances happen to be that day, Thanksgiving Day isn’t necessary. Even so, it’s nice to have a reminder on the calendar to give us an opportunity to get together with family and friends to count our blessings together.

This is the sixth Thanksgiving since the night in 2012 when I took an unscheduled plane ride to Billings with a great pain in my back. My life since that night hasn’t gone exactly the way I would have liked. I had to adjust to a new reality back then, readjust a year later after my long vacation at the Mayo Clinic, and readjust again a few months later when multiple myeloma was diagnosed.

It hasn’t been much fun, I’ll admit, and I sometimes am frustrated.

Still, my faith teaches that all things work together for good, and I have tried, not always successfully, to look for the good instead of the bad. With that in mind, here are a few of the blessings I have received in the year since we last celebrated Thanksgiving.

A few months ago, I celebrated my 73rd birthday. This birthday, and the last five preceding it, was happier than most. This is because on the night when I was transferred from the emergency room at Powell Valley Hospital to that airplane, I wasn’t confident that I would reach 68, let alone 73. I owe all the years since to two skilled surgeons who worked on me, the hematologists who recognized the myeloma, Dr. Carleta Collins, who has treated it at the cancer clinic in Cody, and all the other doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants, EMTs, lab technicians, aides and others who supported them. I am truly grateful.

As usual when it comes to my birthdays, I enjoyed it the fashion I prefer.  Being not much for parties I prefer to observe my birthdays quietly, with only one frill — a pie. Instead of a cake, my wife always bakes a nice gooseberry pie. I get to eat it all by myself, and because I have to watch my carbohydrate intake these days, I eat small slices, so I can enjoy it for a week. That’s all the celebration I need for breathing a year’s worth of air.

We had our son’s family around for more than a month last summer, thanks to the furlough the government requires foreign service employees to take. For two of those weeks, our daughter came as well, so we had two weeks of watching and photographing all four of our grandchildren play together and explore their relationship. With them, I visited Yellowstone, picnicked in the Big Horns and played miniature golf, all for the first time in seven years. The Big Horns gave our fly-fishing son-in-law, Vad, an opportunity to cast his line. I, a non-fisherman, was as tickled as he was when his first cast was barely in the water when a nice rainbow bit. Best of all, the grandchildren honored me with numerous hugs.

This summer I was able to witness something I had always wanted to see, a total eclipse of the sun. It was as awe-inspiring as I expected it to be, and the excitement of the children watching it with us was infectious. The eclipse was also an excuse for another family gathering, giving us a second meeting with our Minnesota grandchildren and another chance for Vad to fish — this time near Laramie Peak in the company of other male in-laws who, unlike his father-in-law, all fish.

I could list dozens more, but the most important blessing I had this summer was the chance to celebrate 50 years of marriage to Karen. As with my birthday, we observed it quietly at home — the way we both prefer to celebrate and proof, I think, that we truly are soul mates. It reminded me how fortunate I was to be discovered by someone who would be content to love me and devote her life to me. To this day, I don’t know exactly why she chose me, but I’m certainly glad she did, and there hasn’t been a single moment of the last 50 years that I’ve regretted it. Our devotion to each other has only grown deeper since that bad day back in 2012, and I’m blessed by her presence.

I’m not sure why God has blessed me as much as he has. I’m an ordinary man and flawed in many ways, so I am humbled by his grace. I have a lot to thank him for.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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