While sitting on my back porch a few years ago with my twenty-six year old grandson Stephen, he said “Grandma, what do you think about when you sit out here?” My immediate answer was “gratitude”. The quickness of my answer surprised even me.

Let me count the ways. I live in a comfortable house that I love, in the town of my choice, in a safe neighborhood, with a comfortable amount of money, and grandchildren who come to visit.

I grew up in a loving and respectable farm family in rural Tennessee, and for that I am grateful. School work was easy for me and I was able to attend college. My mother scraped together enough chicken and egg money to pay for an Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority pin for me. Every time I see that pin in my jewelry box I am grateful for my parents’ hard work.

In some situations, gratitude is not possible. When I was fifteen my twenty one-year-old brother, Dale, was killed in the Battle of the Bulge, WWII. I am glad that we won the war, but that was a horrible, horrible price to pay.

My marriage to an Air Force fighter pilot was not perfect, but I am grateful that I never had to work outside the home and was able to be a full time Mom. My children were healthy, intelligent, hardworking students and always made me proud. Sadly, in the eighties before blood was routinely tested for HIV, Casey was infected with the dreaded disease through a blood transfusion. He died seven years later in 1993 at age thirty six. Except for that heart-wrenching and terrible loss, it was a joy being mother to such a creative, adventuresome, and uniquely entertaining young man.

The transitory military lifestyle suited me. I liked that we lived in several different states and two foreign countries. No matter where we went, the fighter pilots and their wives were always good company. Of all our assignments, my favorite was three years in Spain, where we enrolled our two small boys in a neighborhood Catholic school where not even the nuns spoke English. We are not Catholic, or any other religion, but were aiming to absorb some culture. I helped Eric and Casey with their homework, learned some Spanish, and benefited from that.

My oldest son, Eric, got his college education at the USAF Academy, took flight training, and served the mandatory six years in the USAF piloting C-141s. Once out of the Air Force he worked in Financial Analysis with Verizon in Philadelphia and New York.

After Eric left Verizon, he was more available to drive south to visit me in Florida. Once while walking in my neighborhood, my shoe came untied. I called Eric on my cell phone, and my sixty year old son drove his BMW to where I stood waiting two blocks from home for him to tie my shoe. Ah, the irony! Time has a way of reversing parent/child needs. There was no place for me to sit, and bad knees made it impossible to squat or bend down. Because I had already suffered several traumatic falls, I dared not risk walking further and tripping on the shoe strings.

In addition to tying my shoes and pouring my coffee, Eric handles my financial affairs, maintenance on my house and car, all computer and electronic decisions, and anything else with which I don’t want to be bothered. I am grateful that all those responsibilities are off my plate and in his capable hands.

Eric’s oldest son, Harvard Law graduate, and prosecutor, Andrew, sometimes flies down from Jersey City and drives me around on Florida’s back roads just to visit springs. So far, we’ve seen Manatee, Ginnie, Rainbow, Silver, and Juniper Springs together and have a few more to go. Our close relationship is a real joy. Eric’s second son, Stephen, flies down, helps me with my computer issues, video records me reading my stories, and entertains me with his drone/camera. I am a grateful Grandma.

Sixteen years ago my daughter, Clea, survived breast cancer, radiation, chemotherapy, and having a difficult baby delivery all at the same time. She is healthy now, as is her bright, artistic, sixteen year old daughter, Anna Rose, who is into fencing and children’s theater. I am truly grateful. Clea is an avid camper and hiker, children’s theater volunteer, special needs school children employee, and all round dynamic human being. I am also grateful that she stopped short of marrying a young college classmate whose Lutheran family thought she was so wonderful they wanted to rescue her from her horrible non-Christian parents, my husband and me. My hackles still rise at the nerve of them.

Happily, Clea married John Hancock instead, and I am pleased to call John’s two children from a previous marriage my grandchildren. At my request, they write me Haiku poetry for birthdays and Christmas, and I love them for it. Clea and John cared for his ailing mother for eight years in the lower level of their home, running what amounted to a nursing home for one. I am grateful for my healthy, awesome daughter.

A few days after buying my Villages of West End Patio Home back in 1992-3, I bought the adjacent wooded vacant lot, thus preventing another house from being built fifteen feet from mine. Construction of a house on that site would have wiped out the woods and totally blocked my westward view. Now, this adjoining woods is plainly visible from my large kitchen window where I keep a rocking chair. The woods is home to squirrels, rabbits, frogs, raccoons, turtles, armadillos, snakes, and several bird species. The animal community and I function well together except for snakes eating baby birds and squirrels eating the bird food. Wild Birds Unlimited sells me every imaginable device and baffle for keeping squirrels and raccoons off the feeders, but the squirrels just get on the roof and take a flying leap to the food.

In the evenings, I can see sunsets through these woods – also a sunset reflection in the retention pond when there is water, and the golf course beyond. Purchasing the wooded lot was a wise thing to do, and every day I am grateful for having made that decision.

People like to sit on my north facing back porch and view the overgrown pasture of weeds and grasses changing color with the seasons. At one point an elderly farmer grew field peas and watermelons there and sold watermelons to me over the fence. I feel gratitude for my woods, my back porch, my pastoral view, and the friends who enjoy it with me.

Little did my grandson, Stephen, know what an outpouring of gratitude would be forthcoming when he questioned me about my thoughts. When I asked him about his thoughts while sitting on my back porch his answer was “I think about what it would be like to talk with the squirrels.” I was not expecting that answer! But I am grateful to have a soccer playing, world traveling, highly-trained, investor grandson with a creative mind that daydreams of chatting with squirrels.

If Stephen does learn the language of squirrels, I have a few choice messages for him to deliver. I believe the squirrels owe me reparations for coming into my garage and chewing the lid off my sixty-year-old Tupperware cake holder. I was most angry when they destroyed a newly mounted baby staghorn fern which had just been gifted to me and had only one hour earlier been attached to the perfect spot of my choice in the back yard. Also, one squirrel owes me for the pricey bird feeder that got dented by an air pistol pellet when he jumped away to avoid my shot at him through the kitchen window.

Considering all the exasperation and frustration squirrels have caused me, their mention seems out of place here in this discussion of gratitude. The pesky squirrels manage to find their way into many projects of mine, including this list of things for which I am grateful. As usual, they are right where they don’t belong and are not wanted. After searching for a positive end note, I can only say that I feel gratitude for not having a more serious problem than the aggravation of squirrels in my otherwise comfortable and enjoyable old age.


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