Years ago, my only brother Benjamin, who proudly declared himself a curmudgeon, was complaining more than usual. He had served in the Navy, later the Marines, and was retired with a disability in what he called his ‘brain housing group”. He had a very dry sense of humor. For years we were estranged but reconnected and became close before his passing.
He never married or had a family. His career ended much too soon. His health wasn’t good because he smoked, drank, and was sedentary. He had reason to be unhappy. I usually let him vent and tried to remain nonjudgmental, but his focus was getting more and more negative and having conversations with him was becoming painful.
When I feel despondent or depressed, listing what I’m grateful for shifts my perspective from lack to abundance. At times, it’s the last thing I want to do. Feeling sorry for ourselves can be part of a process and I had a feeling my brother wouldn’t be open to the suggestions. None the less, I asked him if he’d consider making a list of 100 things that made him feel grateful. He made it very clear he didn’t like my suggestions and thought it was a waste of time.
Several weeks later I picked him up for our weekly breakfast before church. He didn’t like church, but he loved breakfast, so he endured the service to spend some time with me and eat enormous amounts of bacon, eggs, sausage, toast and home fries. This particular morning he seemed unusually cheerful.
After we placed our orders, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a folded sheet of lined yellow paper. His smile increased as he carefully unfolded the paper and pressed out the wrinkles. He was obviously enjoying the anticipation. At long last, he handed it to me and watched for my reaction.
Things I’m Grateful For was the title, and under it there was a list of 100 items. The first 98 were all the same - he had listed ‘my sister’ the entire way down the page. #99 was cigarettes and #100 was alcohol. How I miss him.
He died four years ago on November 3, the day after the anniversary of my father’s death, November 2. This time of year is bittersweet. Memories mixed with loss color my autumn.
This year, with the pandemic, isolation and separation from my daughters, my friends, and the interaction of community through music, the arts, festivals, neighborhood events and classes make turning to gratitude more challenging and more necessary.
It just occurred to me that I haven’t added anything to my ongoing Gratitude list on this website since 2020 began. The list is long. One daughter recovered from a dreadful and frightening case of Covid 19, and we did a virtual Baltimore marathon to celebrate her recovery. My other daughter was married in August to a man we all like and admire greatly. My garden has been abundant and sharing with neighbors has helped keep me connected. We’ve all been healthier because of it. My 16 plus year old puggle Zippy, though blind and deaf, still joyfully looks forward to his meals, hugs and spending time on the porch.My Enhancing Your Life with Herbs course was well received and I’ve submitted another 6 week virtual course for spring. I’ve connected with some of the most extraordinary people through zoom! Everyday as I walk though my neighborhood and see the gardens in bloom, trees in vibrant colors, houses creatively decorated to celebrate the seasons, and socially distanced smiles from my neighbors, I’m reminded that we are immersed in miracles and beauty.
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!