Giving Thanks For Family Over the Miles

`SO what will you be doing?''

''I'll be writing Christmas cards. It'll be like spending the day with friends. I won't be lonely. I'll be just fine.''

''You've decided not to go to east Florida with the other relatives?''

''Right. It was a lovely invitation, but I'm still getting settled. Besides, I don't want to put Max in a kennel here yet. We've been traveling for two months. It's time we both stayed put and worked toward Christmas when all of you are coming.''

''Well, just stay by your phone at 12:30, will you? Tom is setting up a conference call, and we can all talk coast to coast through the time zones.''

''What fun - I'll be there.''

''I'll be thinking of you, Mom.''

''Love to everyone. Talk to you Thursday. 'Bye.''

It was a quick phone call from my daughter 3,000 miles away. She, my son-in-law, and the grandchildren were in California. A son was in New York, and here I was in Florida, and Thanksgiving was two days away.

Traveling, moving, settling into a new house on Nov. 1, and planning to host the family and relatives for Christmas had nearly obscured Thanksgiving as a significant event that year. But my gratitude was very traditional, overflowing really, for my new retired life, new home, new neighbors, and all the interim travel I enjoyed as I meandered eastward from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic. In fact, my appreciation cup was overflowing, and I couldn't wait to mention it when the conference call came.

On Thanksgiving morning Max and I took an early walk under a sunrise sky. The day was cool enough for a sweater, sunny and altogether Florida-beautiful. After breakfast I settled down at the dining table, spreading out Christmas cards, address files, stamps, last year's cards to answer, and Max snoozed at my feet.

Writing the cards was like a one-way conference call of its own. I enjoyed remembering friends, responding to their interests and notes, sharing my eventful year. I almost didn't notice when the chime clock struck 12:30 p.m.

I stopped writing to have both hands free and sat staring at the phone.

12:32 p.m. - no call.

12:35 p.m. - no call.

12:37 p.m. - door bell chime. Already some neighborhood children had begun coming over, fascinated by my Keeshond dog.

Sure enough, it was children all right. Mine. My grown daughter from California and son from New York stood smiling at the door, ''Happy Thanksgiving.''

After awhile the tale of their conspiracy unfolded. Two days earlier they had not arranged a conference call; rather, they had plotted to meet at the nearby airport. Then they took a cab within two blocks of my home, dismissed the driver so as not to arrive by taxi, walked until they found the house number, and thus, arrived at my door.

We bought turkey sandwiches at a deli on the way to the beach with all of its sugar sand and warm gulf waters. The three of us had two and a half days together before they had to fly away. After that, of course, I finished the Christmas cards.

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