Listen to your elders this Thanksgiving


Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Wilson Sherman-Burton, Freelance Writer

I am the type of person who eats before gathering for Thanksgiving. 

Turkey does not get it done for me. I could live without gravy. Mashed potatoes are good, not great. The standard Thanksgiving affair seems overplayed and out-dated. I find it hard to believe that this holiday holds deep meaning and purpose to many. Let’s worry less about the food and focus on the things we should truly be thankful for. 

This year, like years past, I am thankful for family.

The older I get, the greater understanding I have for the vulnerabilities of life, and the time I get to spend with an almost completely dwindled generation of family means even more to me. We traditionally spend Thanksgiving with my father’s side of the family, but it seems year after year the gathering gets smaller and smaller. What once was a weekend-long celebration at the beach has become a few hours together at my great aunt and uncle’s house. 

Both of them are now closing in on celebrating a century of life and I know opportunities to gather are getting more and more limited. Firsthand stories of World War II, family members who have passed away, and any other stories they can share are irreplaceable. I was deployed overseas when my grandmother died, and not being able to see her during those last few months shifted my focus. It has become increasingly evident to me that next time my family gathers there is a real chance that one more spot at the dinner table could be left unfilled.

These nights, sharing stories of those no longer with us, bring them back to life if only for a few moments. And it seems for each family member no longer with us, a spot gets added at the kids table. I find myself reminded of a time when I filled those seats, at the kids table away from the adults, and never considered that next year’s gathering could be without a loved one. 

I understand the risks of gatherings. I know how much more vulnerable the elderly are. Selfishly though, I hope Thanksgiving continues on. 

I will not be hungry when I arrive. 

I will load up a plate anyways.

But most importantly, I will sit back and listen. Enjoy the time we have together and try and learn something new about the people who mean so much to me.