I just finished reading Tinkers, Paul Harding’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel. I could not describe it better than Elizabeth McCracken (An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination) who said, “It’s an instruction manual on how to look at nearly everything. Harding takes the back off to show you the miraculous ticking of the natural world, the world of clocks, generations of family, an epileptic brain, the human soul.”
It is the story of a man’s last hours as he hovers between then and now, and then to beyond. His family, who has gathered to be with him to the end, surrounds him. He spends most of his time in and out of the time zones of his life until the very end.
It occurs to me as we all travel to be with our various configurations of family for Thanksgiving that we all have an opportunity to focus on the details of our surroundings. The people and places that contribute to the patchwork quilt we have become—
I am taken back to a Thanksgiving I will never forget. It was 1972. It began snowing on Wednesday night and became a blizzard by morning. Family traveled great distances to come over the river and through the wood to Grandmother’s house.
My grandmother lived with us and Thanksgiving had always been a special time—the annual gathering of cousins, aunts, and uncles. Most of that day was a blur but we were all there and accounted for. Several days later, my grandmother died of heart failure. I think back to that day and wonder if with all the commotion, we paid enough attention to her. I would venture a guess that she was focused on all of us. I can imagine her sitting at the large extended table, eyes resting on each of us, kvelling. I think her definition of that word, at that time, would be a combination of pride, love, and satisfaction.
Harding’s character, George asks: Why can’t I stop all the moving and look out…. Not to solve anything but just simply to see it one last time, before what, before it ends, before it stops. It is a final pattern scattered without so much as a pause at the end, at the end of what, at the end of this.”
Let us all stop for a moment to notice and appreciate what we have and who we have in our lives.