On this day before Thanksgiving, I want us all to think of something to be thankful for. Even if you think you don’t have anything to be thankful for, I am here to remind you that you do.
A few days ago, a woman passed away at the age of 85. Her name was Mary Katherine Swearingen Cook, but I only knew her as Aunt Katherine. She was the sister of my grandmother and although it has been well over twenty years since I had seen her, I still had a lot of love for her in my heart. When I was a kid and would spend a few summer weeks in Houston with my grandparents, I would stay with Aunt Katherine on the days my grandma would go to work. I’d hang out and play with my cousins, Joni, Daryl and Kevin who were all a bit older than me, but fun nonetheless. Even though this was over forty years ago, I can still remember what their living room looked like and where I would sit to watch TV. Some days Aunt Katherine would take us all to the swimming pool and she would patiently wait for us while we spent the day playing Marco Polo and jumping off the high dive. Not too many years ago, I wrote Aunt Katherine a few letters just to let her know that she was still in my thoughts. As years passed by, she became less of a presence in my life, but I never forgot how wonderful she always was to me.
As her health declined and her mind was overtaken with dementia, she began to work in her daughter’s restaurant in Crockett, Texas. Joni opened the Moosehead Cafe several years ago and Aunt Katherine worked there doing pretty much what ever she felt needed to be done. I think she cooked at the beginning and eventually ended up running the cash register. My mom told me a story once about a customer who was upset with Aunt Katherine because she had probably made a mistake or was moving slowly, as an 80-year-old woman is wont to do. The man, not knowing this woman was the mother of the restaurant’s owner, went to complain about her. His complaint fell on the ear of my cousin Joni who hear the man out before replying. Joni said something to the effect of, “Well sir that’s my Mama and as long as she wants to stay here and help me she can do whatever she wants to do in my restaurant.” That shut the man up right quick. My mom also told me that if Aunt Katherine ever made a mistake at the cash register, Joni would swoop in to fix the problem with the customer never letting her mother know there was any issue at all. What a wonderful and loving action for Joni to do.
With Aunt Katherine’s passing, it is the end of a generation. She was the youngest of five siblings and she was the last connection my mom had to her own mother. As sad as I am to know that sweet Aunt Katherine is no longer a part of this world, I know my mom is even sadder and I can only imagine the grief of my cousins Joni, Daryl and Kevin. Their Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow might be a sad one, but I’m sure they will all cherish the memories of their mother.
We all have something to be thankful for. Even if it’s just a memory of a time gone by, please appreciate that memory for what it is and be thankful for it. We should be thankful year round and a lot of us are. However, tomorrow is the day we make an active decision to be grateful. Find something you are grateful for and embrace it. Whether it’s your family, your job, a day off, the fact that you have a roof over your head, or even if it’s a distant memory that still makes you smile, be thankful for it.
Happy Thanksgiving. And may Aunt Katherine Rest in peace.