By Marsha M. Brown
For most folks Thanksgiving Day earmarks a hearty meal with turkey and all the fixings, family and friend togetherness and a time to recall and share the blessings in our lives that have occurred since the last one.
The man of my dreams – the man God positively brought into my life 46 years ago…the man I look forward to waking up to and seeing each night before I go to sleep…that man…my sweetie pie Billy and I did something different this year for Thanksgiving.
Typically we eat a yummy dinner with our daughter Bonnie, son-in-love Woody and grandson Jeffrey in Frisco; then on the way back to Manteo we stop by my sister Donna’s house in Salvo and at her insistence, we eat again or at minimum…nibble on her delectable spread. Believe me when I say that we could do without the extra meal but in our family we love each other…a lot…and splitting up the day in order to see everybody is customary. And yes, I have cooked Thanksgiving dinner through the years well after the kids grew up and started their own family but my kitchen nightmares are endless, so we’d rather help by making the deviled eggs, casseroles and a dessert to bring instead.
This year though after having lost our older brother, ‘Mickey’ Mann last February, we decided to accept an invitation to spend the Thanksgiving holidays with my other brother Edward B. Mann or “Ed” and his sweet little wife Sandy who reside in Florida. It felt funny thinking of not being with our kids but after their warm, sincere invitation to come and the encouragement of our kids to go see the brother I looked up to all my life, we accepted and off we went.
On the way to their house we made a detour through our most favorite spot ever…Crystal River. Exhausted from the 13 hour drive and arriving at 7pm, we spent the night. The next day we made a B-line for lunch to a restaurant we dearly love…Peck’s Old Port Cove. Just after having been seated, I glanced beyond Billy’s beaming ‘ear to ear’ grin toward the big round table next to us when my eyes fell upon a little old man wearing a cap. At first I couldn’t read the words, then after staring at it inconspicuously between his head turns, I could finally see what I had expected…’World War II Veteran’. I quietly told Billy, then when our eyes met I was able to mouth the words to him, “Thank you Sir, God bless you”. The veteran’s family around him smiled also, they were happy to see someone they cared about being acknowledged by a stranger…but don’t all veterans deserve that?
At first the gentleman looked puzzled as if he wondered if I was talking to him. Maybe he couldn’t see well enough what my lips conveyed. While still looking at me, I repeated my message of gratitude again. Then he got it. He put his head down as if to weep, his eyes filled with tears and then became fixed on me from that point forward. When we were finished eating our fresh grouper, shrimp and scallops Billy left our table to walk by the little old man…then he stopped at his side. Billy quietly approached him and said…”“Sir…thank you for your service. You guys were tough…Vietnam ’67 – ‘68”. The seasoned veteran looked up at Billy and in his faint voice he replied, “Thank you.” Billy continued on his journey past his table to the check out counter when one the of ladies in his company said, “Impressive” speaking of Billy and his approach to her friend. “Vietnam was the worst” she said. Having seen that, (you know me) I was moved – a legend was in our midst…an elderly gentlemen who had seen and felt the pangs of war at a different time. It was also at a time our nation made a decision that no body would take us down and banned together to make sure of it. Having witnessed an exchange between two strangers…one younger…one older…but just the same ‘brothers’, I went over to him and asked him if I could give him a hug and a kiss. When I reached out my hand to put around his shoulder, he met my other hand mid air and squeezed it gently and smiled. I said, “Thank you Sir for making our nation proud. We love you and God bless you.” I leaned over and hugged his neck noticing his withering shoulders that so long ago must have carried tremendous burden…and I was moved.
It was an awesome lunch in a setting we love and it was in the company of people whom we had never met who instantly became friends that made the day so special. After we walked outside, we held hands on the way to the car. We were in a good place…a place we love…we were with each other…yes…missing our kids and grandkids but en route to spend time with my brother whom I also love very much. The holidays are for family, friends and folks who can see and appreciate gratefulness and gratitude for all the blessings and traditions we share…as Americans.
Take the time to spend moments if not hours or days with someone you love but haven’t see in a long time for whatever reason; embrace the good times, the happy times, the days long gone…laugh, cry and hug and kiss…a lot; forgive and ask forgiveness of those you may have wronged or who may have wronged you; make a promise to yourselves to look more for the good in others than the bad; love your family, your neighbor, your co-worker and really see for the first time how life is worth living…people are worth loving and that God loves us more than we could ever comprehend or understand.
I thank God for this holiday and the memories of my sweetie pie Billy and I’s trip to see my brother; that special lunch at Peck’s and the little old WWII veteran who touched yet another grateful American. Reach out to old friends, old teachers and Sunday school teachers, to mentors and people you’ve known to show the spirit of Thanksgiving all year long. Show them your thankfulness for inspiring you, guiding you and loving you and realize that no matter how difficult times can be, how taxing it is to make ends meet…there is love and care among the folks around you.
Until next time, be happy, be safe and be proud. Look for veterans to thank…to hug…or shake hands with…and to praise. Make a commitment to show your patronage to our country and those who serve more aggressively than ever before and next Thanksgiving you’ll have more incredible stories to tell and memories to cherish. As usual, we love you and we thank God for you…as usual stay tuned.