A matter of perspective.
This story was first published in Offerings, Works by the Colonial Writer's Guild, March 1998.
Thanksgiving Revisited by Richard James
After 23 years of marriage, I was feeling lost and alone. Being separated from my wife for several months, my perspective of the 1996 holiday season was tainted with melancholia and apathy. I was depressed.
Saddened at the state of my marriage, I sat alone in a nearly empty restaurant on Thanksgiving Day. The chill from the outside permeated the restaurant's interior. The dark gray sky turned to black as late afternoon became early evening.
Head in hands, I pondered my life as I waited for my meal to be served. The friendly waitress had asked if I had seen the Steelers' game. She wanted to talk about football on this lonely November evening, but I was not a fan. I wore the teams colors for warmth and comfort, nothing more.
She nodded at the team's emblems on my Pittsburgh Steeler's jacket.
"My coat? It was a gift." I said. "I am not a fan."
Her smile revealed several missing teeth. "No. I guess you're not," She said. "It was a good game." She took my order into the kitchen.
I sipped a tall cool glass of lemonade. Real lemonade, not that fake stuff. The sour/sweet liquid was in perfect harmonic balance. Not too sweet, not to sour, the drink was just right. Too bad my life was not that way. My perception of the world lacked any sweetness. When my mind flashed back to happier times, my eyes would shed tears. Bitter tears. Sour tears. There was nothing sweet about loneliness.
At a nearby table sat two elderly gray-haired women, one much older that the other. The younger woman spoke to the older woman as if she were a child:
Don't forget to eat your soup. You did good! Do you want your mashed potatoes? Stay here while I go pay the bill.
The older woman waited quietly for her companion to return. The friendly waitress came to her table saying. Let's clear these dishes away so you can be more comfortable as you sit and talk with your friend.
Oh, no. We're leaving. said the older woman.
Alright. Was everything okay? asked the waitress.
I lost my sense of taste! I can't taste a thing. I guess it was okay. It kinda' tasted good going down, if you know what I mean.
Unfazed, the friendly waitress collected the dishes but some were still laden with substantial portions of left-over food.
Do you want this? the waitress asked.
No, I don't think so. I can't see.
I can't see either.
Oh, I'm sorry, said the surprised waitress but responded automatically, But we have so much to be thankful for. Right? Happy Thanksgiving!
The waitress gathered the dishes, glasses and silverware, wiped down the table and rushed into the kitchen.
The older woman continued to sit patiently. She sat motionless, staring at nothing. She was unaware of my presence. Her caretaker-companion returned and helped the older woman with her coat. Satisfactorily prepared for the frigid temperature outside, the two women walked arm-in-arm to the restaurant's entrance. Then they stepped into the darkness of the night and were gone.
I was alone in that large dining room. I contemplated the scene that had unfolded before me. I tried to imagine what it would be like to eat a Thanksgiving Day dinner that could not be seen or tasted and yet be thankful for its nourishment.
I was in deep thought as I paid my bill. Somehow, when I exited the restaurant and walked the across the empty parking lot, I realized that the night sky was not quite as dark, the air not quite as cold and my heart not quite as heavy.
Magically, the air was clean and clear. The sky held majestic stars in their rightful places. And although I was alone, I no longer felt lonely.