Thanksgiving for me has always been closely connected with my birthday; this year, it falls the day after my 47th. When I was younger, that holiday proximity was a mixed bag. It meant that I rarely had to attend school on my birthday, for example. And there’s something to be said for having a big meal and parades on tv for your birthday. On the other hand, I had to deal with having my birthday as something of a secondhand celebration, and it even got forgotten a couple of years when it fell on Thanksgiving itself. Very Sixteen Candles, at least at the time.
Now that I’m older, my birthday isn’t so much of a day of celebration as it is introspection, mixed with superficial disappointment with the effects of the aging process and the reminder that, yep, one year closer to the end, etc. In some ways, I guess it’s just as well that the two days are so close together. I can look in the mirror and remind myself to be thankful that yeah, I’m not quite as bald or as grey as I could be, or that my vision isn’t completely shot, or that my increasingly problematic memory provides me with the occasional surprise to spice up the day, and yeah, I’m ugly, but I was always ugly, so it’s not a shocking development, just more of the same. Some years it’s a bit of a reach, but I try to keep it positive. Or my old grouch’s version of positive, anyway.
I tend to joke about my own mortality a lot, but the truth is, my family isn’t always one for longevity. My own father died when he was fifty-one, after all. Grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins have died very young in my family. Logically, I know that they mostly died of unnatural causes like automobile accidents and even a suicide, it nevertheless feels like a bit of a stacked deck. Genetics might not kill me (although never say never), but sometimes it feels like Fate enjoys removing Hudsons from the game early.
When I think of Schuyler, I want very much to escape that trend. Part of that is selfishness, the desire to watch her grow into an adult for whom I have very high hopes. I don’t want to miss that. But mostly, as the father of a kid with a disability, I don’t want her to hit hard patches and find herself wishing her father was around to help. I don’t like to imagine a hard world eating her up without at least being there to rescue her. It’s a father’s impulse, and it never fades. The only thing that changes is that when our kids are young, we can actually protect them. Those days are already fading behind me, and the resulting feeling in the center of me isn’t gratitude, but that fear that clinches and tightens, tenacious like a bulldog.
I worry for Schuyler around my birthday more than usual, especially with the grey skies and desaturated colors of fall settling in for the coming months. It’s just as well that Thanksgiving arrives at the same time. A day for examining the things for which I should give thanks, followed by a season of celebrating the better impulses of humanity, these might be parachutes in an otherwise rapid loss of emotional altitude. Perhaps I should simply be thankful for Thanksgiving and it’s slightly contrived but much needed sense of “Quit your bitching and think of stuff to be thankful for!”
This year, like so many special needs parents, I am thankful for the things that didn’t go wrong as much as the ones that went well. I’m thankful that Schuyler’s seizures have been tamed and haven’t presented a serious threat in almost a year now. I’m thankful that her transition to high school, while not perfect, hasn’t been the Lord of the Flies hellscape I feared it might be. I’m thankful that the consequences of my bad choices were small and that I got it right on some big things.
I’m thankful for the people in Schuyler’s life that have made such a positive difference to her, like her loving and loyal godparents, as well as teachers like her middle school band directors who have continued to closely follow and support her long after their professional commitments were satisfied. Schuyler lives in a world where the family she has is largely the one that she’s gathered around her, and she’s been lucky in that respect.
As a writer and an advocate, I’m grateful to the people who have read about Schuyler and who continue to follow her story. I’m not a religious person, but I believe that she cannot help but benefit from the constant stream of positive energy that comes her way from all of you as you follow her adventure, in a world where that’s never a given. I’m thankful for the opportunities to speak publicly about Schuyler’s journey and the things I’ve learned along the way, and more than ever, I’m grateful that Schuyler has chosen to enthusiastically join me on as many of those ventures as she can. There’s no better form of advocacy for her and people like her than to experience her growth and her struggle and her successes first hand. Schuyler’s story is increasingly hers to tell, and I’m thankful that she’s taking that up.
This Thanksgiving, like those that have come before, my deepest gratitude goes to Schuyler herself, for the things too numerous to list. She’s growing into the most extraordinary young woman, and she gives me more than I could ever give back to her. Fifteen years ago, I was given a job to do, one without instructions, and one that was more difficult than anyone at the time imagined it would be. It turned out not to really be a job at all. It was and continues to be my own great adventure.
Note: To support the site we make money on some products, product categories and services that we talk about on this website through affiliate relationships with the merchants in question. We get a small commission on sales of those products.That in no way affects our opinions of those products and services.