Twenty-eight years ago---ye gods, has it been almost three decades?---I had just started a tour of duty as the executive officer for a large training command in St. Paul, Minneapolis.  I was single then, with no prospects for changing that status in the foreseeable future, and my nearest family was a thousand miles away.  So I figured I’d be spending Thanksgiving dining on frozen pizza and looking for something on television that wasn’t a football game or a parade.

 

Instead, my boss, the commanding officer of the station and a wise and perceptive leader, invited me to spend the holiday with him and his family.  And I, being a wise and perceptive second-in-command, accepted.

 

As we sat down to Thanksgiving dinner, the C.O. informed me that it was his family’s tradition to go around the table having each person present stating the thing for which he was most thankful that year.  Usually I’m better prepared, but I had never heard of such a thing, so by the time it came around to me, I could only mumble something generic, without any personal meaning.  I wasn’t much into retrospection, then.  I just took life as it came.

 

It’s funny how the passage of time puts things in perspective.  We tend to lead our lives one day at a time, grappling with the things that demand our attention here and now.  It’s when we get to the autumn of our existence that we look back and see the trails we’ve forged.  That’s where I am now, and it’s easy to see the things for which I am thankful.

 

 

I'M THANKFUL . . . for a professional life of two careers that were not only interesting and, most certainly, exciting, but which contributed to both the welfare of our nation and to the lives of individual persons, as well.  There was occasional danger to go along with the excitement.  I’ve been thrust into brawls, gunfights, shipboard fires, plane crashes on deck.  I’ve experienced up close and personal at least three deliberate efforts to kill me.  And through all of that, I’ve never gotten anything worse than a scratch.  You better believe I’m thankful for that.

 

I'M THANKFUL . . . for the financial security that such a life brought me.  I knew I’d never get rich working in the public sector, but the benefits, which seemed so intangible forty years ago, have come to fruition.  I’ll never be in the Forbes 400, but the Good Mrs. Benson and I are able to live out the rest of our lives in comfort and ease.

  

I'M THANKFUL . . . to be in excellent health, with no complaints other than a pair of arthritic knees and a bald spot on the back of my head.  (It’s a toss-up which one bothers me more.)  I’ve never seen the inside of a hospital, except to visit someone who was a patient.

 

A pretty good list, but none of those, not even my health, is the thing for which I am most thankful.

 

I'M THANKFUL . . . that, twenty-five years ago, I met the love of my life, and twenty-four years ago, I married her.  I was not a man designed for love, and certainly not for marriage.  But, somehow, I found the most remarkable woman, who not only tolerated my flaws, which were considerable, but saw my finer qualities, which means they must be in there somewhere.  There isn’t enough time in life to show her how much she means to me.

 

But even that is not the thing for which I am most thankful.

 

 

 

I had to wait five years to write this.

 

Many of you will remember that, in my Christmas 2012 Deck Log entry, I told you that the Good Mrs. Benson had been diagnosed with cancer.  Until you, or your loved one, has been handed that sentence, you have no idea how horrifying it is.  Mainly because, even with early detection, the finest of doctors, cutting-edge medical technology, and the most dedicated care---all of which Cheryl had---there are no guarantees.  During the GMB’s chemo-therapy sessions, I would talk with the family members of other patients and learn that this was their second---third---fourth battle with cancers that only seemed to go away, but then returned, bitterly, mockingly.

 

Even when the treatment is effective, there are side-effects caused by chemo and the radiation.  The ones everybody knows about, such as hair loss and nausea; and the ones you never hear about until it happens to you, such as how the chemo distorts your taste buds so that everything you put in your mouth tastes like it was dipped in motor oil, then rinsed off with ammonia.

 

The side-effects endure for months, sometimes never going away completely.  It’s the holidays so I won’t dwell on it.  I’ll simply say it’s Hell.

 

But sometimes it’s worth going through Hell.

 

A little over two months ago, Cheryl saw her oncologist for the last time.  Since the end of her treatments, it’s been five years of constant examinations, blood tests, and PET-scans---and the result? 

No trace of cancer has been found anywhere in her body!  Five years is a significant medical benchmark.  That far-off noise you might have heard one evening back in September was my whoop of joy.

 

Now, nothing is certain---particularly in medicine.  Though, statistically, it’s rare, Cheryl’s cancer still might return.  We know that.  But her oncologist is satisfied enough to say, “You don’t have to see me, anymore.”   And that’s a major confidence booster.

 

I'M MOST THANKFUL . . . for my wife---healthy and whole and rid of cancer!  You can forget all that other stuff I mentioned.  For that one thing, I’m a blessed man.

 

To-day, the Good Mrs. Benson and I are spending Thanksgiving at the home of her son---my step-son---and his wife and children, their friends and relatives.  I don’t know if they have that tradition of everybody at the dinner table saying what he’s most thankful for.  But if they do, this time, I’m ready.

* * * * *

From Cheryl and myself, to all of you, our fondest wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving, and many more of them!

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Happy Thanksgiving Captain! Glad to hear about your health and happiness. I'm thankful for many things on my end, primarily ones to do with family and friends. Most relevant to this site, however, would be my thankfulness for your fascinating and informative content.

Everyone enjoy a delicious meal today, okay?

A hearty Thanksgiving to you and the Good Mrs. Benson! There is a special joy in reaching the five-year milestone, and I am glad she and you are experiencing it. 

Oops, meant to write "Commander".

Happy Thanksgiving, Commander! and to my fellow Legionnaires!

I'm also delighted to hear of the GMB's good fortune.

A Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving to you and yours as well, Sir!

And to everyone here at Captain Comics! I'm thankful for all of this!

A Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, sir!

Harry said:

Most relevant to this site, however, would be my thankfulness for your fascinating and informative content.

One of the nicest compliments I have ever received.  I take that very kindly.  Thank you

Happy belated Thanksgiving, Commander! Wonderful news about your wife.

Commander Benson said:

Harry said:

Most relevant to this site, however, would be my thankfulness for your fascinating and informative content.

One of the nicest compliments I have ever received.  I take that very kindly.  Thank you

Well, I'm glad I could brighten your day a little.

Fabulous! My wife's never had anything that scary, but it's been scary enough. I'm glad yours made it through the crisis.

I'm thankful for lot of things but like you marriage was a surprise and I'm very thankful it's turned out so well for me.

Thank you for the update, Adam. I do remember when you first made the announcement, and I've often wondered about Cheryl's condition since then, but I didn't know if you had posted an update and I missed it or what. I considered sending an inquiry via PM, but the more time passed the more awkward I felt. I'm glad to hear the news is good, and Tracy will be, too.

On a lighter note, after my own family drifted apart and before I was married, I spent several Thanksgivings in the '90s in which part of the tradition was, as you described,  each person in turn sharing what he or she was most thankful for. I was always uncomfortable with that until, a couple of years ago, our friends shared with us how their then-five-year-old responded to the situation: dinosuars!

Now I have a prepared answer should the situation ever arise again, but so far it has not.

Jeff, I especially remember your particularly touching response to my 2012 announcement of Cheryl's cancer. Don't kick yourself over not finding out how things were going.  First, I deliberately refrained from providing updates.  There didn't seem to be much point until we had a solid development to report, and frankly, the only one there was when, and how, Cheryl regained her ability to taste food, again.  So, by that time, it just made sense to let things lie until we reached the five-year point.

Second, there's a natural reluctance to ask in a PM, from the fear of "What if it's bad news?" That's what I figured kept anyone who remembered Cheryl's cancer from asking. That's why I turned this Thanksgiving column over to it, so everyone would know that it turned out as good as could possibly be---once the odds were well in our favour.

At our Thanksgiving, with my step-son and his wife and family and some of their Army friends, I wasn't really expecting to be stuck with the "go around the table and share what we're all thankful for" business---it wasn't a tradition with his mother's family or with us.  But his wife came from a family with traditions of its own, and she might have started something like that.  I considered just printing a dozen copies of my article, so if I was confronted with the go-around-the-table business, I could just hand the copies out and get down to eating.  But it never materialised.

I kind of like the "dinosaurs" one, though.

Thank you---from Cheryl, too---for yours and Tracy's thoughts and best wishes.

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