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Simply Thankful

story by Laurie Grathen

Last year around Thanksgiving I wrote a short post with a little history of the Thanksgiving holiday. This year, after another brush with breast cancer, I’m feeling very grateful for life itself, and for the abundance and blessing with which we live that life. Let me count just a few of my blessings.

When and where and to whom we are born is a giant crap shoot. When I reflect on those variables, one of the major points for gratitude and thanksgiving is being born the eldest daughter of Dick and Sue Dryja, solid second and third generation Polish immigrants, in the upper mid-west less than 10 years after the second world war ended. I had a pleasant, if unremarkable, childhood, where I learned responsibility and developed a good work ethic. I enjoyed growing up in an era where we weren’t programmed (much...there were those duck and cover drills in elementary school) to be afraid of everything. We didn't feel guilty about existing, doing our best, failing sometimes, or striving for something better than what we already had. When I grew up, being a successful, well-adjusted citizen was a noble aspiration.

My parents celebrated 66 years of marriage before dad died in 2017. Though they were challenged in many ways during those long years, their example of perseverance, overcoming obstacles, and sheer determination shaped the woman I became. Like a popular meme on Facebook points out, mom and dad came from a time where they fixed rather than discarded what was broken. It is a lesson I learned well and which served me and Randy often over the nearly 48 years of our own marriage.

I am grateful my mother is still alive and in relatively good health at the age of 89. To this day, mom has become one of my best friends, a gift I know many do not enjoy. But it is a gift indeed.

I didn’t sow a lot of wild oats as I was coming of age in the 1970s, but there were a few. My school years were filled with good friends and learning experiences. I dated a boy all through high school who still today is one of my best friends. I met Randy when I was 15 and we too became friends. We were not involved romantically until much later.

After I graduated from high school I fell madly, head over heels, in love with a man (5 years older than my tender age of 18) whom I would have married had he not already been married. That passion burned hot and bright for about 6 months, but in retrospect, marriage to him would probably have been a disaster. In the end, he did the right thing and chose the woman he exchanged vows with not long before I met him. The woman I became respects him for that. He recently died, still married to the same woman, and I remember our time together fondly rather than with regret, and for that perspective, I am thankful.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I am thankful that this has been true in my life. After the disaster of that passionate affair when I was 18, I reconnected with some of my neglected friends, including Randy. Since I hadn’t seen him for nearly 2 years when I went looking for him, I asked his brother Scott, who was 12 and had answered the phone at their parents’ house, whether Randy was married or not. (Wasn’t doing that again!!) It’s a funny, oft-repeated family story now, but Scott famously said (remember, this kid was 12 years old at the time) “No, he’s not married, but he’s looking for a wife. You should call him!”

Randy and I had been good friends for much of the 5 years we’d known each other. Understandably, I wasn’t looking for a romantic relationship. I was just trying to piece my shattered life back together. I know that sounds melodramatic, but that's exactly how I remember feeling back at the tender age of 19. When I contacted him then, he was dating a woman. We talked about the people we were involved with, gave each other advice, and spoke on the phone as often as our pocketbooks would allow. Back then, long distance calls were expensive! Over the course of the next year or so, we discovered that our friendship was blossoming into something more. They could make a Hallmark movie about us then! Today, as I think back, I’m grateful for Scott's young perspective and his encouragement. And I know now, without a doubt, that Randy was God’s plan for me all along.

As the years rolled by, we have been tested, individually and together, in many ways. I’m thankful for all those ordeals. They say there are 4 ways a marriage can go: the woman will grow and the man will not, the man will grow and the woman will not, the man and woman grow apart, or the man and woman grow together. Three of those 4 ways typically result in divorce. Randy and I have been so blessed that we grew…together. There were a few times we discussed divorce, but thankfully we decided that regardless of what we were going through at the time, being apart was a much less palatable solution than working through it.

Most of you know that Randy and I don’t have children, and that has always been my choice. Many people have told me over the years that I would regret that choice as I got older, but I haven’t yet. Although Randy probably would have had children with any other woman he might have married, he’s never been uncomfortable with this choice of mine. For that, too, I am very grateful.

On December 12 we will celebrate 48 years of marriage. I can’t say it’s been 48 years of wedded bliss because it hasn’t all been blissful. Who can say that? But this year, my thankfulness is centered around the good man Randy is, the great husband he worked hard to become, and the life we enjoy now which is far, far better than anything I could have ever imagined it to be. I am grateful we grew together, that he never gave up on me, that we are those successful, well-adjusted citizen we aspired to be growing up.

Today, there are so many more things than just this short list I am thankful for.

What you are thankful for? In celebration of Thanksgiving this week, tell us in the comments.

Be blessed! Be content! Be thankful!

If you like this story you can read many more at

Laurie writes a 5-minute blog like this every Tuesday, and a 1-minute Short on Fridays.

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