Thanksgiving is such a great holiday. I could go on about the food and football and taking a nap in my favorite over-stuffed chair; but if there is anything I have come to believe, it is to take the time now to say thank you. The lack of gratitude may be one of the most egregious offenses.
Nine years ago, I was flat on my back with stomach cancer in the hospital. As I was wheeled into the operating room, the doctor explained to my too kind and loving wife that he would return in 15 minutes with very bad news, or it would be a couple of hours and that would be hopeful news.
I remember getting the phone call, “Mr. Torres I don’t know how to say this, but you have cancer.”
I remember a complete numbness as I walked to the elementary school to tell my wife, and then I went to my mom’s house.
I had to tell the two people in the world that have always believed in me, loved me unconditionally, accepted me with all my many faults, and held me in their arms and wiped away tears of hurt and confusion.
As solid as a rock, they both assured me, as they wiped away tears again, that things would be alright and they still loved me.
So many things have passed since that dreary day. That awful night I walked from my house around town. Somehow, of all the people’s houses to end up at, I stopped at Coach Mike Bowring’s house.
Katie was a senior in high school, Clint Adams was the All-State quarterback, Matthew was a 135 pound sophomore back-up quarterback and I am sure Coach Bowring couldn’t imagine why I was on his front porch crying from anger and hurt.
I know now that it was unfair and poor manners of me, but I remember asking him that if the Buckaroos were winning and the game was under control that before I died, I wanted to see my son take a few snaps in a state championship game. He assured me that we were going to win and that Matthew would get in; he delivered both.
So I stumbled around and eventually got home. I bargained with God that night after I had yelled at him and argued with him and told him what I thought of His obvious inattention to detail as I, who had not smoked, drank, chewed tobacco, and only swore when working with cows and golfing, should not be getting stomach cancer.
I had run marathons, didn’t drink Pepsi back then, and ate healthy. I was bitter at so many levels. And now I look back ashamed of my poor performance under pressure; but I was sure He had somehow been busy in some other corner of the universe when cancer had crept into my body.
By the time I reached home, of course, I was cold; after all it was October in Monticello. I bargained and pleaded and promised so many ridiculous undoable things; but the Lord, like my mother and too kind and loving wife, just held me and wiped away tears.
I was only 41 and there was so much I still needed to do and things I wanted to see before I left this world. My “bucket-list” was large, mostly I needed time because I wanted to see my kids grow up, go to college, get married, be happy.
I didn’t want my mom to have to bury another son; mostly I wanted to grow old with my too kind and loving wife. There was a foolish time in my life when I didn’t ever want to grow old. Now I could think of nothing better than being old, with age spots, and aches brought about by the weather with my too kind and loving wife looking out the window watching my kids and grandkids.
Since that time, I have been to the Sistine Chapel, floated a gondola along the “streets” of Venice, ate dinner on my anniversary with my too kind and loving wife at the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, hiked the tundra in the Rockies, ran through the Palouse prairie during harvest time, floated the Salmon River, ran a few more marathons, watched the sunset on Morro Bay, and watched the sun rise and took picture of an eagle snatching a fish from the river the same morning.
I studied the famous photo journalist Henri Carteir-Bresson’s photos at the Museum of Modern art in San Francisco. I watched a six-point bull elk in velvet disappear into the trees; I played golf at nearly 20 different courses across the west, I hiked in San Juan County and looked out on Monument Valley while contemplating the meaning of the Birthing Panel etched in the rocks hundreds of years ago.
I sat mesmerized at the base of Michelangelo’s statue of David in Florence, Italy. And so many more places, things and experiences; but in the end the most important things were the very thing I ached for that cold night many years ago. The things that I am most thankful for is family and friends and San Juan County.
Since that time, I have been blessed beyond my pathetic prayers that night. I have watched my kids grow up. I cried Matthew’s senior year when they lost the state championship game, I cried when all four of them graduated from high school, and again when they graduated from college.
I cried when they got married in the temple, I cried when one left on his mission, I cried when the other told me he was going on a mission.
I cried when I watched my daughter become as good a mom as her mother, cried when I saw Nikki become a teacher like her mother, I cried when Matthew got into Dental School, I cried when I wrote Daniel a letter to let him know how proud I am of him and encouraged him to know that his “impossible dream” is possible.
I cried when I held my two grandchildren in my arms and they peeked out at the world.
With all this crying you would not think that I was so happy; but honestly I am happy, but mostly I am thankful. Take the time this Thanksgiving to count the blessings and offer gratitude to Him that makes it all possible.
Indeed, I have matured some and have even started throwing things out of my bucket that were childhood dreams or prideful ambition.
Since then, I have learned as I get older that there are real boring life realities I would exchange for those elusive dreams and bucket lists.
Sitting in front of my fireplace with my too kind and loving wife, stopping by to eat tortillas at my mom’s house, holding my grandkids, and talking to my kids as adults and becoming friends with them.
So I am taking the time now to say thank you to everyone that has touched my life.