Written November 21, 2012     

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© 2016 Bob Lonsberry


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One of the things I'm grateful for is the blessing of living in a country where anything's possible. Where people rise or fall on their own merits, and there is no beginning so humble that it can't be risen above.

Like mine.

Not that I had it so bad, and not that I've risen so far.

But I've done OK. Because I had a chance. And that's what I'm thankful for.

I had a chance others have not.

Like my mother.

She was one of seven children in a household headed by a divorced mom who had a nervous breakdown once, and the kids were farmed out to various households as foster children and servants. She and her brother as little kids were made to share a bed with the retarded son of a family who took them in. She cried with fear through most nights while her brother, the one who'd had polio, slapped and fought to keep the retarded man from molesting them.

It was a tough life.

And she'd dropped out by the 10th grade and was in the mental hospital herself when she should have been graduating. She was a widow by 30 -- with four kids in tow -- and was a drunk by 32. Four husbands, no career, food stamps, frequent hospitalizations and an oxygen tank she had to carry around.

It was a tough life.

Like my grandmother.

A woman I never met. My father's mother.

They came out of Michigan late in the Depression. They were woodcutters and there wasn't any work and there were too many kids and they couldn't support them all so they were broken up and parcelled out. And she got sent to the state hospital at Willard. It was an epileptic hospital officially but mostly it was a dumping ground for the insane and the retarded and the misfit.

She was 14.

And she seems to have been in normal health, of body and mind, but they put her there and she died there 10 years later, with a toddler by her side. She had a baby someway, nobody ever said who the father was, and when he was 3 and she was 24 a barracks cough at the state hospital turned into pneumonia and she was one of them that died.

It was a tough life.

And I'm thankful. Thankful that they endured it as well as they did and that they flourished as much as they did. I am proud to be descended from them.

And I am proud to have risen above them. Not as a refutation of them, but as a vindication of them. Where I walk, they walk with me. Cast out by society, their legacy is now received differently.

I am thankful for that. Thankful that I have been blessed, thankful that my way has been eased, thankful that my trials have been less.

Thankful that, in America, anyone really can grow up to be anything. Thankful that, in America, no family can be forever held down.

- by Bob Lonsberry © 2012

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