Gratitude for the Women in My Life

By Elliott Potter

Gratitude has no time stamp. In earnest form, it exists on a continuum—with a beginning, but no end.

A good life builds on gratitude. It’s a snowball effect that starts at a young age. One of the first phrases most children learn is “thank you.” And as their lives on this Earth wind to a close, cognitive patients continue to show appreciation for even the smallest acts of kindness. They may whisper their thanks or offer a weak squeeze of the hand.

Human beings, I believe, are naturally grateful. Of course, those exceptions who buck the trend will make themselves known. Other forces—selfishness, social and emotional disorders, mental maladies—can take over. For the most part, however, people understand the importance of thanksgiving, and they show it in ways as small as a nod or as big as a turkey.

Expressions of gratitude are far from certain, however. There are times when even good-hearted, properly functioning people forget to say thanks or otherwise acknowledge a positive conveyance. Let’s be honest here: Gratitude not expressed is a bit like whistling in the wind. What isn’t heard often isn’t passed along to others.

Nearly two decades after losing the two most important people in my life, I find myself wondering if I said “thank you” to them nearly enough.

I was raised by two single women—my mother and my grandmother. I grew up before the plight of single mothers became much of a storyline. Even if it was, they would have been too busy to notice. They both held down jobs that didn’t pay much, but did pay steady.

My mom had divorced my alcoholic father when I was just a few months old. She did remarry, but that came after the heavy-lifting of getting me through early childhood. She worked in a uniform-cleaning plant that used chemicals that probably contributed to her lymphoma and early death.

Alcohol also had claimed my Granny’s husband long ago, and she cooked for a nursery school and kindergarten (now known as preschool). The side-effects of her job were almost all positive, especially for me. I was able to eat my Granny’s good cooking and feed my hunger for learning. I went through kindergarten at least twice and had a jump start on elementary school.

My mother was a youthful spirit. She went out on lots of dates, but always brought home the Fireball candy that came in the popcorn boxes at the local drive-in theater. She was a little immature for her age, I guess, but that’s not something a 5-year-old boy worries much about. She would hit fly balls to me in the backyard until dark, and she never failed to save up enough loose change to take me to the movies or our county fair. She overspent her income to make every Christmas special.

My Granny was the anchor, and she tied her rope to God. She attracted the best in people from all walks of life, and that little house was always full of company. She was a voracious reader who understood the complexities of life. She gave everyone a chance—more than one, if they needed it. Granny prayed for me until she passed, and I believe she still does.

During this season of gratitude, I think of those two women and what they gave to me. Like everyone else, I have years both bountiful and lean, but I will never be without cause for gratitude.

I love being a man writing for a venue aimed at women. Women have such great stories to tell. My life is proof of what they are capable of producing. Their abilities and accomplishments are not recognized nearly enough.

It’s never too late to give thanks, if only in your own heart.

I thank Mom and Granny, God rest their souls.

And I thank each of you who read this. Keep doing what you are doing, and know that your gifts to others are not going unnoticed, even when that doesn’t seem to be the case. They make this world a better place, for which we can all be grateful.

Elliott Potter is a staff columnist and blogger for HERStory. He is a former newspaper editor and publisher who lives in Jacksonville, N.C.

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