SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Thanksgiving Away
By Jeff Lund


November 27, 2009

Ten years and change ago, I made a decision I do not regret.

I left home to pursue a college degree and a career away from the sprawling metropolis that is Klawock, Alaska population 750.

Long before I stood on the stage and delivered my graduation speech to a packed gym next to my 14 classmates, I had decided leaving the island was the only course that would allow me to be a part of the entire world, not just a ripple in the northwest corner of it.

My brother shook my hand, grandma hugged me proud, and mom cried a little. Dad wasn't there. He spent that day in the hospital.

It wasn't some eerie foreshadow, just a fact.

My dad saw every bit of my development from my first game of Little League on the gravel and seashell field to when my head was split open by en elbow and coach's wife used my own hair to tied the wound shut so I could get back out on the basketball court.

Every report card A and B, every music class, even the time he kicked me out for laughing when he screamed through his laryngitis-mangled voice, he monitored and supported without suffocating.

He observed my senior year, never far, as I moved to the exciting next step, and he and mom prepared for the empty nest.

Acceptance into college 2,000 miles away made it real, and before I left, he gave me a folded $5 bill encased in clear tape with a note that read, As long as you keep this, you will never be broke. (He put the sticky side out so the bill wouldn't get ruined, then taped over it again).

My family hasn't had a full-tabled Thanksgiving since my brother was in high school, some 14 years ago, so we have learned that on that day and any day for that matter, to understand and truly appreciate, for better or worse, our family dynamic.

Some families dread the inevitable disaster that is turkey eating or present giving.

Our holidays have not had the chance to become mundane. As is the case with the deprived heart, the inability to be where it wants, or should be, makes it ache, but not just on certain days.

Every day my brother called me during his two tours in Iraq was Thanksgiving. Whenever my mom sends me the e-mail confirmation verifying the recharging of my Starbucks card, it's my birthday.

Each time dad asked me if my players attacked the hoop or played passively was some sort of filial holiday, if not traditional.

Though out of sight, my family is never out of mind and it continues to engender fortitude, one of many things for which I am thankful.

Dad wanted me to be my own man, and in the summers we spent fishing and fixing up the house, he saw that, and knew that could not have been done under the same roof in which I toiled at 6th-grade math. For that I am thankful.

For freeing me from any regret, and helping me understand that going away is not turning my back I am thankful.

Whether I am across the table from my mom and brother when the food is blessed or not, that will not change my deep appreciation for family. This year in particular I will remember that subtle gift dad gave me before I departed protection to enter my own life.

That $5 had nothing to do with spending power, or a hot meal if I ended up a denizen of an overpass.

They were his enduring words with a symbolic bill, telling me he had given me what he could; now it was up to me. I had what it takes, and I would never be poor, because he, mom and my brother would always be there.
I am more thankful this Thanksgiving than ever probably, because I ve had it better than most and if I changed anything I wouldn't be here.

Jeff Lund
Manteca, CA

Editor's Note: This also appeared in the November 25th issue of the Manteca Bulletin.

About: "Graduate of Klawock High school ('99), attended the University of Arizona ('03) now teacher at East Union High School in Manteca, California. "

Received November 25, 2009 - Published November 27, 2009


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Ketchikan, Alaska