On a flight this Fall I was surprised to find a 4 year old in the middle seat next to me, but with no parent. I soon learned that his mom was sitting in the middle seat behind him. Their flight on the previous day had been cancelled and so the mom and 3 boys were on our flight. There was no way to get the family in seats together, so the 4 hour flight became quite interesting. Ethan (the 4 year old) was quite active and kept squirming in his seat. He wanted something to eat but then wouldn't eat what his mom gave him. He kicked the seat in front of him and I had to remind the person in the seat that "he's not my child." Having children myself I tried hard to keep him content, but to no avail. His mom was visibly exasperated with all 3 boys and did little to help soothe him. As the flight progressed, he got increasingly uncomfortable, to the point where I was ready to sit on the wing!
It wasn't long after this that I heard the mom talking to someone beside her. She said, "Yes, we are on our way home from visiting my parents." The person remarked how it must be quite challenging to travel with 3 small boys. "Yes," she said, "My husband died last year. He was 43. We sure miss him. He died of a blood clot-he was fine one minute and in 15 seconds he was dead.
At that point, I was so disgusted with myself. I wished that I could have went back in time and done the flight over again. Ethan and I would have had a grand time laughing and joking, drawing or singing. Whatever would have brought a ray of sunshine into his difficult life. My patience with him would have been very different.
At the age of 42, I also was overwhelmed with a sense of thankfulness. I could call my children and my wife. I am still alive to make their days better, to be the husband and dad they need. Ethan's dad doesn't have that opportunity anymore.
Whatever your situation this Thanksgiving, be thankful. I know it's been a tough year and there are real uncertainties in our jobs and in our future. No matter how difficult you think your path may be, if you are reading this post, you have many reasons to be thankful. Just ask Ethan.