Note—-if you don’t mind I think I will step away from the Cardinals for a moment on this holiday to share what is very likely the greatest lesson of Thanksgiving I have ever learned.
The Comings of Grace
After my grandparents had passed away, my mom and dad wished to keep inviting my grandparents’ live-in housekeeper to family dinners, especially on Thanksgiving.
Her name was Grace.
Sadly for Grace, after my grandparent had passed, she was unable to find employment—-and thus she was relegated to living in a subsidized housing project in the bowels of Mount Vernon, New York.
During her stay there, while living in abject squalor, Grace was robbed twice at knifepoint.
Back then, I was a junior at a private boarding school—-and I had just earned my Connecticut drivers license.
One Sunday morning while I was home for a long weekend, dad called up the stairs and shouted, “Sonny, go get Grace.”
I sat up in bed and thought oh shit.
Minutes later I was driving my parents’ big old boat of a car down the slick, narrow lanes of the Hutchinson River Parkway toward the Mount Vernon exit. I was playing Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy” album on the eight track and trying my best to stay calm.
Once I hit the tenement-lined streets of Mount Vernon I locked the doors—-all I could think of was getting robbed at knifepoint myself.
Grace was delighted to see me—-but we hardly said two words in the car because I just wanted to listen to Led Zeppelin and leave it at that. Inside, I was feeling unconsolably indignant that my dad would ask me to do what, in my mind, should have been his errand.
At least dad took Grace home in the dark after dinner.
A few weeks later while home for the holidays, dad called up the stairs, “Sonny, go get Grace.”
Again, I sat up in bed and said oh shit—-only this time I think I shouted it out loud.
I ripped the keys away from dad’s hand when he handed them to me—-naturally, as a sign of my contempt.
The ride down and back was essentially the same—-only this time I was playing Jefferson Airplane’s “Volunteers” album on the eight track.
“Now it’s time for you and me—-got a revolution—-got to revolution.”
I was so revved up that I was singing the song at the top of my lungs. Grace was so demure and amiable, she just sat there smiling. But, again, we didn't talk the whole ride back to Old Greenwich.
But, a month and half later on the Sunday before my 17th birthday when dad called up the stairs, “Sonny, go get Grace,” something came over me that to this day I cannot quite comprehend.
I simply sat up and bed and said, “OK. Right, go get Grace.”
The ride back with Grace was different this time. We got to talking and she told me how she grew up on a farm in Georgia and how her husband of three weeks went to go get milk one day and never returned. She said he ran away to California without saying a word.
Then Grace regaled me with stories about my grandparents—-how she loved cheating on my nana during their gin rummy games and how it was a daily contest to see who would get to the leftovers in the fridge first, my granddad or she!
The way Grace talked about my grandparents, I could tell that she loved them very much the way we did.
After dinner that Sunday, just as dad was preparing to take Grace home, she called me over and pulled the last five dollars out of her wallet. “Sonny, I hear it’s your birthday this week, so you go on and take this five dollars and buy yourself another album. Happy birthday, Sonny!”
Of course, there was no way I could take Grace’s last five dollars—-and just as I was about to decline her generous gift—-mom was waving like crazy behind Grace’s shoulder and with her lips she was silently shouting “TAKE IT! TAKE IT!”
Thus, I accepted Grace’s gift and gave her a hug.
Grace looked especially happy when she left.
Afterward, mom explained to me how insulting it would have been for me to decline Grace’s generosity—-
Mom said that sometimes the most graceful thing we can do in life is allow others the joy of giving.
Then, mom said she was proud of me for accepting Grace’s gift.
She said, “Don’t worry, that father of yours always gives Grace some money to tide her over until the next time.”
Sadly, there wasn’t a next time.
Grace, while in her sleep, was lifted into God’s arms a couple of weeks later.
Mom and dad arranged to have Grace buried in our family plot. “Grace will always be ours to cherish,” dad said.
To this day, I am so grateful that I at least came out of my spoiled brat cocoon just long enough to experience the true comings of Grace.
It is at Thanksgiving each year that I smile and think of Grace and wish that I could have taken her home for dinner a million more times.