Bengtson: What I'm thankful for this year

Jess Bengtson
Crookston Times

"Be thankful for the hard times, for they have made you."

This quote by Leonardo DiCaprio, who played King Louis XIV in the 1998 movie "The Man in the Iron Mask," is one of those quotes that sticks with you especially "when it hasn't been your day, your week, your month or even your year."

It's difficult to be thankful for the hard times though, isn't it? With the last almost two years of being in a pandemic, it feels the nation is being ruled by politics and COVID, and our own personal struggles weigh heavier on our minds and our hearts with all the changes that have happened. So, what do we do? We take a breath, take a step back, take a minute to ourselves and look around at what we can conjure up to be thankful for. It's easier said than done, but 'tis the season.

Here are a few of the things I'm thankful for this year, in no particular order:

- I'm thankful for my family. It feels like we've been put through the ringer this year, even more than last year, and we're just trying to make it through to the other side like so many others. The things that bring us joy are our pups and their crazy demands of bones to chew on and belly rubs, watching a TV episode or movie together, getting take-out from our favorite local restaurants, playing board games even if the youngest wins every time, and inching closer to the finish line on a house project or twenty.

- I'm thankful for the care my grandfather received at the Villa St. Vincent and with Hospice of the Red River Valley, and for the support of Stenshoel-Houske Funeral Home after his passing. My grandpa, a Marine who fought during the Korean War, passed away November 10 at the age of 91 on the U.S. Marine Corps birthday. After a tough year of lockdowns due to COVID and seriously reduced visitations, and after being away at Mayo Clinic with my son for almost half the year, I was looking forward to more visits with my last grandparent until Gpa fell and broke his hip this October. After his surgery, everything went downhill as it can with a man of his age and health status. I then got to visit him every day until he died and I got to witness the loving care he received from each nurse, aide, volunteer and staff member of the Villa where he's resided for the last couple of years, and with Hospice for the last two weeks of his life. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to care for an elderly loved one, and if I had to do it all over again I'd choose the same route. Even before my Gpa's passing, something or someone told me I should prepare for what happens next and working with Jim and his staff at Stenshoel's was nothing short of wonderful. I've worked alongside Jim with the Times for years, but finally got to witness first-hand the care he gives each family and the knowledge he passes down to someone who is brand new at funeral planning. It's not the funnest job I've ever had, but Stenshoel's made it easy and meaningful. My Gpa's military prayer service was lovely and I'm grateful for the experience.

- I'm thankful for my daughter's teacher, Kim Davidson, and for the Crookston School District for doing the best they can during the pandemic. To say COVID hasn't been easy on schools is putting it mildly and seeing the ways teachers are adapting to make sure their students are still receiving the best education possible is simply mind-blowing. Not only did my daughter's teacher this year, Kim Davidson, show our family compassion during the first couple of months of school while I was away with my oldest but she's given my daughter equal opportunities during the unfortunate recent events of distance learning. I see only a glimpse of the amount of work Mrs. Davidson juggles and I imagine that times 50 or however many teachers and aides there are in the district. To be there for your in-person students and to be there on the screen for those that have had to stay home is like a magic trick that no one thought they'd have to perform. And she's (and they're) doing it so well. Davidson and others deserve a medal. They deserve a cookie. They deserve a raise. Whatever they want, give it to them. I'm grateful for each and every one of them and for the district for putting kids and safety first.

Times Editor Jess Bengtson