Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Reasons I feel grateful this Thanksgiving November 23, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Given my love of words, I created this Thanksgiving display with thrift store art purchases and Scrabble letters. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

WITH THANKSGIVING ONLY DAYS AWAY, my thoughts shift to gratitude. I must admit, though, that feeling grateful in the midst of this ongoing global pandemic takes effort. Yet, it’s important, even necessary, that I reflect on my blessings.

Now, I could simply list the usual broad categories most of us would choose as reasons to feel grateful—family, food, faith, health… But hovering a magnifying glass over those words for a close-up look really focuses gratitude.

With that introduction, I am feeling thankful for…

Grandpa and grandchildren follow the pine-edged driveway at a central Minnesota lake cabin. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2020)

My immediate FAMILY circle, including my husband, three grown adult children, two sons-in-law and two grandchildren. I feel grateful for their love and for the last time we were all together in May. Although I yearn to see my out-of-state family more, I’m happy for that spring visit.

The grandchildren, especially, bring joy. Most recently, before temps plummeted into the 20s here in Minnesota, Isabelle, Isaac and I swirled sticks in a mud puddle in our backyard. What a simplistically memorable moment. Later, inside the house, we crafted snow people from paper and birthday cards for their Aunt Miranda. More moments of connecting and bonding and loving.

Time spent at an extended family member’s guest lake cabin this past summer with the eldest daughter and her family rate particularly high on my gratitude list.

The reason the Rare Pair in Northfield gave for wearing face masks early in the pandemic. I love this message. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2020)

HEALTH, mine and that of those I love most, gives me pause for thankfulness. But this year I’m stretching that to include the scientists and researchers who created COVID vaccines and to those in healthcare who strive to keep us healthy and also care for us, whether doctors, nurses, public health officials or others. And to businesses who recognize the importance of COVID mitigation/safety measures (and to the people who follow them).

Along the topic of health, I feel relieved and thankful to now be on MEDICARE. That gives Randy and me affordable healthcare coverage and thus accessibility to healthcare. Paying about $500/month in premiums compared to nearly $1,900/month (with $4,200/each deductibles) lifts a great financial burden.

I photographed my mom’s hands during a visit with her. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

These days my thoughts often turn to my dear mom, 120 miles away in a long-term care center, health failing. I feel overwhelmed by emotion, my heart aching in the missing of her. I last saw her in early July (and not since due to too much COVID in my home county, and now all of Minnesota). Too long.

But I think back to THAT SUMMER VISIT with such gratitude. Per the social worker’s suggestion, I brought along a stash of old family photos. As I held the black-and-white images close to Mom so she could see them through eyes clouded by age, joy blossomed. “That’s my dad,” she said. “That’s me.” And then the moment that brought me to tears. “That’s my husband.” It was a photo of my dad, in his 20s, when he met and married Mom. She recognized him. He’s been gone now nearly 18 years.

If I never see my mom again this side of heaven, I carry that cherished visit with me. The brief period of time when she connected, remembered, celebrated the love of her parents and her husband. Even as she likely forgot within minutes of my departure that I’d visited and shown her those vintage photos. But I realize, still realize, that this is not about me, but about her.

The light, the colors, the water…love this photo of leaves in the Cannon River, Cannon River Wilderness Park, rural Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2021)

NATURE gives me another reason to feel blessed. During these pandemic years, especially, I’ve embraced the natural world with a deepened sense of the peace it brings. River Bend Nature Center in Faribault remains a cherished place to walk through the woods and prairie. To feel the calming effects of the outdoors, of solitude and quiet, and escape from reality. Likewise I feel the same when following a back country gravel road.

Jordyn Brennan’s “Love For All” mural in historic downtown Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

ART continues to hold importance for me. I’m thankful for all creatives. I consider myself among them. That I can create via images and words brings me unlimited satisfaction and joy. I’m thankful for those who value my work.

And I’m grateful for the work of others like Minneapolis artist Jordyn Brennan who crafted Faribault’s newest mural, themed on love. Likewise, I appreciate the efforts of Ramsey County Library in crafting This Was 2020: Minnesotans Write About Pandemics and Social Justice in a Historic Year. To be part of that anthology with my poem, “Funeral During a Pandemic,” is such a gift in that my poetry holds value and can, perhaps, make a difference. Just like love.

An important message posted along a recreational trail in the Atwood Neighborhood of Madison, WI. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2020)

LOVE centers gratitude. I feel grateful for the love of God, the love of my husband and children and grandchildren. The love and support of friends. To love and to give love tops reasons to feel grateful this Thanksgiving. I love, especially, to observe how my grown children love and support one another. My heart overflows with gratitude this Thanksgiving, even during a pandemic.


TELL ME: What are you feeling especially thankful for right now? Please be specific.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


17 Responses to “Reasons I feel grateful this Thanksgiving”

  1. JanBeek Says:

    Your list is similar to mine, Audrey. I am grateful for family (especially my hubby, Bob, for nearly 60 years), health, nature, and my many blessings. I am thankful for my faith and the comfort I find in prayer and promises. I am especially grateful for our church family and our neighborhood of delightful friends. I am grateful for our 10 year old Boston Terrier, TazE, who is such good company! Today I am thankful for my grandson, Nick, and his sweetheart, Celine, who traveled all the way from Switzerland here to Montana to spend Thanksgiving week with us. I hope you have a delightful Thanksgiving, surrounded by loved ones and lots of turkey and stuffing. Don’t forget the cranberry sauce!

    • Jan, thank you for sharing your blessings with us. Those are all definitely reasons to give thanks. How wonderful that your grandson and his sweetheart have joined you from Switzerland.

      We will celebrate Thanksgiving with our eldest daughter’s family and her husband’s family, but will miss our son (in college in Indiana) and our second daughter and husband (with not enough time off to be with us).

      A blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours. And I’ll skip the cranberries, although I like cranberry juice.

  2. Lovely post, Audrey. I give thanks for my friends, including you. ❤

  3. Valerie Says:

    To love and be loved is wonderful!
    And God’s unconditional love is the best!

  4. Juli McCarlson Says:

    Thank you! I am thankful to the Lord my husband is cancer free! A year ago he was already finished with chemo & radiation treatment, waiting for his surgery to remove the tumor, & have an ostomy bag surgically set in place. Then after healing, chemo infusion treatment, & and another surgery weeks later to remove the bag & heal, finishing with chem infusions in July. Thankful the Lord was with him all the way.

  5. Loved reading all your thoughts and thanksgivings. Your mom’s sweet hands reminded me of my parents who I am especially thankful to still have. With the loss of Ricks mom this month and his dad in May, we are feeling blessing for the family we have, especially the elderly. I hope you are able to see your mom soon…it’s so hard.

  6. My thankful list is very similar to yours, of course. :-). The picture of your mom and your re-telling of your visit with her filled me with happiness and joy as those are memories that will be forever in your mind and heart as you go forward. We both know the grief of separation from our mom and the reality of illness. But these are memories that can never be taken from us and are so important.

    Life seems so fragile these days in so many ways and it is so vital to be thankful and to focus on that. When I focus on the gifts of life itself instead of the difficulties and sadness that surround me I realize that I am blessed beyond belief.

    Thanks for your reminders today of all the things that we can each be thankful for. The list is endless.
    Thankful for you!

  7. The first word that popped into my head is simple. Craving that quality time with my family as well as taking time for some much needed self care too. Doing nothing unless I want to do something time. Spending time with my partner in crime and doing something fun and enjoyable (letting go of the household tasks/duties for a short period of time). Not overthinking and just being more in the present, in that moment of time. Just living it moment by moment at times (let go of that crazy, busyness). Love your list – thanks so much for sharing 🙂 There is a lot to be thankful and grateful for. Happy Day – Take Care – Enjoy!

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