I struggled to find a topic for this month’s column.
Seeking a Thanksgiving theme, I knew I’d be most thankful that the most expensive and ugliest presidential campaign (yet) would be over.
I shared my feelings with a friend in Canada via e-mail last month and her response was prophetic: “…not much longer and the battle will be over, until the next campaign begins ... I am thinking of you especially as Hurricane Sandy approaches ... I hope that doesn’t give you too much material for your November column!!”
Now, I hardly know where to start.
As “Hurricane Sandy” moved north, I was relieved when it took a turn toward New Jersey and have felt guilty ever since. I didn’t even lose power while family members, friends and colleagues in New York and New Jersey suffered incredible hardships.
My sister Dale lives in the Bronx near the Throggs Neck Bridge, and though she and Camille boarded up first-floor windows and tied deck chairs to a fence, the waters of Long Island Sound rushed through the ground floor, floating a refrigerator across the room. Valerie and her husband Mike on Long Island and other relatives were without power for several days.
We lost touch completely as they coped with the storm, and watching television reports of the damage in New York and New Jersey made me feel like I lived on a different planet. While there was some damage on Cape Ann and power failures throughout the area, most of us survived in good shape.
The storm, however, affected me in other ways. I lived and worked in New York City for more than 40 years and the fires on Breezy Point reminded me of police friends who lived there.
As a child, I lived in Midland Beach, Staten Island, where two children were recently swept from their mother’s arms by flood waters. The devastation also took me back to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2011, the first time when what I saw on television and what was visible from my window revealed the incredible distance between me and those I knew and loved.
Hurricanes keep lesser setbacks in perspective. A few days before “Sandy,” I was at Boston College for a program on “Prison Ministry” and, while crossing the street, missed the curb and fell.
When I left St. Elizabeth’s Hospital a few hours later, I was relieved that my right hip, knee and ribs were bruised, not broken, but my right wrist was wrapped in a removable cast because of a possible hairline fracture.
The distance from my sisters took a toll for several reasons last month – political differences at first and after “Sandy,” the inability to communicate at all. The problem was compounded by my own need to “keep in touch” while they were busy with hardships I could only imagine. And at times, those needs clashed, leaving all of us miserable.
Sometimes prayer is the only answer and distance is a safe place. I had to put myself in their shoes while they needed to care for themselves. We all needed to trust the love we have for each other, a love capable of surviving political and geographical distances.
I also needed to appreciate the help available here on Cape Ann and stop leaning on my sisters. Three years ago, they put their life “on hold” for months to help me, something I am incapable of doing for them.
While storm recovery will take time, patience and financial assistance, the election is over and we need to hold our elected leaders and ourselves accountable, as we stop complaining and count our blessings. Nothing will change in Washington until good people in both parties stand up and say “enough;” we are better than this; we are capable of working together for the good of the entire country.
November is a time for gratitude and I’d like to thank those who helped me and wish everyone — including the Gloucester Times staff and readers — a very Happy Thanksgiving.
Eileen Ford is a Rockport resident and a regular Times columnist.