We stood barefoot at the water’s edge in St. Pete Beach, Fla., watching the setting sun disappear behind a bank of clouds over the Gulf of Mexico.
Sanderlings were scurrying about, flying a short distance, then strutting about the sand near the shoreline in search of food.
A sunny, breezy day was fading into a cool, pleasant evening.
Our middle child, the oldest of our two sons, drives to this beach often, just for the sunset. Soon after his oncologist declared him in remission from a year-long bout with cancer, he packed his car and relocated to St. Petersburg.
This was our first visit since he made that move. There we were, standing together with that soft sand between our toes. “These are the good times,” he said, looking at us.
Indeed, there was a lot to be thankful for in that moment, standing there with my wife and son; particularly for family and health.
We have experienced a range of family emotions this year.
In late July, a change in our itinerary for Maine led to a quickly planned reunion in Boston with my two brothers and two sisters, and our mother, the first time that she had been with her five children in more than four years.
Not a month later, we were in Rock Island, Ill., for the funeral of my father-in-law, a homecoming of a sort, to where the family lived when I met my wife.
As for health, there was a point early in the year when three of us in this house were dealing with separate cancer issues. I joked that yellow police tape would be put up outside to warn people away.
The scorecard currently reads: one whose surgery found the threat to be benign, another tolerating periodic examinations and treatment, and the one getting on with his life after enduring months of chemotherapy.
We are thankful for the doctors, nurses, and technicians who performed various procedures and continue to provide care, and for the advances in medicine that made these measures possible.
That’s how science works, the present building on the past to serve the future. For example, the vaccines developed to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus were possible only because of decades of research that came before, and vaccines yet to be created will benefit from the knowledge gained in that effort.
A year ago, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations were increasing and the death toll was rising. We ventured out rarely and, for those heeding the warnings, masks were more than a fashion choice. School was conducted online, working from home was a thing, and travel was curtailed because of restrictions in the United States and abroad.
Look where we are now. School doors have reopened, offices are reopening, and the vaccinated feel more at ease about taking that trip, dining indoors, or going to a stadium, a theater, a synagogue.
Personally, I am thankful for writing, my most creative and satisfying — not to mention maddening — undertaking. To use a writing term, I “kill a lot of little darlings” before submitting a column or article, sometimes because I realize those words no longer fit and other times because of length restrictions.
I am thankful for the outlets that publish my work and for those of you who find that work worth sharing with others.
In recent years, I have gained a measure of perspective that would have served me well earlier in my life. But isn’t that always the case?
When the television network and I parted company, putting an end to year after year in which I worked 10, 12, even 14 hours a day in the service of the news, a friend messaged me these words: Just because you are good at something doesn’t mean that it’s good for you.
I was good at what I did but for too long the job was too large a part of my identity. I still commit acts of journalism in exchange for money, but I now describe myself as a freelance journalist and house-husband.
Another piece of that perspective, one that admittedly remains a work in progress, is to be fully present in moments such as those at the beach.
As darkness encroached, we turned our backs to the water and left for our planned evening activity. Our son was correct.
These are the good times.