2016– Two years ago on Thanksgiving, I was sitting in a hospital room while my younger brother was in a coma. The stark white walls of the trauma ICU screamed sterile, but a small turkey decorated a window reminding us that a holiday was upon us. A week prior, he was brutally stabbed and almost lost his life. The universe works in mysterious ways, that Sunday afternoon, on a quiet residential street, he managed to make it home before collapsing. By divine intelligence, my dad walked outside, unaware that he would stumble upon his son bleeding out on the walkway. The nearest trauma hospital was 25 minutes away, the physicians and surgeons that tended to him were surprised that he survived the journey.
The assailants were never caught, despite fingerprints and uncovering the weapons in question. A random attack? A gang initiation? A Trump supporter wielding knives to celebrate the victory? Bewildered, the detective assigned to our case could only say “crimes like this don’t happen in small towns like ours.” Crime happens everywhere, even a majority White, middle-class neighborhood in Westchester County, New York. I honestly believe the police department was not equipped to handle something of this magnitude. To be honest, they gave up fairly quickly. Is it because we are a family of color? Each new person who was supposed to “help” us would ask:
Do you know why he was stabbed?
Did he have any enemies?
No, are you sure?
He has a history of mental illness, do you think that played a role?
“Yes!” I piped up, “it makes him more likely to be a victim.” My words were laced with venom.
In the end, after multiple surgeries, numerous blood transfusions, a two-week coma, a two-month hospital stay, and several complications in between, he survived.
We can be thankful for that.
2017– A year since the brazen attack. The whole year seemed like a blur, but we would be together. Well, that was until my dad scheduled his knee replacement surgery the day before Thanksgiving. Another Thanksgiving in a hospital, yet, for a much less serious reason. My brother was still wheelchair bound. His body scarred and unfamiliar. Despite the pain, he smiles. He talks about what happened. He is thankful for family, that we were all there for him. It’s my turn to say thanks, the words are trapped in my chest. A lump forms in my throat, tears falling heavily. I am thankful for another year, for survival, for family.
2018– This year, my family is coming to visit us for Thanksgiving, well they will be here on Friday. Since 2016, knowing November is approaching evokes a lingering sense of panic and sadness. Today is Thanksgiving. I can be angry for its historical context, for things out of my control, or for all the chaos in the world. I can be angry for the fact that my little brother still does not have full use of his limbs and those people could still be out there. But, if he can stop being angry and focus on healing, I can too. I’m not angry this year. Instead, I sit here with tears in my eyes because I am truly thankful to be alive, to be loved, to be surrounded by family, and to have wonderful friends at my fingertips.