The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

This week left me with a special appreciation for celebrating family and community in San Antonio. As we pause for the holiday, a few distinct experiences serve as a reminder  that Thanksgiving is far more than feast and football.

The Maeckle Rivard clan gathered Tuesday evening at our new home on East Arsenal Street near the San Antonio River, designed by our oldest son Nicolas, who recently joined Overland Partners as an architect intern after living and working for the last year in Rwanda. The backyard grille was billowing wood smoke as our youngest son, Alex, who works as an instructor at the Central Market Cooking School, grilled venison and pork tenderloin. Alex moved back to San Antonio from Boston one year ago.

We never expected our two boys to return to live and work here, but their return is representative of a much larger “brain gain” underway in our city, an unexpected blessing. Where opportunity once was found elsewhere, it now can be found here at home. We need to accelerate that trend.

We gathered to celebrate the long and good lives of their maternal grandparents, John and Hilde Maeckle, the parents of my wife, Monika Maeckle. That makes them my in-laws, but they have been much more like parents to me over the last 34 years. John’s 93rd birthday was Wednesday, and Hilde’s 82nd birthday is today.

John and Hilde Maeckle celebrate John's 93rd Birthday on Nov. 26, 2014. Courtesy photo.
John and Hilde Maeckle celebrate John’s 93rd Birthday on Nov. 26, 2014. Courtesy photo.

Opa and Oma, as we fondly call them, immigrated to the United States from Germany after World War II, settling in East Texas, then the Dallas suburbs, then the Hill Country, and now they are with us. We are blessed to have them living in the casita that Nicolas designed especially for them on our property.

Caring for aging loved ones is an enormous challenge, everyone told us, and we have learned how true that is over the last year. Still, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We may yet turn to a senior care community as John’s dementia deepens and Hilde’s saintly efforts to meet his physical needs give way to reality and the need for professional caregivers. For at least this holiday season, we will be all be together.

All the challenges were forgotten Tuesday as we shared the pleasure of three generations gathered around the same table, trading memories that made us laugh and love. Each of us knew what was unspoken: such moments are finite, and all too soon we will find solace in treasured memories.

I am just as blessed at work to count Iris Dimmick and Jaime Solis as my partners. Working in the daily company of these two talented Millennials keeps me moving faster and in close touch with the next generation of talented people who are pressing Baby Boomers for a little space on life’s stage. If we give them our experience and resources and enough space to show us their stuff, they will take a good city and make it great.

I see it every day at the Rivard Report. As we look ahead to our third anniversary in February and continue to grow with each passing month, I feel blessed by our readers, advertisers and sponsors. The people of San Antonio have let us create something out of nothing and allowed us to play our part in building a better city. Wherever we go for stories, we feel welcomed and embraced.

Wednesday morning Iris and I went to the Basilica of the National Shrine of Little Flower on the near-Westside for the funeral Mass of Elvira Munguia Cisneros, the matriarch of the Cisneros family. Elvira’s life is a testament to how an infant immigrant whose family fled the Mexican Revolution to make a new life in San Antonio could become what her son Tim in his eulogy called “a force” in the life of the family and community.

Friends and family of Elvira Munguia Cisneros (1924 - 2014) look on during the entrance processional of her Catholic funeral Mass. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Friends and family of Elvira Munguia Cisneros (1924 – 2014) look on during the entrance processional of the Catholic funeral Mass. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Son Henry put it another way, describing how he would drop off his mother at an H-E-B when he was mayor in the 1980s and return an hour or more later, only to find that she had yet to reach the checkout lanes.  Elvira was busily engaged in her community, commiserating with acquaintances, befriending neighbors, offering counsel to others.

“She thought she was the mayor,” Henry quipped. Well, she probably would have been mayor had women enjoyed equal rights in that era.

Elvira Munguia Cisneros (1924 - 2014), was memorialized Wednesday in a Catholic funeral Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Friends and family of Elvira Munguia Cisneros (1924 – 2014), attend a Catholic funeral Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Little Flower is, arguably, our city’s most beautiful house of worship. San Fernando Cathedral, of course, and the old Spanish Missions, are more important historically, but none are more beautiful or convey a greater sense of spiritual community than Little Flower. Iris had never experienced a memorial service like the one the Cisneros family celebrated Wednesday. I have been to many memorial services, but I can’t remember a more moving or graceful one.

That evening, as daylight faded, Monika and I sat by the river and watched snowy egrets come home to roost near the Alamo Street Bridge. They came one by one, then in pairs, then in a flock as darkness fell, settling angelically in the branches of the bald cypress trees.

Happy Thanksgiving, San Antonio.

*Featured/top image: Inside The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Related Stories:

Henry Cisneros: Eulogy For My Mother

San Antonio The Place to Be for Christmas 2014

Why I’ll Always Want a San Antonio Christmas

Thanksgiving Races and Charity Events in San Antonio

Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is editor of the San Antonio Report.