(You might want to read my added comment about the inappropriately upbeat tone of this post's title BEFORE you read this post. Just saying.)
Share a Thanksgiving Memory
And yes it's late into the evening, almost Friday, and still, I have not been able to tackle this one. I am rarely at a loss for words, but in this case? It's hard for me to think about Thanksgiving.
Not because of my children, they are generally reasonably well behaved on Thanksgiving (well, as long as there is a television in the house).
It's my Dad.
This will be the first Thanksgiving without him, our first without my Dad and my Mother-in-law.
Ethan is mad about this. "Why did Grandma and Grandpa have to die in the same year? I lost TWO grandparents in ONE year, it's just not fair! I used to have THREE grandparents and now all I have left is one Grandmother."
And Jacob? I don't know how he has processed these deaths. I'm guessing not that much, because he will still ask to "Go see Grandma and Grandpa?" And he still calls it "Grandma and Grandpa's" house. Death being such an abstract concept. (And abstract being so hard for his autistic, language-processing challenged brain.)
Abstract in one way, thudingly concrete in others.
Last year my father was at our apartment for Thanksgiving, this year he is gone forever.
And also last year? Thanksgiving? Was the last time he was ever in our apartment, at all.
To tell the truth, even then he was barely there.
Ever to be counted on for a post-dinner couch nap, this time Dad slept on the sofa the whole time. We could not get him to come to the table. He barely ate, a man who usually loved him some turkey. He only roused himself for a healthy big slice of Pumkin Pie.
"He's diabetic" my mother fretted, "Should he have pie?"
I did not know how to kindly say what I saw and knew, that he was so clearly frail and failing, with such little time left, what did it matter? It gave him pleasure. It was what he hungered for. Let him have pie.
Two months earlier I would have jumped in all motherly and whittled down his slice to a sliver, stood over him and pecked at him until he ate some turkey with trimmings. Something green, too. But there was still a man to feed in September. By November, a completely different story.
And indeed, less than two weeks later we stepped into the serious end game.
So right now my Thanksgiving memories? All the happy ones of recent years past with this, my chosen family and way back when, with my family of origin, the aunts, and uncle, cousins tumbling together in joy?
Shadowed by the terrible losses of this terrible year.
I have done very little thinking and planning for Thanksgiving this year. And it's good that there is very little I have to do. Bringing wine and my mother to my husband's family's house in Westchester (and, as always, GF/CF goodies for Jacob) is about the limit of what I can manage.
We will eat and drink and talk and laugh, but it will be hard to find true merriment in my heart. I will celebrate what remains, I will let the warmth and light of family wash over me. But I know I will spend some moments staring out through the big windows into the vast dark, saying goodbye once again to my father, to Blanche.
Our family has grown both smaller and larger this year, the wheel of life has churned on, spinning wildly. It will spin on ever still, and I am still feeling dizzy.
I will stand still for a moment at Thanksgiving this year, remembering the last: my father in our entrance hall holding my warm hands in his cool, papery, trembling ones. He thanked me for dinner, told me how much he loved me (as ever he did), remarked on how nicely Jacob was coming along. I may have reminded him that I would be taking him to the doctor the following week, that appointment that set the final tumble in motion.
We had borrowed a wheelchair from their assisted living facility to get my father over to our place, so I towered over him a bit. I kissed the top of his head as I took my parents down the elevator to catch their ride. Dad's last exit from my home.
So while many of us find Thanksgiving to be a day tinged with a drop of melancholy, a tiny hint of mourning for the "perfect" family we had wished for mixed in with celebrating the wonderful, special family we have, I will be doing some actual mourning. Ticking off another "first" in my year of sad firsts.
And I will raise a glass of red wine (the nice Saint-Joseph I'll be bringing) to my Dad. And maybe (if the kids let me) take a little couch nap in his memory.
Wishing everyone an enjoyable (and not too frazzling) Thanksgiving.
And? If you're in the mood? Hop in and tell your story...