Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ghosts of Thanksgivings Past

Thanksgiving is such a peculiar holiday, actually all about food and family gathering, as opposed to some other thing that is the excuse for that stuff, that is really at the core of most holidays anyway.

Also, it's impossible to approach this day without reflecting on Thanksgivings past, especially if you are someone who is as prone to rumination as I am. (What? Don't tell me you haven't noticed that about me.)

Two years ago, Thanksgiving Day, 2009, was the last time my father came to my home. He was clearly ailing, not himself at all.

The deterioration from September to November was stark, startling. He spent most all of the day sleeping on the sofa, didn't come to the dinner table, woke only to accept a slice of pumpkin pie.

Dad, asleep on our sofa, Thanksgiving 2009.
Dad in a borrowed wheelchair, too weak to walk
Less than two weeks after these pictures were taken, he was in the hospital, and it was the beginning of the end.

Last year was the first Thanksgiving after my father (and my husband's mother) had died. I wrote a post about it on Thanksgiving morning, Regarding a Table Half Full, anticipating a difficult day ahead of us, working hard to find the glass-half-full perspective, connect to my optimist self.

Three generations at Thanksgiving 2011
The day played out pretty much as I had expected it to, was mostly about about getting through it, with a few lovely moments.

The drive was hellish, dinner was delicious. Jake was very well behaved, Ethan was only occasionally obnoxious, and only spilled water.  I had my one glass of good red wine and took my post-turkey sofa nap.

My Mom only looked lost and teared up once or twice, was glad overall she came. But she was missing Dad something fierce, I know. I was too.

But I have also been thinking of Thanksgivings past; the distant past of my own childhood, my early years with Danny, the many Thanksgivings we have had with the boys...

One particular Thanksgiving stands out in my memory: Thanksgiving 2001. It was a tense, intense time for a couple of reasons. First, we live in New York City and a scant two months had passed since the destruction of the twin towers on 9-11.

And on a personal front, I was in the middle of the notorious "two week wait" after our first ever IVF attempt. To say I was on an emotional roller coaster, sitting on pins and needles that month would be a massive understatement.

After an initial bout of optimistic euphoria, I was then feeling anxious and worried that the IVF hadn't taken and growing more and more concerned that I wasn't in fact pregnant. I couldn't count on how I was feeling, as nightly injections of progesterone were masking any hormones my body might be producing (or so I had thought).

And then on that Thanksgiving morning? I committed a big no-no. I snuck a home pregnancy test into the bathroom with me and peed on the stick. Never mind that it was ridiculously early, my retrieval and transfer having taken place just the week prior. I couldn't help myself.

Nothing. The same one line I had been seeing monthly for over a year. I was deeply disappointed.

Part of my brain knew it could easily be a false negative, but I took it to heart nevertheless. Lay around on the sofa moping all day, barely dragging my ass into the shower in time to get dressed for dinner at the in-laws.

Somehow I did manage to toss my favorite crushed green velvet dress onto my body and cab crosstown with my husband. But it was hard to shake my funk. I'm sure I was not the most gracious guest. And right after dinner? I parked myself on the second sofa, kitty-corner to the one my elderly father had claimed after the meal for his traditional postprandial nap, and took one myself, thinking I needed to sleep off my bad mood. 

In the perfect 20/20 vision of hindsight, I can see: it was the pregnancy hormones kicking in. Because two days later on Saturday morning? I cheated again.

And this time... TWO pink lines! The most beautiful pee-saturated piece of plastic encased fiber the world has ever known, the first time ever I saw that fabulous sight.

And the following year? Twin baby boys at Thanksgiving.

Also? Bringing up Thanksgivings past?  A chance to throw in some gratuitous photos of my beautiful children at Thanksgiving.  Here's a few from 2006 when the boys were four and my father still a sprightly 89 (same age my mother is now):

E & J getting silly with cousins
Jake, commandeering my rain hat
Mom, Dad & Ethan on the sofa
I am expecting this year it will be a little easier than last, the grief tempered by time, by the now normalcy of my mother being the sole representative of the elder generation at the table. And we will raise our glasses in a toast of remembrance of those no longer among us.

Happy Thanksgiving, Dad. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

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