As I sit here this morning drinking my coffee, my mind is full of memories of Thanksgivings past.
The early married years of learning how to time preparations so that everything was ready to serve at the right time. It’s not as easy as it seems.
The year we had intended to invite solo people from church into our home for Thanksgiving, but somehow never got around to it. It turned out to be a good thing we didn’t because our refrigerator went out a couple of days prior to the holiday and no one could come to repair it until several days later. We went out to Denny’s for dinner that year.
The year we had pizza for our Thanksgiving dinner.
The number of years another family and ours got together to celebrate the holiday. We ended up with a shorthand way of discussing who was going to prepare what for the meal. “Are you going to make what you usually make?” I made the cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, sweet potatoes, stuffing, brought the sparkling cider, cranberries, etc. She made the green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, cooked the turkey. She made stuffing cooked in the turkey and I made stuffing baked in the oven. One of us would usually make a ham, too, since Jason loved ham. Each of us would make our favorite desserts. We ate at their house so her mom would be able to join us. We’d split up the Black Friday ads from the newspaper to see if there was anything we needed to rush out for bright and early the next morning, switching ads when we were done looking at them. The kids would play games, watch movies. It was comfortably familiar and we felt like this family was our adopted extended family.
The year Jason died, we tried to continue that particular tradition. I got up early to make the bread items and cried through most of the process. I had no energy and just wanted to curl inside myself and sit like a lump on the couch. The other family tried hard to make things “normal,” but the normal we knew was gone. I’m sure they felt like I acted like a flat rubber ball with no bounce. That’s exactly how I felt. I could barely function. We went through the motions and left as soon as we could without being too rude. We never got together for Thanksgiving with that family again. We needed a change for a couple of reasons. One, the absence of Jason’s presence loomed so large and, two, after the initial memorial service, we had nearly non-existent support from any member of that family. Our adopted extended family had no time for us.
The next few years we tried to make new traditions for Thanksgiving, but holidays are never the same after the death of a child. I haven’t cooked a turkey and the fixings for years. It’s been years since I made cinnamon rolls. Our daughter is a vegetarian and our son-in-law hates turkey. Our son and his family live way across the country. There’s no reason to make a big meal. Two years ago, when Joe was in the hospital after his heart attack, he ate the hospital version of a Thanksgiving meal while our daughter, son-in-law and I found a restaurant for a meal. We will do the same this year.
It’s been two years since Joe’s heart attack. I am thankful he is doing well. Our daughter and son-in-law are driving here to see us for a couple of days. I am thankful they will be here so we will not be alone.
A fellow blogger Melanie wrote, “Grief does not preclude gratitude.” I would also say that the reverse is also true – gratitude does not preclude grief. No matter how many things I am thankful for, the hole Jason left will always be there and I will always grieve the fact that he is no longer here. It still hurts. Holidays especially emphasize the absence of Jason in our lives. Our lives have never been the same.
The memory of our last Thanksgiving before Jason died is so clear in my mind like it was yesterday. It was full of fun, friends, excellent food, thankfulness. It was comfortable, familiar. I can picture the clothes Jason was wearing and the big smile he wore all day. He was at his happiest with family and friends.
I am so thankful Jason was born into our family. He was a bright, sunshine-y presence in every moment of every day. I miss my boy so much.
© 2021 Rebecca R. Carney