“post” thanksgiving day

We got up at four thirty in the morning to put the bird in the oven.  By two in the afternoon it was done.  Dressing and stuffings and sweet potatoes, & yams, turnips and carrots and green beans and roasted sprouts with cranberry and cider, a meat stuffing and a fish and scallop dressing with candied pecans and enough pies and cakes and sugared treats to keep the children up all night.

It feels so fortunate to sit around a table, 23 friends and family and the clanging of bowls and the low murmur that takes on the tone of the first few minutes of a good dinner.  Abundance, prosperity, friends, loving family….

Why am I so sad?  What pushed me over the edge into a memory of all the aunts and uncles and mom and dad and grandma and her sisters and their husbands..they are all gone.  I am the oldest surviving relative of the clan and I do not like being old.  I am not particularly fond of fat either, but at least there is a prototype for that.  It seems that fifty years ago men in my family could be fat–like it was a right of passage or something.  It almost seemed boastful.  The slouch, the manner that the men held the cigars, the ashtrays filled with butts and the bottles of beer warming near the radiator..it all seemed, well never ending.  I had no idea back then that things did not stay the same forever.  Time had not yet introduced itself to me and I thought that whole clan would just be there forever.

Now, I look around and wonder, who will be the next to be picked off?  Who will be targeted to get off this ride of the universe and go back to being molecules and atoms and dirt or worst, dust?  I don’t like it.  I want my old illusions back.  My sister calls from across the room, “is it really 16 years since Mom died and what is now nine of eleven years for Dad?”  But wait, I think, wait..I am the Dad now and some feast in the future I will not be here and move a bit further forward and all that will be left is a hand full of children, who might say–“do you remember the uncle who lived at that lake..you know, that lake where it was never sunny…

It is not a pretty vision with which to end the day.  And, I am not sure why it bothered me so this particular night.  We made plans for Christmas.  My niece is going to have a baby–just count back three months from now–august, she will have it in august..Just imagine next year another baby…Yeah, but which one of us will it replace.  Why such joy over the advent of the next generation when what it means is that ours is on its way our.

No one could believe that Dad would be 89 next week, next Tuesday someone said…

Well I believe it, I see the age on my face and the weight around my waist that my daughter refuses to forgive me for.  Maybe that is what is bothering me.  What if I should have to die unforgiven?  What if it took until I was not even missed anymore for her to recognize that I was not going to be at this event forever?

Look, it is not that I want her to feel bad that she never learned how to like me when I was alive.  It is more that it feels to be a damn shame that wisdom can’t set in just a bit earlier than it does.  Sixty-four Thanksgiving Dinners.  I remember when we had such a large clan that we would rent the old Franco-American Club to host the event.  It was always my mother who cooked the turkey.  So I guess when I woke up at 4:3o this morning to stuff that stuffed bird into the oven, my mother got up with me and her old wrinkled hands were basting that bird with me all morning.  And her sisters hand embroidered table cloth covered the table.  There were only a small handful of people, me ,one or two of my sisters, that even remembered aunt Alice.  And, I was the only one there who remembered uncle Teddy…

One day, they will gather and if I am lucky one lone member of the clan will say,  I thank I am the only one here who remembers him and the next and the next after that at best.  Then all the memories are gone and tin types of the day are all that will be left of me and how much I love this holiday.  It was always my favorite because other than food there was nothing to do but to remember gratitude.

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One comment on ““post” thanksgiving day

  1. Collette Williams says:

    You put MUCH into your writing … sad and happy memories, life with and without loved ones, sensory-filled descriptive passages, and the “best of times, worst of times” feelings that come from living a full life. My thoughts and words flow to similar places as yours. This was my 3rd Thanksgiving without Mom (Me-mere) and my 29th without Dad (Pe-Pere). I miss them so. My only brother has remained estranged from me and my older sister for nearly a year. Last I knew, his reclusive family and alcohol were keeping him company. My parent’s generation is nearly gone and 1st cousins are scattered about living separate lives. Family reunions stopped a few years ago when there was no longer a matriarchal or patriarchal guardian left to head the family. You’re entitled to all your feelings including the sadness you’ve experienced as an aging man – less long for this world. But what a gift that you are loved and sought out as Pe-pere and Grand-Pere at a full holiday table!! To end on an up note, I did spend Thanksgiving with 8 close family members. I also learned that my only son is on the verge of “popping THE question” to his girlfriend of 2 years. Life carries on in a circle with endings and beginnings and then more endings and beginnings – hopefully steeped in love. … just a matter of perspective and how I hold it. Whenever I get down or discouraged, I try to focus on what my son often says, “It’s all good Mom – it’s ALL good.”

    ~ Collette

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