I don’t even like turkey all that much

I will be alone for Thanksgiving this year. The wife and 13 are traveling to visit his godparents, and I will be staying home to watch Blu Rays and read depressing Joyce Carol Oates novels. This is by choice, mind you; I make a horrible passenger in a vehicle, and I also make a horrible companion when you are having Thanksgiving dinner with scores of people you’ve never met before. In reality, I regret not being able to go, but in my present state it just isn’t possible.

Let’s talk about Thanksgiving for a minute. It’s more about the smells, really. I have very fond memories of playing football outside with my friends, coming into the house all flushed, glasses fogging up immediately due to the warmth created by the turkey in the oven, and just being hit in the face with a wave of delicious and comforting aromas. Ironically, at the time I hated everything Thanksgiving was about. I disliked having the majority of my day taken up with eating food I didn’t really like, except of course, for the mashed potatoes and gravy; being forced to sit in the living room with everyone else watching the Lions lose yet again, and being ordered to talk when I really had nothing to say, then being reprimanded for my bad attitude, followed my grandparents chiding my mother for scolding me. The older I get, the more appreciation I have for my grandparents. I think they knew that there was something not quite right with me, emotionally. Problem was, there was also something not quite right with my mother, too, so any criticism about her methods always erupted into an argument about parenting.

So now it’s 2014. My mother has been dead 7 years now. My grandfathers are dead, my grandmothers are either dead, or suffering from dementia. My stepfather and I no longer speak, going so far as not even mentioning me in the obituary when my grammy died. My father and I talk, but we’re not close. He doesn’t even attend Thanksgiving at his brother’s house when invited, and my invitations stopped coming a long time ago, too; most of the blame for that falls with me isolating myself intentionally. This was not supposed to be a sad entry, but of course I never know where they are going until I am finished. Really, all I want is to walk into my house and smell that turkey one more time. Now that we’ve moved, along with most of the wife’s family, too, it could be a very long time until I feel that sensation again. I’ll be ready, and I won’t take it for granted.

If you have a child, or children, please pay attention to their behavior. Don’t just dismiss everything they do as “normal teenager stuff.” Because sometimes it isn’t, sometimes they are really hurting and would love for someone to talk to them like an equal, to take the time to find out what’s wrong, and maybe get them the help they need. Pay attention, and remember what it was like to be that age. Listen, and most importantly, don’t judge.

All losses are not equal

Being estranged from a side of your family means you sometimes don’t hear about events until after they’ve happened. For instance, I woke up Friday morning to read in the paper that my step-grandmother passed away. She was 96. The truth of the matter is that I grieved this loss years ago. When I cut my stepfather out of my life, I knew I was going to have to make some tough choices, and unfortunately I wound up cutting some people out of my life that I didn’t exactly want to be cut. Grammy was a casualty of that, sadly. She was without a doubt the nicest person on any side of my family. In better times, my step-side of the family was more welcoming than my blood-family. But in the end, it became obvious that I was an outsider, and always had been. Frankly, it’s not that shocking to me anymore that nobody approached me to hear me out, even after I did reach out to a family member about the circumstances. 7 years on and I still firmly believe I did the right thing, and so does my wife, who is very pragmatic when it comes to family issues. It’s interesting to me that it appears that nobody else thought so. I’ve never really been close to any family members except my mother, and ironically, my stepfather. Those days are gone and I accept that. I’m ready to move on. It’s hard not to when you’re even erased from the list of survivors.

My Grammy used to have this amazingly soft stuffed cat (not a real one.) Its body was really flat, and it was all white. I keep going back to that cat. It would sit on their bed (my Pappy was still alive at that time) amongst all the pillows. The bedroom was always immaculate, and I wasn’t allowed in it. They would leave the door open, so when we’d visit I would sometimes just stand in the doorway for a few seconds, staring at that cat. Sometimes she would bring it out and let me hold it, but never for very long. I wonder what happened to it.