The Unexpected Feelings of Thanksgiving
I asked Instagram if it wanted my next post to be about life and babies or about a cool brand. 70/30 favored of the dude, so here we are: a post about my favorite subjects. My men.
The memory is so vivid for me. There is a one-story brick building along the main drag by our former apartment on the top of Queen Anne in Seattle. Each holiday season, someone puts together a Santa, sled, and reindeer display. It gets so dark and sad so early in the winter here, and that cheery display is something that always made me smile. But, on the eve of the first Thanksgiving without my dad, I saw its lights smear together as I walked past. There were so many days during that time when the tears came when I didn't expect them to.
In that moment, I was angry. I wasn't angry at my dad for leaving me. I was angry with Raz. Why didn't he ask me if I needed him to be with me for my first holiday without my dad? Why didn't he just KNOW to stay? The thoughts weren't entirely rational and I didn't know I felt any type of way until I did. We still have conversations like that now, conversations where he says, "Well, you should have said something!" and I say "I would have if I'd known I was going to be upset about it beforehand. But I didn't. So here we are. Let's just try to be better next time." And for the most part, we are. He was a guy in his 20s with a girlfriend going through a thing he couldn't know felt the way it did. I didn't know it was going to feel the way it did and I wouldn't wish those feelings on him. On anyone. He had his own family with its own demands. We'd only just moved in together a few months before. I couldn't and shouldn't have expected anything more of him. Besides, how was I supposed to know how I was going to feel that night before Thanksgiving? My first Thanksgiving without my dad.
The next day, I was with my family at my grandparents' house in the North Central part of Washington State. I sat at the kids table with my cousins and my uncle like I usually did. We didn't talk much about anything substantial. I'm sure we rolled our eyes at each other about politics. I tried to teach them about the appeal of Justin Bieber. I got a little buzzed, but not terribly so, and not because I was sad. Because it was a day of celebration, of over-indulging in all things. Because the raucous conversations we had were better with alcohol. I saw that my uncle—the one who took being my uncle very seriously ever since my mom told him she was pregnant ("I should probably get my shit together then, huh!" she says he told her) and then babysat me when I saw a toddler—kept a close eye on me. I could tell that if I needed him, he was ready. On that day, it was enough. It was really all anyone could ask for.
So, somewhat unexpectedly, Thanksgiving has brought with it a bit of heaviness, a sense of something there...lingering, and when it comes back around each year, I am reminded that, for whatever reason, this first big holiday of the year makes me a little bit more heartbroken. My stomach, full of turkey and broccoli casserole and mashed potatoes and papa's famous cranberry relish and champagne and stories told over and over again, turns a little sour. And in the back of my mind, I'm always wondering what would it be like if he were here? How would it feel to have just one more hug?
It's like my grandma said when she met us at our house to clean it out (and ended up taking a lifetime of Beanie Babies to hers—another story for another day) and I told her I didn't realize it would upset me as much as it did to be there: "That's because you expect him here, honey," she said. It's always harder when you expect them.
The holiday is creeping up on us now. We're celebrating at our house as a little family, spending much of this week in preparation. And with that prep swimming in our minds, as I've been writing lists upon lists, distracting myself from that feeling I forget usually finds me, the feeling the makes the Santa lights get blurry, Oliver turned six months old, and I attempted his celebratory photo shoot.
As I was scrolling through my camera roll to decide which photos to keep, I saw his little pursed lip smile.
And all I could see was my dad.
It's always going to be there, that ache. And each Thanksgiving, for lack of a better metaphor...the scab that's grown over the hole in my heart seems to get scratched off and bleed a little bit. That mischievous, tight-lipped smile brought it out a little early this year. And that's okay, because I know that having a wound like mine is a badge of having loved and been loved in a bigger way than I could ever be able to explain. That I can see my dad in our son reminds me legends never die. For that, I am forever thankful.
Happy Thanksgiving week, everyone. I hope you have someone to hug, and if there are people you miss, you remember how lucky you are to live a life blessed with big love and reasons to celebrate. It's messy, it's raw, and it can hurt, but I'll be damned if it isn't as sweet as it is bitter.
Cheers to love. Cheers to family. Cheers to sweet little babies and daddies who would have been extraordinary grandpas. Cheers to feeling the feelings, being grateful for the feelings, and thankful for the moment.
Cheers to all of that.