As in most families, our Thanksgiving traditions had their own rhythms. We’d gather at mom and dads’ place around mid-afternoon. You could count on my sister to arrive on time except when she arrived early. I, on the other hand, at least while I remained unmarried, could be counted upon to shuffle by later.
First thing, I’d greet my mom and sister in the kitchen with kisses to their cheeks while they bustled to prepare dinner, and quickly excuse myself to say “hi” to my father, who, more likely than not, would be peeking at golf (not football!) on his television in their living room. I didn’t care one whit about golf (and still don’t) but would happily plop myself down on the couch or a comfy chair next to him, so long as it was adjacent to one of mom’s crystal candy dishes filled for the holiday with chocolate-covered peanuts or raisins, or pistachios in the shell.
Once during my feckless youth, I nearly missed Thanksgiving dinner altogether. This occurred while I was still in college.
I was driving along the interstate when an approaching car gradually passed on my right. I noticed its driver to be a fetching girl, who looked my way and smiled. In response, I sped up and smiled at her. We went back and forth in this fashion past several mileposts. Finally, as we approached another exit, she looked over at me, cocked her head to the right, and activated her right-turn signal. I didn’t wait to be invited twice. I happily followed while she exited the highway for what proved to be a brief, impromptu tryst on a country road.
When I got to my folks’ home it was long past sunset. Deservedly, I caught hell. Looking back now, I wish someone had already invented the cell phone. However, despite taking the heat, for me this event proved to be a once-in-the-lifetime occasion that still brings a smile to my face after all these years have passed. The thing is, amidst our excitement, I am not sure my partner and I even bothered exchanging names. If we did, I no longer remember hers. Occasionally I’ll wonder whether, like me, she might have been on her way to family Thanksgiving.
After both my folks were gone, my sister, her husband, and their two adult sons, along with the boys’ significant others at the time, joined Lee and me at our house for Thanksgiving. We were enjoying pre-meal cocktails.I recall everybody laughing and being in fine spirits, including my sister. This was a remarkable, though welcome departure, as my sister ordinarily was not so outwardly happy. Indeed, her display of holiday spirit seemed to everyone a little out of character for my sister, which nobody minded in the slightest.
Several hours later, however, in the middle of the night, I received a call from one of my nephews. He told me that he was with his mom in a hospital emergency room. It appears that after they left us, his then-girlfriend, a neuroscience nurse, had told him she thought my sister’s “odd” behavior might be indicative of a stroke. In fact, it turns out that my sister had a cancerous brain tumor that required immediate surgery.
My sister, among the mere 5 % who suffer this form of cancer but still survive five years or more, died just this past winter. Today marks the first Thanksgiving since her death. I will call my nephews and their dad later today, which will be a melancholy one for them, I suspect.
I recently came across the 2-DVD set, “Fraser Thomas at Deer Tick Manor,” that we made one summer when Lee and A.P. were still alive and healthy and before Bob became sick. Lee had a lovely singing voice and was a featured vocalist whenever we jammed.
Today I was intending to watch Lee’s image and hear her sing again. I had especially been looking forward to hearing her belt out her rendition of the old Jefferson Airplane number, “White Rabbit,” but alas, it appears I no longer have either a reliable DVD player or suitable video monitor. Instead, I have to settle for looking at photographs, which, of course, is fine.
Not coincidentally, I also heard this morning from Lee’s brother. He didn’t say so but I’m sure Paul today is thinking about his sister, as well as their mom and dad, who died.
Every member of my immediate family is gone now, too: my mother, my father, my sister, and sweet Lee. I was starting to feel glum about this reality when suddenly Lola the wonder dog came bounding up the rear porch stairs to my back door, happily wagging her tail on this cold but sunny and otherwise perfect Thanksgiving Day morning. She was carrying a yellow tennis ball in her mouth. She seemed so happy that it caused me to smile and laugh on this day of remembrance and mourning.
Later today I’ll join Robyn and her family for a fine Thanksgiving dinner. Lola has been invited, too.
I am happy and grateful to be spending this holiday with her and hers.
Mainly, I’m happy to have such a good woman, who loves me.
Lest I ever forget, there remains much for which I can be thankful.