I have always felt sad for families who lose loved ones close to the holidays. Somehow, I never thought we would be among them. But we are. My dad passed away three weeks ago today. The funeral, attended by family and friends, has taken place. It was lovely and he would have enjoyed it immensely. He rests in a beautiful spot overlooking the mountains, in a row the cemetery manager calls “gardeners’ row”. My son refers to it as Grandpop’s new pad. We’ve dismantled his apartment, said our goodbyes and begun the business of moving forward.
The thoughtful and loving cards and the posts, emails and direct messages from friends and family have meant so much. Thank you to each and every one of you. I’m so grateful for your friendship and your kindness.
Today is Thanksgiving. And so begins the year of firsts. The first Thanksgiving without him. Soon, the first Christmas, and then New Year’s and the other holidays, vacations and family celebrations. My eyes fill with tears as I write this. For many years, until he became too ill to make the trip, Dad traveled from Vermont to Ohio to spend Thanksgiving with us. Those happy memories make me smile and even laugh to myself, as I picture them.
There was the year of “Uncle Tom”. We’d developed a tradition of visiting a local turkey farm to pick out a fresh Thanksgiving bird. One year, we left it until late in the day, the day before Thanksgiving. The only turkeys that were left were toms. Enormous tom turkeys. We chose the smallest of them, a mere 28 pounder that we wrestled into the car and nicknamed Uncle Tom on the ride back to the house. Poor old Uncle Tom was so big he barely fit into the oven and he served us well. We ate turkey for days and Dad drove home to Vermont after the holiday with a cooler filled with turkey sandwiches. It was a solid year before any of us could face the idea of eating turkey again.
Another Thanksgiving was punctuated by the loss of the pumpkin pies. My sister had carefully crafted several beautiful homemade pumpkin pies and placed them outside on the porch to cool while we continued to prepare the feast. We were horrified to look outside and see the neighbor’s cat placidly eating from one of the pies. As I ran out to shoo the cat off the porch it knocked the other pie off the porch and onto the ground below. It didn’t seem funny at first, and the neighbor couldn’t understand our anger (the cat wants to be outside, she explained). Later, however, we laughed and laughed at the mishap and it became another of the Thanksgiving memories.
Thanksgivings with Dad were happy, often chaotic, celebrations punctuated by laughter and conversation. After the meal, weather allowing, we’d walk outside and then return to collapse on the couches by the wood stove, indolent with the richness of the food we’d consumed. Happy memories…
We all miss Dad but I derive comfort from the knowledge that he was ready to go. He was so tired and now suffers no longer. Today I give thanks for the happy memories of the many Thanksgivings we enjoyed together, for the love of my family and friends and for the pleasure of preparing another Thanksgiving feast today.
Happy Thanksgiving, Dad. Happy Thanksgiving.