Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. This may be the first time I actually dread Thanksgiving. Honestly, I'd eat Fuddrucker's, watch football, and never get out of my pajamas. I would make it as UN-Thanksgiving-ish as possible because if it isn't Thanksgiving then it isn't a day when my folks should be here...but aren't.
And, yes, I've been told at some point I need to face their being gone, and I've heard the theory that I need to include them by setting places for them at the table, talking about memories, and all that. I have tried to respond with a smile, but sometimes I've been really honest and said, "Believe me, I know they are gone, and an empty chair at the table does nothing for me but make it hard to breathe because it only magnifies who ISN'T there."
This is the first year both of them are gone, and even though Dad passed on 7 1/2 years ago, Mom's passing makes it feel like they've both just gone, and once again I can smell Dad's pipe and Mom's perfume and feel Dad's stiff hug and Mom's tight one, and the hole is huge. And honestly, the idea of a family dinner makes my heart ache and my stomach churn.
However, my children want something that resembles "traditional" so they can feel like their whole world has not collapsed around them, so we are having a dinner and giving thanks...because despite the empty chairs, we have much for which to be thankful. In fact, it is the things for which I give thanks that make the empty chairs so hard.
For instance, I give thanks for:
1. My mom's amazing food. She was a great cook. I loved her fried chicken and her pea salad, and her salmon patties are still one of my favorite comfort foods.
2. The matching outfits she made at Easter. My poor dad and brother wearing the pink shirts with tiny roses buds that matched the dresses Mom and I wore. Dad never griped. I admire him for that. :-)
3. Mom's hugs. If you ever had one, you know.
4. Dad taking me hunting with him. One of my favorite memories.
5. Dad taking us to church on Sundays.
6. Dad putting up a basketball goal where I could practice.
7. Hot coffee on cool morings with Dad on the steps, just talking.
8. Mom choosing to camp with us.
9. The smell of a good pipe tobacco.
10. Long talks about the Bible.
11. A sewing machine of my own.
12. 55 YARDS of ruffles on my wedding gown.
13. Four bridesmaids dresses...even when one of the bridesmaids was "difficult"
14. Some of the wildest games of 42 I've ever played
16. Riding in the back of a pickup
17. Trips to pick me up at school after UIL or sports...especially when money was tight
18. For an 15 extra years...
19. For a merciful 2 months...
20. For parents that lived in a way that leave us with laughter and tears...wishing for one more cup of coffee...one more game of 42...the sound of their laughter...the feel of their hugs...gratitude for what they did right...and the desire to do better than they did...
Dear God, for the time that I had...for the memories you've allowed...thank you.