Is almost upon us.
Thankgiving is my favorite holiday. Christmas, for many years, was a big source of stress for me. Because I was alone. On Thanksgiving - my family would all gather together - for many years at my mom's house - or one of my sisters - we would all be together, my mom, me, my two sisters and their husbands, and their numerous kids. I did not get married until I was 32 - and so when Christmas rolled around - my oldest sister and her children were at her in-laws house. My second oldest sister was out of town and usually at her in-laws house with her kids as well. My mom was very busy with church on Christmas Eve and Christmas - and for a while there - busy with her second husband's family (until they got divorced.) And I was - alone.
I never actually stayed home alone - I don't think. I usually foisted myself off on somebody - my in town sister and her in-laws (where I felt out of place - why am I my sister's in-laws on Christmas Eve?) ... or I'd be with my mom and her husbands' family ... one year I actually flew to Los Angeles with a friend and stayed in the Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica for Christmas. I can't remember what we actually did on Christmas Day though. Maybe that was the day we flew out. Anyway - I pretty much dreaded Christmas. But I have always loved Thanksgiving.
Last year though - we pretty much skipped Thanksgiving. I was a hot post-partum mess - with scabby, bleeding nips from my ill fated breastfeeding adventure ... Jack was a week and a half old and losing weight (and would soon end up in the hospital diagnosed as failure to thrive) ... I was so stressed out and exhausted. I stayed home and nursed my anxiety and attempted to nurse my (literally) starving child and cried and someone brought us turkey later in the day.
So last year sucked.
Far worse than my breastfeeding misadventures though - was the October death of my nephew, David. A month before I gave birth - my nephew took his own life. He was 15 - and he climbed up a tree in the woods near his house - put a rope around his neck - and jumped. He was found a day later. My sister, his mother, was still pretty much in shock when Thanksgiving rolled around last year. I think it takes a long time to register that your child is not just at a friends house or temporarily absent somehow - but truly has died and is never coming back. I still don't think I've really dealt with David's death. I was in the middle of welcoming a new life - and I don't think I really have ever wrapped my mind around it, to be honest. And so this year will be somewhat somber as well, because this year, my sister does know that David is gone - lost to suicide - a suicide that no one predicted, that he never threatened, and that rocked his family to its core. David left his mother, father, 4 brothers and a sister behind.
November is also the month that my other sister's husband died. Four years ago, on November 9, from an accidental drug overdose, at age 39. Leaving behind my sister, a son, two daughters, and a pile of debt. That son, my nephew, struggles now with a serious anxiety disorder and may be bipolar. At 22 years old, he spends most of his time at home, in his room, cannot work, but refuses to go on disability - "welfare" - as he calls it. My sister is chronically depressed, and approaches life - and problems - with a lethargy that alternates frustrates and angers me -- and makes me sad. She and her children get by on very little money, and are always struggling to make ends meet. Her youngest daughter, now in second grade, is also anxious -- her oldest daughter, 16 -- doing fairly well -- but not as well as she would be if her father hadn't become addicted to drugs - died - and left behind a mother who is literally crippled by her own depression and fear.
But with November - comes my son's birthday. And Thanksgiving. And though I have tears in my eyes as I type this - I am thankful. I am thankful for my beautiful son. I am thankful for his November birthday - a light in what could be a dark season for all of us, year after year. I am thankful that all of us will be together this year - at my home - and though it will not be perfect, and there will be sadness - there will also be laughter, and good food, and we will manage to have some fun.
Life is hard. Harder for some than others. Savor every beautiful moment you are graced with - and eat as much as you want this Thanksgiving.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.