Holidays always brought mixed emotions for me. Imagine being overweight, abused, and basically kept from the outside world. But a few times a year the curtain would rise and the little family I had would put on a show.
It should’ve been one of the earlier clues to the not so normal childhood I had, but it wasn’t. It was the few times in my life that it felt like I actually had a family.
We grew up poor, or rather I was told we were poor which was why we never got clothing or good food to eat.
But when the Holidays came around we had more than enough. With the recent purchase of a new dinning room set along with full sized china hutch, my grandmother would throw one of the largest Thanksgivings I would see while living with her. We made Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and everything that came with it.
There was too many to count.
I was able to smile and laugh, it was one of the few shiny, happy memories of my childhood that I could cherish and think that I too was normal.
We put on a show for everyone that came to dinner with us, of whom were usually an assortment of Priests, as my grandmother was quite fond of the Church so this was an honor for her. Of course being of an older generation, I was to be seen and not heard, so dinners were generally a time for me to eat and watch.
Inevitably the night would grow old, guests would leave, and we would eventually retire to bed. But first, I would be left with the monumental task of cleaning and storing the leftovers, all with the promise that tomorrow the show would be over. The luster would be worn thin and life would return to the very hard, cold reality that I was used to dealing with.
However, even still it was the one time of year where I didn’t have to worry about food, a time where I would morn, with tears, the last of leftovers like the loss of a loved one.
Since my childhood this time of year has taken a backseat to life, with years of military service and no real family to come home to the holiday season was really just winter to me.
This year I spent my first Thanksgiving with my wife, which was unconventional to say the least.
This year was the second time I spent Thanksgiving in the hospital, unfortunately it wasn’t me in the hospital bed, it was my sister. Which made me think of all the things I have to be grateful for in my life.
I have someone by my side whom I love and cherish more than life itself. My sister is starting to do better, despite the pitfalls she has been suffering from lately, she remains stronger than anyone I know.
Really I may complain that I have a hard life, that things seemingly never go my way, but life changes. It seems in the not so distant past I was the one in the hospital bed dealing with something similar to what she is going through.
But because of that experience, I remember to tell her I love her every time I walk out the door, or remind her that it will get better even when it doesn’t always feel like it. It makes me ecstatic that instead of a dinner with a huge turkey and all the fixings that comes with it, I am in the hospital, next to her eating a Denny’s Thanksgiving special.
This Thanksgiving may not be full of the pomp and circumstance that a traditional Thanksgiving meal usually has, but it is ours. As I eat next to my wife and our family, I am just happy to be able to spend the holidays with loved ones.
And tomorrow, when the luster of Thanksgiving would normally have worn off in my past, I will roll over and see my wife lying next to me, we will go to the hospital and I will see my sister, but most importantly I will just be happy that I am here to experience all of this with them.
This year it may not have been what most people do, or even what I remember as a child, but this year I got exactly what I wanted.