This time of year, millions of people come together to spend time with family, and give thanks for all the blessings which they believe they have been granted (statistically). Inevitably, points of view begin to diverge, much as they had before everyone had moved away, and, thanks in no small part to social lubricant, this holiday of gratitude becomes a dirge of regret and thinly-hidden animosity (results may vary). And while I might be willing to risk a conversation taking a turn for the political just that I might see those whom I love once more, the reality is that I have neither the time nor money to make the journey this year (I didn’t make it last year either, at least not until Christmas). And, if I am to be completely honest, as I am wont to do (having been chastised for doing so on no small number of occasions since beginning this blog), sometimes the memory is better than reality, no matter how faded it may have become. The place I want to go is warm, familiar, and somewhere I once called home, but in the background, deep beneath the stories which I’ve heard one thousand times (“So I says to this guy, I says…”) an ideological schism has grown, growling irreconciliations, and tempting ill-dropped commentary which the bonds of family ought ignore. I do not hold myself above this petty label-making, for I am always ready to argue in the name of what I believe is right (actually, I really don’t need a reason to jump into an argument, as I believe that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination), consequences be damned. Perhaps it’s better that I stay away, no matter how it pains me, so that I may use the time and distance to remember better things (sweet memories whose bitterness have long since faded). As the title implied, this may contain some sentimental drivel.
This past decade and a half have been a time of unprecedented loss. I lost my writing and photography, and then my great-grandmother. I moved away, unable to face the pain of staying, and came to lose a child (though, in truth, it is perhaps better that it never had the chance to suffer through the death throes of the failed and shattered love between its mother and myself). After a span of about a decade of near-happiness, I now face the prospect of losing my grandparents to the ravages of time and the fading health which follows on the coattails of advancing age. I will admit it now: I am afraid. I am afraid of seeing them so withered, and broken, so torn apart by the fleeing youth which had long ago abandoned them. I prefer to see them in my mind as I best remember them, from twenty years ago, when they were not quite young, but still vital, with things to do, and purpose to their lives which seems to drive them no longer. Never again will we take a road trip to Montana, nor go to Disneyland, that I might express disdain, proclaiming that I would not return (seven-year-old me was kind of a pain in the ass. I’m glad that I outgrew that). Where they once fit so seamlessly into the world, their auras discrete, and yet attuned to everything around them, now they sit beneath an empty, hollow glow, which seems to mark them ready for removal from my world. I am not afraid of death, for I am so very tired, and I am not frightened by the end of things, for therein merely lie beginnings yet unknown, but the one thing which I cannot bear is waiting for the end, a long and drawn out march to the very edge of the sea of time (I feel that I go swimming there, upon my melancholy holidays, until my mortal flesh succumbs, and spiritual hypothermia sets in, shocking me back to life).
As I seem to be in one of my moods again, I might as well make the very best of it. Rather than mourn those who fade away, perhaps I will, instead, celebrate the fallen. One of the reasons why Thanksgiving will never be the same has almost everything to do with the summer of 2002, and the loss of my great-grandmother. I’d stayed away, as I’d believed myself a source of shame, and never had my chance to say goodbye (I’m still trying to decide whether to forgive myself), even though I had countless reminders and opportunities, and a mother who constantly reminded me that time was running short.
I will miss the apple pies and applesauce, the smell of her house, warmed to the point of slightly hotter than was necessarily tolerable. I remember living next door to her and running over just to say hello. I remember standing at the edge of her deck, and gazing out upon the Puget Sound, and thinking that somewhere just beyond what I could see, there was a waterfall which would sweep me out toss me down into the endless sea. I remember kindness. And patience. And time for each and every of her many great-grandchildren. And grandchildren. And children. I remember Christmases when we would all pack into her home, and fight for real estate and pole position closest to the tree, sneaking glances to discover just how many of the presents there belonged to us (that was mostly something done by the kids, as the grownups had beer and wine and stories, which always seemed to stretch on into infinity, unnecessarily delaying the opening of the gifts). There wasn’t nearly enough time, as it turned out. How I would kill for just another chance to say hello, or bum a jar of applesauce again (seriously, that applesauce was amazing! I make a pretty good version, but it is a pale imitation of my great-grandmother’s honed and perfected recipe).
I remember at her funeral, when I looked at her (the first time in somewhere close to forever), and thought that I supposed that someone who had never met her, might confuse this corpse for her, but for me, it seemed nothing more or less than an impostor, as this body contained within its features almost exactly nothing in common with the woman whom I had known my entire life, aside from a passing similarity in hairstyle.
I am grateful for the time I had to spend with her when I was growing up, and I am grateful that she died when I was old enough to not forget her (though that’s as much a curse as it is a blessing). And I am grateful for all the time I spent with my grandparents, who lived just a short walk along the beach away from me. And I am grateful for my mother’s brother and her sister, for being there to have some fun with me on special (and ordinary) occasions. Hell, I’m even grateful to my mother, though I don’t often say it, and I won’t say why, because a little mystery is the spice of life. I’m grateful for my wife, for putting up with this past decade (more or less- my soul screams more, but the calendar chuckles slightly less), and for giving me no option other than facing down my doubts and giving fatherhood a try. And I’m grateful to the Minkey for being who is, though I beg of you not to mention this to him, as he’ll only find a way to use my sentiment against me. To my daughter, though by marriage, somehow almost completely my own, and her children whom I love in that way that only a grandparent can. To Fed, and Bad Leon, my brothers by choice, who’ve always found a way to be there when I needed them the very most, though we might be separated by hundreds of miles, at least. And to everyone whom I’ve left out: I thank you for the roles you’ve played in this production which I’ve come to know as the narrative of my life.
Ah crap, I’ve fallen into a steaming pile of sentimental drivel, and it seems that I’ve neglected to pack a shovel.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving, each and every one of you!
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