As I was sitting yesterday scribbling the last of my holiday to-dos, baffled by how fast the last few months have come and gone, despite the sights and sounds of Christmas all around me, I couldn’t get Thanksgiving out of my head. It’s weeks in the past already, I know, but for more reasons than one, it was special this year, so it’s stuck with me.
I was supposed to head down to Florida, as I usually do, for a mini vacay over turkey and leftovers with my parents and sisters, but four days before I was to leave, my dear Uncle Ray in Long Island passed away. So with funeral arrangements being made alongside the stuffing and the pumpkin pie, instead of going anywhere, I would stay put, have Thanksgiving with my Aunt Dorothy and cousins, and my family would come up here.
Initially, I couldn’t help but think: perfect timing. Here it is the start of the holiday season, the happiest time of year, and this saddest of all life events befalls us not even a week before. Looking back though, I think the timing—because unfortunately, this was something that would happen sooner or later—may have actually been just right. We were clinking our glasses at a holiday whose sole purpose is to give thanks; what better a time to sit for hours and talk about and give thanks for the life of our beloved uncle, husband, father? Over the three days that all of us family were together—my immediate six and Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Ray’s 24-plus—there were tears, of course, but a lot of laughter too. And even better than the laughter, there was a lot of love. In a house of so many, how could there not be?
It wasn’t the Thanksgiving any of us had planned for, but it was one of those weekends you didn’t want to end. I certainly did not want it to. In the words of Kit De Luca, goodbyes make me crazy. For me, a looming farewell sets off a trembling in my bones; everything begins to appear almost a shade of grey; and my eyes start to sting as their sockets fill up with hot tears that sit on the surface waiting for me to lose it. It happens every time. This time, it was of course, no different. There I am, standing in my aunt’s kitchen, getting ready to leave for the train station, my parents and sisters around me, making small talk, in hopes to intercept the imminent deluge they’re all too prepared for—my mother hugs me and the floodgates bust open. I’m a bawling mess, as always, as I set off on my way. For as many years as this has been happening, I’ve wondered if it will ever stop. And like it’s always easier to get over an old flame if there’s someone to replace him, I’ve come to figure out that these tears at leaving my parents and sisters won’t until I have my own husband and kids, who when it’s time to leave, will come with me.
I pray for that. I pray for it for myself, and I pray for it for my sister. What I want really, is what I saw at my aunt and uncle’s house that weekend—a family, bursting at the seams with children and grandchildren…for my parents to have that some day. What a work of art. Surely Uncle Ray was looking down with pride. Surely while he was here, he was grateful. And for him, all of us were grateful—for being the good man he was.
So Thanksgiving I will tuck away now. But I will always keep the memory of my very special Uncle Ray close to me. And maybe up in heaven he can put in a good word for me… so that prayer I have… soon comes true.