On the Menu: Turkey with a Side of Depression, Homesickness and Missing My Dad

It’s funny how when you’re young, happily tripping through Thanksgiving and Christmas, comfortably surrounded by a couple dozen relatives, you assume that holidays will always be like that…ya know… joyful, playful…forever.

And by you I mean me. 

Robert Hall Family

Then a few years later, your brother dies in a tragic accident. He’s gone…along with your believe in the fairness and okayness of life. During Thanksgiving, everyone tries really hard…going through the empty, rehearsed motions of complimenting the wonderful dinner and discussing the Dallas Cowboys’ offense. Deep in your heart, you want to scream that every holiday should be cancelled until you don’t feel so broken anymore. Everyone wants to scream that. But instead they smile weakly and carry on.

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Rob in Donovan, with his last gobbler. His last photo. May 26, 1993. I took that picture.

Eight years later and 3,000 miles away.

You’ve married into a loud, funny, boisterous family of in-laws, with lots of cousins and turkey and card games and free-flowing wine and smiling group photos. They celebrate holidays with full-force happiness. You feel like an outsider, eavesdropping on this carefree tribe that isn’t broken like the one you came from.

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But that doesn’t last forever either. It never does.

And by you, I still mean me.

The loud, boisterous, laughing in-law family…the one that seemed impervious to anything bad happening….where everyone lived within 20 miles of each other, is now splintered. Eight or so members have moved hundreds of miles away to where the jobs are. And two of the funniest, most lively ones have died tragically, unbelievably. You hurt so badly for your sister-in-law, niece and nephews, enduring the same crippling ache that punched you in the heart so many years ago.

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Time marches on. 3,000 miles backward.

You’re glad to be back home where you came from. The broken family that you’d left has been haphazardly glued back together, with new hobbies, Prozac and staying too busy at work. A brother-in-law and two nephews have been added. Your dad can still brighten the room with his hilarious jokes and childhood stories. Your mom is an amazing cook. You see traces of your brother in your nephew’s handsome smile. New holiday memories are forming around four rowdy grand boys. But you still find yourself feeling sad inside, wishing for the storybook Thanksgivings that everyone else appears to be having.

And I’m still writing you, but talking about me.

Five years later. You’re still unpacking boxes in a house that feels foreign. Your husband’s job promotion has uprooted the four of you once again. Thanksgiving is tomorrow and it’s starting to snow outside. You fondly recall your mother-in-law’s hash brown casserole, wishing you could enjoy one more holiday with those who remain of that lively bunch. Maybe one day…when you have extra time and money. But traveling to California is expensive and vacation days are used up.

It’s the first Thanksgiving without your dad, who passed away in March. Being so busy with the move you haven’t let yourself grieve, although, right now, you ache for him. You want more than anything to put your arms around him and tell him that you love him. To hear his laughter and see the warm smile that always filled his eyes.

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Your mom, sister and nephews are spending the last Thanksgiving in the house you grew up in before it’s sold this-coming Spring. When your husband and boys had the idea of spending the holiday weekend deer hunting at a mountain lodge, you said “sure, that sounds good.” Why, oh why didn’t you insist on driving the nine hours back home?

But your mom will be driving up to spend December with you. A new chapter of holidays in Virginia will be written. Change. I guess we all go through it. Holidays coming and going, morphing with family dynamics.

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Tomorrow, at a strange hunting lodge in the middle of nowhere, you’ll embrace Thanksgiving 2014 and the time you have with your great, little family. You don’t want these days to end. But you know they will.

Thanks for letting me be you for a while. I’ll go back to being me now. Some things are just easier written in second person.

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About angelaweight

Awkward, imperfect, ADD wife to tightly wound financial planner, mom of two boys, and rescuer of lucky stray animals. I should probably see a therapist rather than write a blog. But hopefully I can offer a few laughs along the way.
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27 Responses to On the Menu: Turkey with a Side of Depression, Homesickness and Missing My Dad

  1. Rita East says:

    Thinking of you….especially this Thanksgiving. We love and we lose and life goes on. It must go on. I know your pain but we each have to deal with it privately. I’ve always felt your family was family. As always, your written words touch me.

    Like

  2. Allison Odom Wells says:

    Angela, your post resonates with me, and about 90% of everyone else. I’ve thought about Thanksgivings of the past at my “Mama Dots” house with all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Each year brings about change, some good and some extremely hard to deal with, although deal we must. Thanksgiving has dwindled down to my immediate family and my parents, although my son will be having Thanksgiving with his girlfriends family, and that is the next milestone you will go through with two boys.
    I saw Rob in the Rite Aid about 2 days before his accident and spoke with him a few minutes. He was the same as he ever was with that big smile spread across his face. Keep the warm memories close and they will carry you through the holidays. And, thanks for the smart, funny, witty posts that you bring.

    Like

  3. angelaweight says:

    Thanks, Allison!!! I loved the old photos you posted of Jeff and the others last week. So priceless!

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  4. angelaweight says:

    Love you, Miss Rita.

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  5. Thank you for sharing your story. I know how difficult the holiday’s are when we are missing the ones we love.

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  6. Big (((HUGS))) to you. I am still missing my brother who will be gone 15-years this Spring and this is the first Thanksgiving without my Dad too.
    I hope you have a blessed day tomorrow with your family and good luck in your new home!

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  7. elinwaldal says:

    This is so moving, Angela. You struck so many chords I honestly am at a loss for words… Thank you for sharing. xo

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  8. It’s so hard to write in second person but so effective the way you utilized it here. Thanks for being vulnerable and allowing us in. Thank you also for the wake-up call because I’ve been strangely complacent, also presuming that things will just stay like this.
    Take care tomorrow,
    Stephanie

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  9. Let’s try third person. Probably inappropriate story, so maybe you don’t want to read it.

    The Most Horrible Thanksgiving Ever Which Blighted Many More and Occasionally Echoes

    Once a very young and pregnant girl was due December 18. She ordered special toys and a furry white bunting for the baby. But the baby was stillborn on November 18th.

    On the way to auntie Edie’s traditional Thanksgiving feast, the young girl with the aching breasts and broken heart spent the ride thinking how she would be expected to not be grim and ruin everyone’s day. She practiced a cheerful countenance. She wore bright clothes.

    There was a gruesome accident on the interstate. At least 3 ambulances were having gurneys wheeled into them. Arriving at the destination, cheerful auntie inquired about the niece’s well being. After all, the girl had 6 or 7 days to get over her trauma, which, in those days, no one acknowledged. When the girl mentioned the horrible accident, of course symbolizing her personal loss, she began to weep. Auntie Cheer said one should count one’s blessings and give thanks for them on this wonderful day which was cold, grey and drizzly. A cousin, a Jesuit priest, you know, the guys that ran the Spanish Inquisition and invented waterboarding, said he heard she lost a baby and better luck next time.

    When the broken girl returned the expensive fuzzy bunting, the store clerk said, “Didn’t it fit?” The young lady said, “The baby died.” When she left the store, she felt she had been very cruel to the clerk.

    This is why Xanax is such a popular drug. It fills the holes in the brain and the heart. No. It puts band-aids on them.

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  10. Estelle says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. We need to remember there is only the now and it’s a gift.

    Like

  11. Musings on Motherhood & Midlife says:

    We need to always remember that we need to live in the now-which is a gift. Thanks for reminding us.

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  12. Waves and hugs from Madison. Your brother was so cute. And your boys so remind me of your nephews. Went through the the death of my dad and the selling of “our” house in Florida in the last few years. That’s the high price of loving hard. Separation — esp by death is so so painful. We are having one of those big rowdy Thanksgivings with my husband’s family. Thanks for this reminder this is precious.

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  13. Shamsiden says:

    So sorry for you losses, but glad you shared. It’s easy to think everyone is having a good time but you. Holidays changed forever when my dad died. Now I am starting new traditions with my son and his wife. Life keeps going. “Time may change us, but we can’t change time.” Happy Thanksgiving!

    Like

  14. javaj240 says:

    My life has not changed nearly as much as yours has, but there has been loss and change. These things are inevitable. I hope that you enjoy your mother’s visit and that your celebration at the hunting lodge goes well. Sometimes we have to make new traditions in the absence of the old ones. You’ll get through this. Here’s to a better tomorrow! Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are 🙂

    Like

  15. Tamara says:

    Thank you for sharing a piece of your family history with us. I am so sad for you.
    There are so many things we take for granted, and guess what, nothing is here forever.
    I hope you got to create new memories this Thanksgiving.

    Like

  16. neal says:

    thanks for for sharing such a beautiful heart.

    Like

  17. angelaweight says:

    Thanks for your sweet comment, Doreen. I hope you had a good Thanksgiving. But I know it was hard being the first without your dad.

    Like

  18. angelaweight says:

    Thanks for your sweet comment, Stephanie. I hope you had a good thanksgiving.

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  19. angelaweight says:

    Oh my gosh, my eyes are spilling tears as I read this. (No second or third person required.) I like how you pointed out that Xanax doesn’t fill the holes in our heart. Just covers them. Amazing the things that we ensure through our lives that just become part of our story…another chapter hidden behind a smiling mask.

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  20. angelaweight says:

    Thanks, Jamie! I’m betting y’all had at least one pecan pie for Thanksgiving. Or are you sick of them yet?

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  21. angelaweight says:

    Thanks! Yeah, we all go through it. That’s the part I have to remember. It’s not just “poor me.”

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  22. angelaweight says:

    Thanks, Jacqueline! I so enjoy your writing.

    Like

  23. angelaweight says:

    Thanks, Tamara! I’m so sorry I forgot Funny Friday. Will catch up and link tomorrow.

    Like

  24. javaj240 says:

    Right back at ya!

    Like

  25. Meg Verga says:

    Love your writing Angela, I’m so glad I got to know in our kid’s playgroup all those years ago. I read your blog and cried a few tears. The Hallmark holidays usually escaped our dysfunctional family…. But I sure miss the players now that they are gone.

    Like

  26. angelaweight says:

    Meg, thank you so much for your sweet comment. Our kids’ play group seems to long ago. That was fun, great people. Your house might’ve been the funnest.

    Like

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