Mom just nodded and smiled at me. I truly don’t think she has any memory of Thanksgiving – last year or ten years ago. Or fifty years ago, for that matter. She just attempts to make us feel better when she nods her head in agreement.
I asked her to take her rings off so I could clean them and, while she slowly wrestled the engagement ring my dad gave her off her left hand and my grandmother’s ring off her right, I kept up a light patter. Mom gets nervous these days when no one is talking. And she certainly doesn’t start any conversations herself.
I knew the story, but I asked mom about it hoping that she would remember. She just said that the name sounded familiar.
So I changed the subject because I felt sad that mom’s memories are so faded they are virtually nonexistent anymore.
Later on at home, as I was walking Maggie Minx, I began reminiscing about those holidays.
I remember when I was a kid, my grandparents would split their holidays between their daughters’ families. We were in Ohio and our aunt and uncle and cousins lived in Connecticut, so it was impossible for Nanna and Grandpa to see us all for both holidays. One year we’d see them at Thanksgiving and the next year they’d visit us at Christmas.
Sometimes, we’d travel to that state up north to visit our Michigan cousins for the holiday. The bonus was that around Thanksgiving was my cousin Dorothy’s birthday, so we’d always have that celebration added in.
My mom used to tell the story about how that year she had to pinch-hit for my Aunt Babbie who had to abandon her hosting duties to birth a baby.
Thanksgiving my junior year at Ohio State was a memorable one. That year, I hitched a ride with one of the secretaries in the Metallurgical Engineering department at Ohio State where I was a student office assistant. Cecily was driving close to Alliance to pick up her daughters from college and bring them back to Columbus, so she said she’d be glad to give me a ride.
My dad was to pick me up from a pre-determined spot. So I loaded up her van with all the essentials I’d need for the break, including an entire bag of shoes. I had comfy shoes. I had shoes for dancing. And I had basic black flats for everything else. Since there was a lot of snow on the ground, on my feet I wore big clunky snow boots.
This footwear turned out to be a blessing because what Cecily didn’t tell me was that her van did not have a working heater. My first clue as to what kind of a ride I was getting was when she picked me up from my campus apartment and there was a puffy sleeping bag on the passenger seat. Cecily told me to hop in and zip myself into the bag or else I’d freeze.
She wasn’t kidding. Within the first 10 minutes of our drive, I turned into a human popsicle. My teeth were chattering. My nose was running. And my hands and feet felt like frozen hamburger.
By the time we reached the hand-off spot where my dad was waiting in his beautiful heated car, I was near tears because I was so cold. Only I was afraid to let the tears fall as I knew they'd freeze on my face.
So we transferred my bags into my dad’s trunk, said a quick, shivering “ggggoood-bye!” to Cecily and took off. When we reached my parents’ house in Alliance and unloaded dad’s car, I realized I’d left the bag of shoes in Cecily’s trunk. And all I had to wear were those big clunky snow boots.
How was I going to go out dancing with Diana in big clunky snow boots??
My mom took pity on her poor, half-frozen daughter, gave her a little cash and sent her shopping for a pair of shoes that would get her through the break. And what sort of footwear did said daughter choose? Why, a pair of purple suede boots, of course.
Mom just rolled her eyes when I came home with those boots wearing a big goofy grin on my face. I loved those boots. And to this day, I still remember them. And it makes me smile.
There were some Thanksgivings I didn’t really want to come home. I was dating someone and wanted to stay in Columbus, or I had been invited to gatherings that friends were having. But my parents insisted that I come home.
I might have been a little put out at the time…but now I’m glad I went. Because those are the memories I cherish. Thanksgivings spent with my family.
One year, my cousins Brian and Joy and their two kids drove from their home near Pittsburgh to spend Thanksgiving with us, which was memorable as we rarely had extended family nearby and able to visit.
And then, a couple years ago, mom and dad were slated to spend Thanksgiving with us in Columbus. I was planning to drive to Alliance and pick them up. And then I’d take them back home after the weekend.
But dad called me the day before and cancelled. He didn’t really give me any explanation and I was pretty upset with him. I didn’t want them spending the day alone. I knew dad wouldn’t cook and mom, by this point, was pretty deep in her dementia and never ventured into the kitchen on her own. So I was worried about them
Plus, I’d bought food for the whole weekend, including the things mom and dad liked that neither Vince nor I ate or drank. So I was a little upset about that, too.
Later, I realized that dad had really wanted to come visit, but mom refused to leave her rocking chair. And that put dad in an awkward position. He couldn’t tell me the truth since he was sitting a foot away from mom.
Later still, I felt so badly about my attitude toward him. And I apologized, but dad – being the kind-hearted man he was – didn’t need my apology; he’d already forgiven me. Rather, he felt he owed me the apology.
And it makes me miss him all the more.
Yes, I’m feeling nostalgic about Thanksgivings spent with family when we were all healthy and whole. And, even though I’m grateful that I have Vince by my side to spend the day with, Thanksgivings will never be the same.
So I wish you a happy day. Whether you spend the day with parents, grandparents, cousins, children, grandchildren or friends – make it a good one. And cherish the memories.