Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Days of Future Past

“Our memories are the only paradise from which
 we can never be expelled.”

It feels like she has been gone longer, but we have just passed the nine month mark…and tomorrow will be a melancholy Thanksgiving Day for our family.

It is still hard to imagine that my beautiful mother, dressed in her casually elegant style will never again arrive slightly frazzled; relieved at having survived the harrowing drive through city traffic. She will never again unload enough food from her trunk to feed Pharaoh and his army. She won’t sit with each of us through the course of the day, asking and listening; living a little vicariously through our stories and adventures.

She won’t be there to bask with us in the delicious once-a-year smells that signal our homage to tradition. We won’t pass around my sister’s picture books, reminiscing about time and people now gone. And without her, who will insist that we all gather in a circle to share what we are most thankful for?

A year ago, we came together at my brother’s home for what would be our last Thanksgiving with her. It was also the day I should have realized she was dying (denial trumped by hope). The moment I walked into the house, I was ushered to the back bathroom where my visibly shaken sisters were trying to fix my mother’s hair and put some make-up on her ashen, hollow face. She was struggling to breathe, and while we tried our best to move through the motions of the day, the air was heavy with fear and concern.

Sadly, we won’t be together this Thanksgiving. Perhaps we are still feeling a little lost as we continue to ponder our new roles within our forever-changed family. I long for someone to lead us, but it isn't time. Maybe we have convinced ourselves that our sadness entitles us to this limbo. For now at least, we have chosen to honor our grief over our mother’s memory.

So my Dad is going to join my two sisters. My brother is driving his family to California. For me and my husband, our blended family of eight daughters, their men and a grandbaby will put us in the center of our own Thanksgiving.

My oldest daughter, Joni Rose, trying to ease the stress and sadness of this day for me, offered early on to host. She wants to cook her first turkey. Of course, she has her own ideas of what she wants the day to be. Casual wear and comfortable shoes will replace high fashion and high heels. An open house and buffet table will replace our formal sit-down dinner. Friends and extended family will most likely come and go throughout the day.

She has also told me that she does not want us to sit around in a circle to share what we are thankful for. But even without the circle, my list of thankfuls is long. I might not be able to say it out loud tomorrow, but I am so thankful for the precious memories of the family we used to be. And I will stay hopeful for the family we can become.

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