The Last Homecoming – A Thanksgiving Story

Thanksgiving I

James was lost, truly lost. Not in the manner of one unable to locate a point on a map, a business or home address but lost in the sense of being without direction, without a guide and without purpose. His anxiety grew as he exited the plane and walked through the corridor to the boarding gate. He was home again but it was not the home he remembered. Everything was virtually unrecognizable. He had been away for ten years but now it seemed as if it were a lifetime ago. He stood motionless for what seemed an eternity outside of the gate as he contemplated what to do next. “Can I help you find your way sir?”, a burly voice from a rather robust lady thundered from behind him. “I’m not really sure where to go”, were the words that seemed to flow easiest from his mouth. “Wow, you have quite an accent there. You must be a long way from home”, she said which sounded both as a genuine curiosity and an unwelcome flirtation of interest. “I have been out of the country for a while. Can you guide me to the baggage claim please?” Absolutely, just turn right and keep straight. Directions will guide you the rest of the way, she stated in a helpful manner but still one that made him uncomfortable as if that was even possible. James gave a half smile, one that conveyed gratitude but not enough to substantiate the woman’s interest in him. “Welcome back sir and I hope that your stay is a pleasant one”, she stated with a jovial tone. James quickly headed down the bustling corridor, his anxiety deepening with each step if not due to the return home then to escape a predator on the hunt. He reached the baggage claim area where others from the flight were impatiently crowding and jockeying for position in front of the conveyor. He hated this part of the journey. He had not flown in ten years and it was just the same as he remembered it, people of every gender, race, fashion-sense or lack there of, all competing for that perfect spot with no regard for others around them. As the light signalled the start of the bag conveyor they all pushed closer as if waiting for the gun shot to begin a heated race. As he pulled his bag from the belt he felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. His bag, newly purchased and somewhat expensive was nearly unrecognizable. It had the appearance as if it had been used constantly over a period of years rather than one that was purchased two days ago. There was a dent on one side of it and scrapes all over it as if had been purposely thrown into a cattle stampede. He wanted to complain but what was the use. This is so typical he thought. No one cares anymore they way they used to about the quality of their work, that is if they ever had. They don’t care about the job that they do or about others. And the status of his bag would be such an insignificant thing to them especially considering that I did have it and that their primary purpose is to make as much money as possible. Why would they spend any time caring about a beat-up old bag from an unimportant person? I mean it’s not as though he were the president or some visiting V.I.P.

He collected his belongings and reluctantly step outside to wait for his ride. His father had promised to collect him from the airport but he was no where to be found. He tried calling him on a phone he had recently purchased at another airport earlier in his journey. It was just a cheap device that he bought to have a local number. The sound was horrible and he could barely navigate his way around the damn thing to even make a call much less anything else. He tried calling his father several times without success. This is absolutely perfect he thought. His father was in his seventies now but still quite active for a man of his age. He thought about calling a taxi but to be honest he was not sure of where he would be going or with whom he would be staying. And the journey of nearly 30 minutes to his old home town would cost a fortune. The fact that it was about a month away from the Thanksgiving holiday and there was an up-tick in travellers would only contribute to the expense of the ride. He stood there in disbelief. He had spoken with members of his family and had informed them that he would be arriving and here he was, alone with no one to depend on. Again, so typical he thought. This was his life – alone with no one to depend on, no one to truly care about him. Within minutes his new cheap phone began to ring with an old ring tone of earlier telephones. He hated it but was unsure of how to alter it. It was his father calling him. As he answered the call he tried to downplay the exasperation and disappointment he was feeling with regard to his late arrival in picking him up. “Hello son, where are you?”, he stated in a voice that seemed virtually the same to him perhaps slightly older than what he had remembered. “I am waiting outside of the baggage claim area, where are you?” I’m just making my way around and will be there in a second. See you in a bit, his father stated. “What am I doing back here?”, he pondered. I am right back where I started. At that point a feeling of total despair washed over him as if life itself was coming to an end. As he raised his head from staring hopelessly at the paved walkway he noticed a shiny, metallic grey four door sedan pull up beside him. It was his father waving him over to get in to the vehicle. He had a reserved look on his face that seemed to hide both euphoria and relief to finally see his son again after ten years. He looked nearly the same as he remembered but slightly older and with less hair of course. “Come on, get in! I can’t stay parked here for long”. James began to load his bags into the back seat as if he were loading military gear onto a transport vehicle that would take him to a new life filled with harsh regimented rules and closely monitored routines. He really felt awful and to a certain extent, a teenager who was no longer able to take care of himself after tasting independence and freedom.

As he sat next to his father in the passenger seat, there was a sense of awkwardness and unfamiliarity. This would soon pass as Adam began his typical nagging about the most minor of things such as – he did not need to have his carry-bag in the front seat with him; why did he have to come out of the particular exit that he did and that he should have shaved his face much better before traveling. In this way time stood still and the same sense of exhaustion that he felt being around his father prior to leaving was still there. The small talk on the way back to the town where he had spent a good part of his youth felt mind numbing. Anger began to swell within him. The idea that he was now 40 and heading back to his childhood home in failure was humbling. His marriage had failed, he was nearly broke and facing the idea of having to start life over again. The idea of having to move in with his older sister Claire was also very unpleasant. It had always been his desire to live independently no matter what. James had seen several of his siblings move back home with his parents during times of trouble and stress in years past. He did not want this for his life as it smacked of failure.

The small-talk slowly devolved into a discussion of mistakes that his father made that he felt had some how resulted in what his life had degraded into. Twelve years earlier James found himself in the middle of a heated custody battle with his ex-girlfriend for his son. One in which he was essentially fighting alone against his psychologically and emotionally disturbed ex, her family, an unscrupulous attorney and a corrupt judicial system which seemed to be unjustly against male single parents. He pleaded for his father’s assistance and some financial support. Adam felt that his son should fight his own battles at the time. James always wanted to be independent well now he had to prove that he could be, was his father’s mantra. From James’ point of view this was an all or nothing fight and he needed to know that his family was behind him especially his father. When they weren’t and he lost the battle even the right to spend time with his son, a loathing came over him. His entire view of what he believed life was changed 180 degrees instantaneously. There was nothing left for him to believe in not his family especially his father, not his friends, his country and certainly not God. How could all of them have abandoned him? Where was justice? Where was the happily ever-after for the good person and father that he felt he was? I mean he was a good father he thought. For the few years that he had to raise Jason alone, he gave him everything he could – a nice home to live in; private school to attend; music lessons and sports activities that he coached. They were virtually inseparable. Everyone believed that he was spoiling that child rotten. But he didn’t care, he truly loved him more than anything. When he accepted a job in another state for better wages, legal wrangling was used by his ex Tory to separate him from his beloved son culminating in a nasty and horrific custody battle. He truly wanted to be a an integral part in raising his son and in a moment it had all been taken away. His life was ruined and no one seemed to care. The anger festered within him culminating into a hatred that he kept walled up deep inside. Shortly thereafter he went through the stages of grief but acceptance never came. He then fell into an ill-fated relationship which turned into an ill-fated marriage. The only thing that he felt necessary to do then was to run away to another country. A far off land that in his mind, was where he was destined to be. Where he could forget everything and everyone and leave it all behind him. He became even more isolated afterward though he managed to stay in touch with his father from time to time. The life he had knew before was dead and he wanted to carve out a new one. However, his marriage had broken down partly due to what he carried inside and partly because the woman he had married just wasn’t right for him. She had her own baggage to deal with which in and of itself was overwhelming. He soon found himself alone again drifting from one relationship to another and dying more and more inside. When his visa finally expired he could no longer maintain a job and was forced to leave his adopted home behind. Ten years of his life adapting and adjusting was now gone. Grief had found him once again and he now had to confront those same demons that he believed were buried so long ago.

He greeted the flight back home with fear and trepidation. He had been in contact with his father and a few of his siblings prior to returning. They all urged him to come back and encouraged him to start again back home. He really did not want to but had no choice. The thought of hearing his native tongue being spoken again filled him with apathy. He mourned nearly the entire trip back. Nearly ten hours of mourning compressed mainly in a cramped, congested and confined cabin space. Now he was back and those demons were waiting for him. As the past was drudged up again, his father took the usual way out of the conversation. “That is history now and you need to put it behind you and move on. Let that out of your heart and God will help you to move on”, he preached. Since mom had died nearly twenty years earlier, he became committed to the Christian faith. He tried to immerse us in those same Christian waters. For a while James too wholly believed and endeavoured to follow in that same path but after the loss of his son it became difficult for him to believe that anyone was out there watching over him. How could they be? What God would allow such things to happen? And now that he has returned, the same self-righteousness that he left behind confronted him once again. It only took the mention of his father’s actions or lack there of, to nullify his preaching. At the very mention of the loss that James felt and his father’s roll in it was enough to send Adam recoiling in his own frailty and perhaps guilt. “My pressure is quite high and I don’t want to rehash this same old thing again and again”, he bellowed. His entire demeanor would change and he would become silent and withdrawn. That’s how they spent the remaining twenty minutes ride into town – two people riding in silence. James believed it was the guilt that overcame his father and he used that to hurt him every time he felt the pain and anguish of the loss of his son.

As they slowly reached his sister Claire’s house, his heart sunk further as the end of his unwanted journey approached. There were no cars visible in her driveway and the house seemed dark as if it were abandoned. “Perhaps she was out. You want to spend the night at home with me?”, his father humbly asked. James’ response was a quick and resounding “No!” He did not want to spend anymore unnecessary time with his father than he had to. There was too much pain and the memories were unbearable. He quickly exited the car and began to knock on the door. Immediately a dog began barking uncontrollably inside. He asked his father if he could ring Claire and find out where she was. This was absolutely perfect he thought. She knew that he would be on his way yet no one is at home. “You can’t depend on anyone!”, he fumed. After about seven minutes of knocking he was nearing defeat and prepared himself for a stay in a place he had no desire to be. Suddenly the light came on outside of the front door. Perhaps God did not hate him as much as he thought. As the door opened his sister appeared in her pajamas. “Sorry but I hadn’t been feeling well and took something to help me sleep”. James kissed her on the cheek upon walking through the door as if a lowly servant was thanking his master for sparing his life. It felt as if an enormous burden had been lifted from him. He could not bear to look back at his father as he walked inside the spacious open living room. Upon entering, the fierce noise of the guard dog barking now had a face. It was revealed to be a poodle whose bark was totally inconsistent with his stature. Shut up girl, Claire ordered or you are going back inside your cage. The dog immediately obeyed though she continued to size James up. Adam brought in his bags and gave the ritual kiss and hug to his daughter. They were never particularly close but somehow formed a working father-daughter relationship in his absence. Sorry but Louise is inside the guest room sleeping. She just got out of the hospital after being sick for the past several weeks with a recurring problem that the doctors have yet to diagnose. She came back here to stay about a week ago so I apologize about the room. “I hope it’s not too serious?” James expressed a level of concern but was clearly too self-absorbed with his own issues. No she will be alright. It occurs once every 3 to 4 months or so. She experiences a loss of appetite and tends to vomit from time to time but other than that she seems to manage through it. “And the doctors have no idea what is causing it?, James asked. No, but she will be perfectly fine in a day or two. Louise was one of Claire’s five daughters. She was the second oldest. She had always been the classic drifter type. She was in her mid twenties now and never maintained a steady job. She also tended to smoke marijuana which she believed eased the pain of her condition even though she smoked it whether she was sick or not. Everyone else believed she was just a pothead and smoked for the pure enjoyment of it all. In fact, she could have been one of the original Dead Heads. She could also be quite reckless and irresponsible at times. She once left a bag of her special herbs sitting out while visiting his sister Annie’s house. Here dog, another poodle named Queen, found her way into it and consumed the entire bag. According to Annie the dog became so lethargic that it wouldn’t eat for days. She was livid, though when the story is retold the comical factor of it all always comes true followed by hysterical laughter of those listening to it.

“The couch will have to do”, Claire informed James regrettably. “That did not matter to him as he was elated at not having to spend time with his father at home. And besides, sleeping on couches felt very natural to him. He tended to fall asleep on the sofa watching the TV every since he was ten. He enjoyed it much more than sleeping in his room where watching television was forbidden. Jeanie is in the other room but she is at work now. Jeanie was the youngest. She had always been the quiet unassuming type James remembered. Claire always seemed to brag on her for something or another. It seemed that she was her favourite though two of her other daughters were away at university – Corrine and Leah. They were the third and fourth children respectively. Leah was the one most committed to her studies. She wanted to be a doctor and agonized over every single exam and grade received. If they were not perfect or to her expectations, she would become depressed and cry as if torturing herself was a way of atoning for failing to achieve. Corrine was the most business oriented. She worked several jobs and did whatever it took to be independent. James had appreciated that aspect of her personality the most. Claire’s oldest was Nancy. She was the most responsible. Everyone tended to look to her when anything requiring stability, honesty and integrity was ordered. She was also the most understanding and kind-hearted. This James respected above all. As he noticed the photos of them around the house he became disheartened. He remembered how he used to spend time playing video games with them; listening to their crazy thoughts and conversations and playfully tormenting them from time to time. He also remembered happier times when his son Jason would spend hours being spoiled by his cousins. They had all grown up now and none were the little kids he had teased and tormented for what seemed an eternity ago. The one thing that he had always loved about his former home was that nothing seemed to really change or grow old. Now as he grasped exactly how much everything had changed, he felt that the “Peter Pan” persona that had always been apart of him slowly slipping away and nothing would ever be the same again. As reality slowly settled in, he realize that he had to get his life in order now. He could not and would not cling to a world that was slowly passing away. The next couple of hours were spent rekindling old memories and getting everyone caught up on each others individual life journeys. Adam quietly said his farewell and departed into the night. Both he and James had an understanding of how things were between them. There was love for sure but there were also all these other things too and neither knew exactly how to manage through it.

The next several days James spent trying to acclimate himself to being back, meeting family members new and old and also having to rely on the kindness of others in order to live and survive. It was a position he was not used to being in and he hated it. Especially the fact that he had very little money and could not pay his own way. This might be alright for now but it would soon be a burden he thought. No matter how much someone may love you, there comes a point when you need to be a contributor, to start paying your own way. You need to be able to survive on your own, if not for the sake of being a burden on others then for your own sake. James tried hard to do just that. Besides searching for jobs, he did housework, mowed the lawn, eat as little of Claire’s food as possible and essentially tried to stay out of every-ones way. As Thanksgiving was fast approaching, he was hoping to find a job and be out on his own by then in his own flat whether it was locally or in another town or preferably another state. He hadn’t spent the last ten Thanksgivings at home so what was one more. There was something about the word “family” that did not seem to apply to his now anyway. Everyone preached that they should spend more time together and share their lives more but somehow that seemed to be just theory and something that was never really put into practice. There was somewhat of a falseness to the family gatherings. They usually include the attempt at being a close-nit unit such as the jovial laughter, drinking and eating shared meals but they often involved showing off ones successes and subtle bragging about their individual accomplishments. In some instances it included the proverbial back-stabbing and improper displays of jealousy. This was not what James wanted nor how he remembered sharing holidays such as this in his childhood. He was determined to do what he could, bide his time and hopefully find his way out again.

There was however an obstacle that would stand squarely in his path as they often do popping up unexpectedly. Claire’s youngest daughter Jeanie was very inquisitive and the most troubled. She was now in her final year of high-school, a self confirmed lesbian and headstrong in her beliefs about herself and others. She was nothing like the little girl he remembered just ten years ago. She was grown now with the mind of a child heavily anchored in the body of a young woman and that was dangerous. She had become very stoic and cynical and also selfish and mean-spirited. She was quite bohemian in appearance though she had decidedly taken a masculine persona. Unsure of how to deal with the person she had become, James walked softly around her taking more of an adult, mentor role. This was difficult for him as it was a deviation from who he was – a kid at heart, childish and playful especially around his nieces and nephews and all children in general. This however, seemed to be the best approach. Jeanie’s demeanor would grow increasingly sarcastic and disrespectful to everyone who she felt was of no use to her. To James’ surprise she had recently been in trouble with the law and was now on probation and for what, no one was willing to discuss. It was kept fairly secret. It wasn’t this revelation that shocked James but the drastic manor in which she had changed. Here appearance, use of fowl language, manor-ism, style of dress and the way she talked about and addressed others especially her elders, were unbelievably disrespectful and unrecognizable. This was never an accepted behaviour when he was her age. Louise was the childish, irresponsible wanderer that would sometimes lie and steal from you but that could be understood although difficult to deal with sometimes. But Jeanie was altogether different. She obviously had intelligence but what drove her to this state? Was she spoiled too much growing up? Could it have been the neediness of the youngest to be noticed? Or maybe it was the fact that there was not much interaction with her father though he would insure that she always had money for her needs but did not spend much time with her? Whatever the issue was she was definitely a handful to deal with. The relationship between the two of them had come under some strain as Jeanie lashed out at him for virtually no reason at all. James felt highly awkward as he seemed to be caught in between the respect he had for his older sister and the painful relationship that now existed with his niece. Given the fact that he still had no job and several weeks had passed, life again became virtually unbearable. In fact, the more time he spent around his family the more he came to understand just how complex their relationship with one another had become. In his absence all of them had learned exactly what it took to coexist without pushing the boundary too far. Whether it was his father with his siblings; his nieces and nephews with one another and their parents or the dynamic dysfunctional relationship his siblings had with one another. In any case, he was the outsider now. He was on the outside looking in and if he hadn’t felt alone before, he certainly felt it now. There was no one in his corner and the isolation within began to grow. Things had reached such a boiling point that Claire politely asked him if he could stay with his father for a while. She made up some story about needing some more space around the house for this reason or that but he could read between the lines. No matter what type of person Jeanie was evolving into she was still Claire’s daughter and that trumps anyone and anything else. James now found himself in the unenviable position of spending time with his father again. With the Thanksgiving holiday only days away and surrounded by family that he did not seem to know anymore, he never felt so alone.

As the holiday grew near, it was customary for everyone to draw a dish, Thanksgiving IIIlike in a lottery, to make for the gathering. James’ siblings got the main dishes to bring – the turkey, stuffing, casseroles, pies etc. Claire’s kids usually drew the minor accompaniments to the meal such as cranberry sauce and salads. Louise, now fully recovered from her mysterious illness, was tasked with bringing the drinks to save her from any sort of work related preparation not that they trusted her to make anything anyway. It seemed to be important that this holiday be perfect. It was unclear how many more Thanksgivings their father Adam would be around for. The fact that James was home this year drove that point home more than at any other time. Being home for him was both a blessing and a curse. He had longed to spend time surrounded by his family as he had remembered in years past. Simply being around them during the holiday season overwhelmed him with the memories of his youth. He recalled waking up early on a cold crisp Thanksgiving morning to the smell of his mother’s cooking. The sites, sounds and aroma’s that flowed from the kitchen dominated his senses. There was a turkey being prepared along with the stuffing and cranberry sauce as usual. There was also that spicy Macaroni & Cheese that he loved so much that could only be prepared by his mother, Alexandra. Then there was his mom’s favourite String Bean Casserole with the breaded crumbs on top. James hated the site of it but as long as he didn’t have to eat it he gave his blessings for her to add it to the holiday menu. There were other dishes and soup starters as well as everyone’s favourites – the cakes and pies. Thanksgiving XThe sweet potato pie was a traditional favourite during this time of year that was always on the menu and could only be made by his mom. It was absolutely forbidden for anyone else to even attempt to make it. One taste of it would send him into pure ecstasy though he could never stop at a taste or one piece for that matter. Approximately three had to be made as James always claimed one whole one for himself.

The kitchen at Thanksgiving always seemed as if an army of chefs were hard at work preparing a feast for a royal court. Of course it was only his mother cooking but she had command of the kitchen as though she were a general leading troops into battle. James’ only orders were to stay well clear of the food with an emphasis on the Sweet potato pie! After taking in the smells of the kitchen, it was time for his usual bowl of sugary cereal in his comfortable spot on the family couch to watch the yearly ThanksgivingThanksgiving VI Day Macy’s parade. He could hardly wait to see which one of his favourite cartoon characters would make their way as a massive balloon hovering high along the New York skyline. The floats and marching bands also left an indelible impression upon him that could not be separated from the holiday or the season. And then in the early afternoon, it was time for the football games. Back in the good ole days the traditional rivalry that was a must see was the annual Dallas Cowboys challenging the Washington Redskins. Yes it was Cowboys versus Indians and James loved the Cowboys. He knew just about everything about each member of the team and their iconic coach. And lest anyone should fail to forget the Dallas Cowboys’ Cheerleaders in their revealing

at Cowboys Stadium on November 22, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.

blue blouses, white vests and those Daisy Duke shorts! It was a must see every year and he was a loyal fan. But things were different now. His mother was no longer there and gone to were the inviting smells and aromas from the kitchen. The sweet potato pies won’t taste quite the same made by anyone else or they were store bought. That was an absolute crime! The Cowboys rarely play the Redskins on Thanksgiving anymore or shall we call them the Washington Native Americans just to stay politically correct now. And the family was not really a family anymore. They were nothing more than a loose confederation trying to maintain a working, cohesive relationship. It was all quite sterile and staged. No, nothing felt the same, smelled the same or tasted the same. Everything was different so very different. It was the pentacle of a childhood lost.Thanksgiving VIII

 

The holiday meal was now rotated between one of his sibling’s homes instead of his family residence. This year it was to be held at his sister Erica’s house. Erica was the most stable of his brothers and sisters. She had been married to her husband Edward for 15 years, a lifetime in the world of marriages and relationships today. She had one son, Adam who she named after their father. Better for him to carry that name than James. The thought of being the second Adam in the family or being called “junior” horrified him. If there was one thing he could think of to be thankful for this holiday it was that. Erica went all out no matter which holiday was being celebrated. Her home was usually elaborately decorated but always in good taste. She was a strong believer in family as well but also understood the unique nature of our own particular family and their idiosyncrasies. She was so easy-going however, that nothing really seemed to bother her and consequently, everyone in the family usually held her in very high regard. She and James were the youngest and closest, at least in the way of their overall natures. Erica was one year older than James. They both attended the same schools growing up even graduated from the same university. Oddly enough, their major field of study were also quite similar, she majoring in Psychology and he in Sociology. They were quite similar in nearly every way but drifted slowly apart as it was James’ nature to travel the world. Like and old married couple or best friends that had been separated by distance and time – they simply grew apart. It was one of James’ greatest regrets. He wished that he and Erica as well as the rest of the family could have remained closer. This was especially important for him after the loss of his mother and then his son. But it was not to be and traveling away from everyone was just his way of coping with it all. Under any other circumstances he would have enjoyed spending time with Erica but not now and not this particular holiday. In a time in his life where family should have been an anchor for him, he felt the need to just sail away to some distant and secluded land far away from everyone and everything. He had already informed his father of his intentions not to attend the dinner at Erica’s much to his disappointment. When asked why he would not be spending time with the family, James thought to give some superficial explanation. One that would not prompt some in-depth, detailed discussion. He did not want to rehash old feelings and pain nor did he want to broach his feelings with respect to the family especially in light of his recent issues with his sister Claire and her daughter Jeanie. He thought it best he remained silent on the matter. His father, visibly saddened by the revelation, simply stated that he understood though his body language revealed otherwise.

Thanksgiving VIIIn the United States, Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday in the month of November. Historically, it was a day when the native American Indians sat down with the European settlers in Plymouth, Massachusetts to share their bounty and give thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. To James it was a true holiday of peace and goodwill. Unlike Christmas which always was so commercial where presents were expected to be exchanged, Thanksgiving was a pure holiday. Families gather to share each others lives and company over a nice meal, good wine or fizzy drinks for the children and to express their gratitude for one another and all that they have to be grateful for in their lives. This Thanksgiving Day morning arrived like most others he had remembered in the past, of course with the obvious differences. It was a beautiful, cold, crisp Autumn morning. The air was unbelievably fresh and the sky was clear, blue and inviting. As in Thanksgiving mornings past, James instinctively went to the kitchen but there was no symphony of tongue teasing aroma’s beckoning and no welcoming smile from his mother to greet him. It was just like any other morning, nothing special about it at all. He desperately tried to capture the feeling of the day by attempting to continue on emulating his past routines. It was undeniably painful without his mother there but he tried anyway. He poured himself a hearty Lucky Charmsbowl of his favourite kid cereal “Lucky Charms” with all of its colourful marshmallow shapes. They had evolved from the classical shapes of the pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, green clovers, blue diamonds, purple horseshoes and red balloons but essentially it was still the same cereal. He then carved out a comfortable spot on the family couch and turned on the television hoping to watch the Macy’s Day parade. As he began childishly spooning large amounts of cereal in his mouth, he paused and looked around the spacious room. Every aspect of the holidays in the past roamed through every corner of his mind. This isn’t right he thought. It wasn’t just the fact thatLucky Charms II his mom was gone and that there was no cooking emanating from the kitchen or that none of his other siblings were there roaming through the large house bickering with one another regarding some insignificant thing or another. It just wasn’t the same and no matter how much he wanted it so, it never was going to be the way it was again. Was that the meaning of what it meant to truly grow old? To totally lose connection with ones childhood and past? He placed his bowl of cereal on the end table next to the couch, turned the TV off, walked depressingly back to his room and went to bed.

 

Several hours passed as he lay in bed unable to get back to sleep as the echoes of the past kept him awake. A knock at his door interrupted the deep despair that consumed him. “Son, it’s me. May I come in?”, the familiar concrete voice of his father brought him back to the reality of the here and now. Seconds later, there his father stood dressed in his Sunday’s best. “I am heading over to Erica’s now. You sure you don’t want to ride along? I know that everyone will be happy to see you.” No thank you, he replied with a total lack of interest. Well there is some meatloaf from yesterday if you should get hungry, Adam stated passively. I’ll try and bring back something for you later. James just laid there silently without feeling, without emotion and then rolled back over as if to appear to fall back into a blissful rest. His father reluctantly closed the door to his room standing just outside lamenting on the current state his son was in. Was he the cause of his son’s grief? Was he a horrible father? He could not stop thinking about his past actions in his mind and what impact it may have had on James’ life. A sense of guilt poured over him that he could not shake as he walked through the front door. James stayed in bed for what seemed liked the entire day though only several hours had passed. It was early afternoon now, just about the time he would be preparing to watch his Dallas Cowboys play in the signature Thanksgiving Day football game. The Cowboys however, weren’t even playing today. His mother was gone; he had no son to share the day with; his family was wasn’t the same; there was no holiday meal and now no Cowboys or their cheerleaders to watch. This was sacrilege! There was no cease to the sorrow and self pity he was feeling for himself. As he laid there falling deeper into depression there suddenly came sounds from what seemed to be the family room of the house. He couldn’t have left the TV on he thought to himself but would not have bet on that by the way he was feeling. In fact he couldn’t be sure of anything. The day so far seemed to be amassed in one massive smoked filled haze. Then without warning his door sprang open. “What are you still doing in bed!” It was his sister Erica and outside behind her he could clearly hear a number of voices engaged in all sorts of social interactions and laughter. “What are you doing here?”, he stated now fully alert and trying to cover himself up with his sheets and blankets. “No, the question is little brother, what are you doing here?!”, she rebutted. She recanted how everything was roaring to go at her house when their father showed up alone. She went on to tell him that she coaxed him into telling her about why he was not in attendance. As James began to interrupt her he was quickly quieted by his older sister. Erica closed the door behind her and sat on the end of his bed like she used to do sometimes when they were kids. “I can’t begin to understand everything you are going through or what you are feeling”, she stated. I know that life is hard for you at the moment but things will get better for you. I can’t tell you when or how but I just know that they will. She continued on as if lecturing a grade school student. I also know that things aren’t perfect with us but you are still part of this family and I want you to try for one day to put all of the pain and anguish that you are feeling behind you and just join us, please! Erica had a look of sincerity and deep determination on her face. He had seen that look on her face many times before and knew that arguing with her would yield no results. In this way Erica was just like their mother. She was always a soft and gentle soul but when pushed, sheer force and determination took over. Whatever it was that she wanted, his mother got. Some of us believed that’s how she got their father to stop playing around and propose to her. Erica had inherited that aspect of her personality in spades. “Now, get up and get showered and whatever else you do and come join us!”, she gave in a Drill Sergeant tone. As she headed out of his door she followed it up with, “And don’t be long!” He felt like saying “yes mom” but caught himself.

James really didn’t want to attend but like with his mother, he dare not challenge Erica’s wishes. He then got up and prepared to join the social gathering outside of the sanctuary that was his room. After thirty minutes had passed, he appeared before the crowd – freshly showered and clean shaved to a warm welcome by nearly everyone in attendance. He still felt the tenseness between him, his sister Clair and her daughter Jeanie but he took it upon himself to put any differences behind him at least for the day. He greeted both of them cordially with a pleasant but reserved “Happy Thanksgiving” which was returned in kind. He then felt a hand from behind him on his left shoulder and a thunderous, “Are you going to watch the remainder of the game with us little brother?” It was his older brother George, a former high school star athlete and now a construction Foreman by trade. The Eagles are beating the Giants by 10 points. “Sure, why not”, he replied. It wasn’t the Cowboys but life wasn’t perfect he thought. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and roll the dice. As he was greeted by family and friends alike as he moved through the crowded room to the couch he smiled and contemplated what life had been like for him in the past and what it is now. He realized that he was grounded in the past reliving it over and over. The very nature of life is “change”. It is the one thing that no one has control over. There will be times when one gets lost and has abysmal failures but there will also be successes. And when those triumphs come, you have to savour them and live within that moment. His mother always used to say, “the sun has to shine sometime. There won’t always be cloudy and rainy days”. This she used to tell him whenever he would have a bad day at school or some bully picked on him from the neighborhood. At the moment he recalled her words and sat down on his favourite part of the couch to watch the game, he could smell one of her famous sweet potato pies emanating from the kitchen and filling every part of his family home. As he sat next to his father for what would be the last time, he finally came to terms with the way things were and not the way he wanted them to be. With a future that is guaranteed to no one, the best any of us can do is be Thankful for what we do have in the here and now.

happy-thanksgiving

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