a toast to those who can’t be here

Well, it’s here.  Thanksgiving.  And I’m happy to say, after several years of my mom spending the holiday up north with extended family, she’ll be spending tomorrow at my house.  So she’ll be here to remind me how to make the stuffing.  And the pies.  And the gravy.  And I’ll turn my back so she can pretend she’s stealing the turkey’s liver and heart, like she had to do with her siblings (something no one else in this house would eat anyway.)

I’m sure it will be a great day from the moment we stuff the bird until the moment we discover we’re too stuffed to eat another bite.

But as much as my Thanksgiving will be perfectly normal and chaotic, this will be a difficult holiday for many. 

My thoughts go out to my ex-husband and my children, still feeling the loss of my former mother-in-law who recently passed.  And to my sister’s ex-husband who lost his father this week after a long battle with cancer. 

Over the years, I have spent many a holiday with Uncle Paul, as we still call my sister’s ex-husband. And those just happen to be some of the most memorable holidays of my adult life. There was one Thanksgiving when my mother almost dropped the turkey as she was pulling it out of the oven.  Uncle Paul “goosed” her while her back was turned. There was also the year everyone descended on my former in-laws for Christmas. My ex-husband’s parents had never been exposed to Uncle Paul’s antics, so they were not prepared for his little “pranks.” Uncle Paul discovered a way to cause the showers to blast either cold or hot water by strategically flushing toilets and running the hose in the yard just as someone in the house was shampooing their hair. There was a lot of screaming going on that year.

But I suppose the most interesting holiday spent with Uncle Paul was one I didn’t even witness first hand. It was the year Uncle Paul decided to take my parents out for a special Thanksgiving dinner.

He and my sister were still married at the time, and looking back, this may have had something to do with why they aren’t married anymore.

Paul was an Air Force recruiter in their small town, and when he came home to announce that he was given tickets to a fancy Thanksgiving dinner for the whole family, everyone was thrilled. My divorced parents were both scheduled to have dinner with them that year, so going out for dinner seemed like a very special treat. Everyone got dressed up. The tickets promised a formal multicourse meal with all the trimmings.

When they arrived at the banquet hall, they were pleased to see the holiday decorations and pretty lights everywhere, and they could smell the wonderful cooking coming from inside, but as they entered the ballroom, the tables were dressed in holiday finery, but the other guests were not. In fact, the other guests looked as if they hadn’t recently bathed, or eaten for that matter.

It was a dinner for the homeless.

My sister was mortified. As were my parents. Especially when they were seated at large banquet tables surrounded by the unwashed masses. I’m sure they felt very awkward eating food that was probably meant for other unfortunate people who had nowhere to go on the holiday. But I’m also sure they were very gracious about the whole thing. I just really wish I had been there. I would have loved to have seen their faces. But I’ve been there for so many other holidays with Uncle Paul, I’m sure I can imagine.

My thoughts go out to those who have lost loved ones so close to the holiday season…and those who have someone they dearly miss as a day of thanksgiving draws so close.

Until the next time…I’ll be getting stuffed…I mean…you know what I mean!

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Posted on November 23, 2011 .