Posted by: bullyforme | November 23, 2012

A Very Different Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving Day.  Predictably, and like a billion other Americans, I joined my family for a huge traditional turkey dinner.  Everything about the day was as it has always been – my mother cooking, me helping somewhat, the table setting, the thanks we gave before our meal.  Yet, this Thanksgiving was markedly different from other years.  This year we sat at the Thanksgiving table, for the first time in my 44 years of life, without my father.

Dad passed away from pancreatic cancer on August 30th of this year, at the age of 69.  It was six weeks until his 70th birthday, twelve weeks until his 70th Thanksgiving.  Losing my father seemed to come right on the heels of losing my brother, although my brother left us six years ago.  Mike died from brain cancer on October 14th, 2006.   Thanksgiving 2006 was another anomaly – the first without my brother present in 31 years.

As we gathered together and ate our meals, my mind kept reaching its inner recesses for memories of both of them.  My brother, for example, would stuff himself so full it was comical.  I could not believe the amount of food he could consume, and still have room for dessert later.  His favorites included the butternut squash, which I never had particularly cared for.  When it was time to clean up, Mike would mysteriously have to go to the loo, and would reappear just about the time all the dishes were put away and pie was being served.  Dad would help Mom with the food preparations, often leaning on the counter while peeling this or that vegetable.  He insisted on picking at the turkey, just like the dad in “A Christmas Story,” and Mom would slap his hand away just like Ralphie’s mom would slap his father’s.  He would gnaw on the turkey neck, and chop it up for the giblet gravy.  He always saved the wishbone for my Mom.

When Mike died, I remember thinking, this is my new normal, this life without my baby brother.  This now, is my new normal without my father.  I never have and never will get used to it.

When I pull in to my parents’ driveway, I still think Dad’s going to be there in his favorite chair, watching the squirrel guys or the pawn shop guys on TV, maybe peeling some peanuts or doodling on a pad.  It’s still a shock when I remember he won’t.  When I go to hug my Mom goodbye, I still turn toward that chair to give one to my Dad.  I almost sent him a text about Big Papi getting re-signed (two years, Dad, isn’t that the bomb!?).

When loved ones leave us early, it leaves our lives unfinished too; a part of life unled.  I know that sounds selfish, but it’s so true.  Mike died six years ago and I still haven’t figured out how to fill in that portion of my life, so I doubt I ever will with Dad, either.  The best I can come up with is to keep them at the forefront of my mind and heart, always.  People talk of moving on, but I say, why?  I move forward, I believe in that – but I won’t move on like I just dumped a bad boyfriend.  My Dad and my brother may not be here, but they are here.  

I’ve found that I subconsciously adopt them into my being in subtle ways.  I eat butternut squash, in fact, I love it now.  I even make it at home sometimes, just because.  I caught myself leaning on the counter while peeling and cutting up said squash for Mom yesterday.  These little things keep them both close to my heart and soul.  I was always a Daddy’s girl and I was always a protective big sis, and I can’t just let that go, I can’t just forget.  Why should I?

So, this Thanksgiving Day, this Thanksgiving of comforting routine, this Thanksgiving of unbearable change, I’m most thankful that I still have my family and our traditions.  I still have my Mom, my sister, my sons, my nephews and nieces, our collective memories with my Dad and my brother.  I’m thankful that my parents both raised me to be grateful even through adversity – to find the grace and hold it close.




  1. Reblogged this on Bullyland.

  2. As usual, Catherine, you’ve somehow left my heart warmer, with some of the broken parts a little less sharp, and a hope that the those broken pieces can eventually find their way together again, however out of sync they may be. You are one my life’s greatest blessings. I love you. mom.

  3. I don’t know which I love more – this post, or your mom’s reply. I’ve had eleven Thanksgivings without my dad, and I still feel his presence at the table, even though the location and company continually change over the years. Beautiful entry – thank you for sharing.

  4. They say we are a product of our parents….Cathi, you have the best of both. Love the descriptions, hope the memories keep coming. Trudi

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