Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I will wake up on my own, eat a delicious breakfast, and then begin preparing to host my family for dinner at 3 p.m. Together, my mom and I will clean the house, prepare the turkey, and decorate the table to the sounds of the Macy’s Day Parade and then to football pregame shows.
Our family will arrive. My brother, his wife, and my nephew. My grandmother, my grandfather, my twin cousins, and my cousin’s new baby girl. My uncle, possibly. It will be our first time hosting a crowd like this. I’m excited, but nervous. I feel hopeful, yet worried. My nature, apparently. There will be chit chat, laughter, and hugs. Football as background noise.
We will sit down for dinner. I will pile my plate high with mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, and turkey. A roll on the side. And I will go back for seconds, because it is Thanksgiving and it’s a travesty not to do so. Once we are sufficiently stuffed, we will clean up, collapse on the floor and the sectional and watch more of the game. Dessert will be served, a game (or two) of Apples to Apples will be played, and then it’ll be time for leftovers to be wrapped up to take home and my family will leave. Thanksgiving will be over. The place empty and silent. But my heart will be full and bursting.
Because there will be people who won’t have a Thanksgiving this year. People who don’t have a family to welcome to their home. People who don’t have a home to welcome any family in. People who just can’t afford to spend money on a big Thanksgiving meal. People who are dealing with loss and heartbreak and all this holiday does is dredge up memories of loved ones gone. I think of those suffering from the effects of cancer and other medical issues and are spending their holiday in a hospital bed, hooked up to monitors and machines.
I think of my grandma. Three times, she was given a cancer diagnosis. Three times, she beat it. Three times, it became a very real possibility that she would not be at our table for Thanksgiving. Three times, I had to face the very real possibility she would not be around for long hugs and encouragement and wisdom when I desperately need it. She’s the strongest woman I know, and the biggest blessing God has given me is my grandma back. Three times.
I think of the new life in our family. How perfect she is. How wanted she is. How she is at the beginning of life, no mistakes marring her yet. Completely pure and innocent. I think of her life and how we will celebrate it tomorrow. I think of my cousin, younger than me and now a mother. I think of how this wasn’t the road I envisioned for her, but God makes no mistakes and He had this planned from the beginning.
And I think of my nuclear family. I think of my mom, my best friend and vacation compadre. I think of all she has given up for me and my brother. The courage and bravery she showed me when she left my father, when she took a complete career turn, when she got back up from being hit by a car to become a two-time marathoner. Even though it was hard. Even though she didn’t know if she was making the right decision. In those moments, her heart became bigger than her fear. I think of my brother, the best male role model in my life. How close we are and how I can count on him for anything I need. He is a solid force in my life. I would be lost without him.
And a holiday doesn’t go by that I don’t think of my father. I wonder how he’s spending Thanksgiving. Is he working? Does he have anyone to spend the holiday with? Does he think about me and the fact that he’s missing another birthday of mine soon? I can’t think about it too much. I refuse to think about him. He’s made his bed. He has to lie in it. I will not dwell on what he is or isn’t doing. I am better off without him.
The truth is, I lead an incredibly blessed life. I have a beautiful apartment, a steady income, and supportive friends and family surrounding me. I have been able to take two cruises and spend a long weekend in Atlanta with family this year. I have a dachshund who loves me in that pure, deep way a dog loves his owner. I am healthy. My family is healthy. I am blessed in abundance. No, my life isn’t perfect and there is a lot about it I want to change, but life will never be perfect. We will always want facets of it to change, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But I think it does our well-being so good to open our eyes, look around, and realize the gift we have been given with our lives. Cherish it. Love it. And recognize how blessed you are with all you have.