Tag Archives: family

the last thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2011 was the last holiday my mother lived to see. I hear Grandma’s voice in my head (regrets are as useful as tits on a bull, Katy) but still, I find them creeping in, uninvited guests that stay long past their welcome.

It was a special day, the last Thanksgiving.  My coworkers gave us a full Turkey dinner, more than enough delicious food to feed the family for days on end.  Mom was strong enough to eat a little and enjoy the company of her dear ones. The day was full of gifts from start to finish.

But I was tired.  I was angry.  I was overwhelmed with the relatively simple task of reheating our Thanksgiving feast from AJ’s. I tried to coordinate everything seamlessly, and never before had it been so difficult to ensure all the food was simultaneously hot to be served for our 10 or so family members.  I had mixed success, and it frustrated me. Thank god I didn’t try to actually cook. When I wasn’t feeling full of gratitude and surrounded by love from all directions, Thanksgiving found me to be an irritable bitch.

I know Thanksgiving also carried sadness for Mom. She always loved to cook huge meals for her family members during the holidays, and she always make it look easy.  Her eyes grew glassy when she saw me running around the kitchen and she said softly “I’m sorry I can’t help.”

I was sorry too, profoundly sorry.

I know I told her that day that I loved her, I was grateful for her.  But I was fearful, and the months of protracted loss had chewed me up and left my insides looking like a seasonal squash.  I was angry that I was sharing my last Thanksgiving with my mother.  I had lots of expectations to let go of- years ahead of beautiful holiday dinners, perfectly prepared, cooked with her at my side.  I did the best I could do, but I wish that I could have released, let go, allowed myself to be rooted in that special day, that special moment, and feel the joy of having her with me, of being her daughter.

She knew my heart as well as anyone, and she knew I loved her.  I just wish I could have done things differently. It would have been more enjoyable for everyone involved.

This Thanksgiving I miss her, but I have also done some recovery. I have a wonderful life, full of blessings.  Today my heart isn’t like a the limp guts of a stringy squash; rather my heart is full of gratitude for a multitude of things, but especially gratitude that my life started with this tremendous woman, that I was able to know her and call her “Mom” and share my life with her for 31 years.

Thanks for the wonderful memories, Mom.  You were incredible.

the last Thanksgiving, 2011

learning to swim

My dad is the one who taught me to swim.

First, my mom signed me up for a swimming class that was being offered through my preschool.  It went very badly.  First of all, she woke me up in the middle of the night (I’m guessing it was an early 8:00am class, and in order to arrive at the preschool in time to take the bus to the community center to go swimming we had to leave the house before the sun came up).  It seemed to be inhumane to wake up so early, especially to do something terrifying.  I was screaming and crying before we left the house, and I arrived to take the bus with tear-streaked cheeks, clutching a granola bar that was supposed to substitute for breakfast. I begged my mom to let me not go, but she murmured something about how swimming was an important life skill. I wasn’t going to win this battle, but I put up a fight.

I didn’t want to swim, and refused to enter into the freezing, chlorinated water unless I had two floatation devices around my waist and “water wings” on my arms.  I was no fool!  The pool was scary, and full of splashing, screaming children.  I wanted nothing to do with swimming.   I did kind of like being in the water and clutching the sides of the pool wall, however.  My main achievement after the 4 or 6 or 8 weeks of swimming class was finally jumping into the pool, with said flotation devices securely in place, into the arms of an instructor.

A different approach to teaching me to swim was definitely needed.  Dad started taking me to the YMCA.  I was anxious at first, but always felt safe in his arms, even if we were in the water.  He would hold me for as long as it took for me to relax.  He taught me how to float, how to paddle like the dogs in my favorite cartoon.  He gradually let me go in the water, and he’d have me splash my way into his open arms. One day, he brought me back to my mom’s house and I proudly told her I knew how to swim.

When I face my fears and float through adversity, I have to give Dad credit for showing me how.  He was, and is, a gentle teacher, an incredible father.

Grief for my mother has taught me the importance of appreciating what I have today.  Happy Father’s Day, to my dad, to my stepfather,to the other men in my life who have supported me and helped me grow.  I am grateful for you.