Today is Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday since I have been grown. It’s a time when family gathers without the financial stress of shopping for everyone and the chore of trying to pick the right gifts for people who already have everything. Thanksgiving means spending time with either my famiy or Tywana’s. I love both. But, now there is. dark side to Thanksgiving. It’s another milestone of spending time without Shayna.
Shell and her family are in town for Thanksgiving for the first time in over a decade. We are going to Tim’s in Versailles. Shell (Tywana’s sister) has three boys. I still think of them as boys, but I guess techincally are men since they are 18, 20 and 21 years old now. Shell’s boys have turned out to be fine young men. They are polte, respectful, thoughtful, and articulate gentlemen. They have always been great to the girls, especially Shayna who would get right in there and roughouse with them, play video games, or toss the football around. Shell and her family spend the night in Cincinnati the day before Thanksgiving before making the two hour drive to Versailles on Thanksgiving morning.
I rise early on Thanksgiving morning to get some solitude. I’m not going to be able to get my walk in today, but I do manage to get in my meditation time. Naturally, being Thankgiving, I’m focusing on gratitude. I try to recall last Thanksgiving. I can’t. It was the first time since Kayla’s first Thanksgiving, just a few days after her birth, that we didn’t go visit extended family. I did not take any pictures. I did not make an effort to remember it and it’s mercifully gone from my memory. But, the meditation is a good one as I focus on the task at hand and I am grateful for the opportunity to be here to serve.
I make breakfast sandwiches for everyone. It was Tywana’s idea to make the sandwiches, but I’m up and she’s not. So, I make the sandwiches. Shell and Rod, her husband, bring Tywana’s mother over from her retirement community. She’s in rare form today. She is not happy about anything. She keeps saying she does not want to be a bother or be in anyone’s way. So, maybe she should just stay here. We, of course, are not going to let that happen. However, I talk Shell and Rod into letting her ride with them to Versailles. Sadly, she has gotten much worse in the last year to the point we need to start looking into assisted living for her. The combination of dementia and depression are robbing her quickly of her ability to take care of herself. The will was gone long ago.
As I look at Margaret, I see myself minus the purpose that I do have left. I still need to be here for others. That drives me. She feels like her days of being useful are behind her which leaves her with no motivation to get up every day and do it all again. I feel badly for her.
We get to Tim’s and it’s a fun day of catching up. All six siblings are together for the first time in over a decade to celebrate a Thanksgiving. It’s like old times, except Felton (Tywana’s father) and Shayna aren’t there. No party is the same without the two of them. And I look at my nephews (no one on this side of the family has girls except for us). They are all in college except for two. They have girlfriends. They are driving. The oldest, Nicholas, is 21 now. Wow. They same time goes quickly. As I look at Nicholas at 21, I can easily recall when his mother, Shell, was exactly his age. I met Derrick when he was 13, the age of his eldest son. I have to remind myselfwe are not the kids we were when we met. We’re middle aged parents of college students now.
We talk Shell and Rod into spending the night with us in Cincinnati before making the trip back to Pennsylvania. The boys and Kayla get into the wine. Everyone is having a great time, including me. But, there have been many moments when I’ve slipped away to think about Shayna and have a little talk with her. I will never spend a day without her being on my mind constantly. I take comfort in the passage of time. While it seems that time drags when I look at it going forward in anticipation of days, months, years, looking back I can cover a 30 year span in the blink of an eye. I can do this.
We talk with Shell and Rod about Margaret’s current mental state and we tell them we think it’s time to start looking into assisted living. We talk about her reality right now. It’s tough. Even though she is in an amazing place where there is lots of activitiy, there are many friends, and she is safe, she feels like she is in the worst place on Earth. She’s paranoid and she feels like she is not safe there. She thinks her kids never come to see her or even call her despite the fact that Shell calls her three times a day. She can’t remember where she was today, why she was there or even where she lives. She asks if Tim just moved into this house even though he’s been there for a couple of decades and she’s been many times.
I try to draw lessons from everything. I’m in a similar place to her, focused on the wrong reality, on a reality that is not reality. I am safe. I am loved. I am not alone. In addition to my loved ones here, I know I have a great cloud of witnesses cheering me on. Even though 2016 has been the worst year ever it seems like for so many I know, I try to remained focused on the big picture. None of this is a lasting reality. We are powerful, eternal creatures playing dress up for a short time.
As we prepared to eat today, Tywana lit a candle for those of us who are not with us today. She announced to everyone what she was doing and shed a tear for her father and for Shayna. I held my tears inside, but we all know that they were both there just beyond our ability to perceive them. And we know that one day, in the not very distant future, we will celebrate the Ultimate Thanksgiving with them again.