Thirty-nine years ago today, November 23, my mother died suddenly. Like this year, it was the day before Thanksgiving. I was 14. My brothers were 11 and 9. I remember life going on around us as time stopped in its tracks for my family. All around us people were running full stride into the Holidays . . . and we just couldn’t. For many years I couldn’t or wouldn’t participate in a season that I felt turned its back on my family. I wrote about the experience early in my blogging career. Getting Happy About Thanksgiving . . . Again
Over the years, with the help and patience of some incredible people, I am pretty much a Holiday nut . . . as much as I can be, anyway. I still have my issues. Even now I have this queasiness and unease about school Holiday festivities. A chain of events that ended in my mom’s passing started the night before right after our school Holiday pageant. It took me many years and a couple of therapists to tie all that together. Understanding why I am uncomfortable at school events for my kids doesn’t make me any more comfortable at them, however. It is good to know why I feel that way, but most people just assume I am a jerk about the subject.
I learned a powerful lesson on my journey. It was hard to get to and hard to digest, but it changed things for me. It required that I look around me and look at what I have and focus on the blessings in my life. I had to appreciate what I have and not resent what I don’t have. My family, my friends and the life that we have built is a wondrous thing. At some point, again with the help of some incredible people, I realized that if anything in my past was changed I wouldn’t be the person that I am in the situation that I am in with the people that are around me. When I look at where I am in my life right now I realize that I wouldn’t change a thing. That realization changed everything for me.
I have a wonderful wife and three incredible kids. I have everything I need and most of what I want. I have an extended family that I love and admire. I have accomplished quite a bit over the years and I am in a place now where I am happy and fulfilled. A person can’t ask for much more than that. So I am thankful.
Along the road I took from here to there I learned other valuable lessons. I don’t take the people I love for granted. I tell my family I love them . . . often . . . like randomly or whenever I leave them. Early in our relationship my wife told me that I didn’t have to tell her that so often . . . she felt like maybe it was becoming habit and that it was starting to lose some of the power it holds because I was saying so often. My kids sometimes roll their eyes when I tell them for the fifth or sixth time in a given day that I love them. That’s ok. What I have learned is that you never know when the last time you see somebody will be. I learned the hard way that you don’t know if a person will be there when you get back from work . . . or when you get home from school. The last thing that my mom heard me say was “I love you.” At one point that was all that got me through the night. So I say I love you a lot.
It took me so long to get to where I am now because I felt like being happy was somehow being disloyal to my mother. I felt that if I forgot the terrible wrong that that I believed was done to my family that somehow that meant that I loved her less or valued her less. If my mom was here today she would not be happy with that line of reasoning. I understand now that being happy in my life is what would make her the happiest.
I think my mom would be very pleased with her boys. We are all devoted family men. My younger brother has a wonderful wife, three gorgeous kids and two grandbabies. My youngest brother is the “cool uncle” who spoils his nieces and nephews. I have a beautiful family and there is a grandson for us on the way.
All of my mother’s sons have college degrees. She would be happy about that. My mother placed a great deal of value on education. She understood what it meant. That would make her very proud and frankly would surprise the hell out a lot of people who knew us in our teen years. I think she would be very proud of where we all stand in our careers. She didn’t bring any children into the world who were afraid of a days work. That would make her happy as well.
She would be thankful for all of these things and many more that I haven’t mentioned. If she would be thankful for them, then I should be too. She would be proud of where we all are today . . . 39 years later . . . so it’s ok for me to be proud of it as well.
So this morning I complained about being required to go to Charlie and Eli’s respective Thanksgiving events. It is hard to shake the feelings I have. But I shake them because this isn’t about me. It is about my family and it is about being thankful for what my road led me to. Maybe that is the most important lesson I have learned.
Thank you for reading and sharing. Our family wishes yours a very Happy Thanksgiving and a joyous start to your Holiday Season. We will talk again soon on This Side of the Diaper.