The first Thanksgiving Mike and I spent together in 1999, we went out for Indian food. We thought it would be a lark to be totally untraditional, and we did that together for a few years until we moved to Hawaii. Once we got here we started hosting the holiday ourselves with various groups of family and friends over the years. I have a lot of fond memories of it all. But in truth, Mike and I together were never super big on any of the holiday kaboozle. We could take it or leave it…and some years, we did leave it, preferring instead to take it easy. Those were good years too.
Honestly I can’t believe another year has gone by. Today is my second Thanksgiving without him. If not for the hoo-hah surrounding the holiday season, on TV, in stores, I probably could just very well ignore the whole thing. Last year, I did. Like an ostrich with its head in the sand, as much as I could avoid it, I did not mark either Thanksgiving or Christmas really at all. I couldn’t bear any sort of special meal or event with that empty chair staring at me.
But here we are again. And things have changed during this past year. I can’t avoid the fact that relationships have shifted, new people are in my life, and I have new projects and responsibilities. So while I’m not planning anything big, I will be stopping by a couple of family and friends to mark the day…but more for them, not for me. I find myself wanting to be supportive of the relationships around me. So that’s my priority this year. And I’m going to hope there won’t be that empty chair staring at me.
Honestly, I’m just glad I survived this year. I can’t help but think, as I’m writing this, of the first Thanksgiving, as we are told the story. That group of Pilgrims who celebrated having enough crops to survive the coming winter of 1621, thanks to the help from the Native Americans. So many Pilgrims had died the year before without enough food. So that first year, they were essentially celebrating survival.
This year, I can say that maybe, a little, I find myself in a similar state of mind. I am grateful I have enough food, and a roof over my head. So many widows I know struggle with even these basic necessities after the loss of their spouses. I am also grateful for the friends and family, my therapist, and fellow widows and widowers who have stood by me during these 21 months without Mike - they taught me the resources and tools I needed to make it, much like that local tribe did so long ago. I am grateful…yes, I really am grateful, that I have survived.
And that is really saying a lot, because in the beginning after he died I didn’t much care whether I did or not.