Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanksgiving- Past and Present

This week is Thanksgiving and it is hard to believe that the holidays are upon us again. It does not seem so long ago that I was celebrating this day for the first time with my partner Paula. Actually, it does not seem so long ago that I was celebrating this day with my family who now is so distant from me. However, even then we hardly ever celebrated the event in our own home. In twenty –five plus years my ex-wife and I and later our children celebrated this day in our own home only twice. We were always packing up and heading to my parent’s house or her parent’s house to celebrate this day. Year after year after year the process was repeated but at least I got to celebrate this day with my family.

I still vividly recall the last Thanksgiving with my parents. We were coming over to pick them up to take them out for dinner but my father was in such poor condition he could not get himself ready and we found him in night clothes at noon sitting with my mother who was only months from her death and who, by virtue of the ravishing hideous disease of Alzheimer’s had forgotten we were coming although we had just called to remind them the day before and the morning of Thanksgiving. I took my son down to Kroger’s after we cancelled our dinner reservations and we bought some supplies to make for our Thanksgiving and cooked it there and ate together with my parents for the last time in their house and the only house I ever knew until I left home. I knew that day it was likely the last time we would celebrate Thanksgiving together and in that house. A few days later my parent’s time in the house ended and their remaining days were spent living in a nursing home. Mom died just a couple months later- her long battle with the disease that had taken her dignity and her mind was over.

Thanksgiving 2006 was spent at the house of mother-in-law but also with my father. A group of us had driven over to the nursing home and lifted his weak deteriorating body from the wheelchair into my car and transported him to my mother-in- law’s house so he would not be alone that day and could celebrate Thanksgiving with his family. It would be his last one as death took him from me that spring. However, I remember how happy he was that day. It may have been one of last few happy days in his life for just about two weeks after Thanksgiving of 2006, my brother was killed in an accident and I had to go to the nursing home and tell him and rip this poor aging man’s heart out – he was never the same afterward and I was soon to morn his loss with that of my mother and brother.

In November of 2007, I was celebrating what would be my last Thanksgiving with my family. Again, it would be at my mother-in law’s place and I knew myself it was likely going to be my last one with them. I had already begun transition and my ex-wife and I had drifted so far apart we were walking around in fog of mistrust and uneasiness that would lead the next spring to our demise together and the closing off of all contact with my children I love and miss so dearly. I had a feeling of an omen that day that I could not shake and it even put a damper on the day. Flashbacks to the two Thanksgivings before only added to my sadness. So much had changed since the last “normal Thanksgiving I could recall in 2004.

Last year, Paula and I were fortunate to celebrate Thanksgiving with my last surviving members of my family outside of my children who had cut off all contact with me when we traveled to Pennsylvania to spend Thanksgiving with my sister-in-law and nephew and niece. The visit also coincided with my appointment with my surgeon who the next spring would finally alter my body to reflect my true spirit and essence of who I was and end the inner conflict that had had been with me for so many troubled years since my youth. It was also my first Thanksgiving with Paula and we also visited our friend who had just had surgery that week. It was a pleasant experience but I still sensed some uneasiness. Over the last year it seems that my relationship with them has deteriorated. This saddens me further and makes the memory of 2008 Thanksgiving almost seem like a last gathering of the Alexander’s.

Now we approach Thanksgiving 2009 and it seems that I am not the only one sort of feeling, for lack of better words, out of whack about this event. Paula is having some issues I can tell and it stems for the fact she spent her Thanksgiving with her family celebrating with her family- her mother and father, her two children and her pride and joy – her two grandchildren. Her parent have rejected her and cast her out as have her children and with that goes her contact with her the grandchildren she loves so dearly. I know all this bothers her deeply. Just the other week she took down the pictures of her family we had up in our townhouse and packed them- they only serve to remind her of people she cannot see and those who had rejected her and cast her out of their lives for being who she is as a person. I still have my pictures of my children up despite the fact they do not acknowledge my existence. The pictures may be all I will ever have to remind me of them in my life.

So it is with great trepidation Paula and I will spend Thanksgiving 2009 together. We plan to celebrate it with friends of ours from our community who have also seen pain and disconnection with their families and some other people I don’t even know that well and some not at all! Please don’t get me wrong- we love our friends very dearly but with what has gone on since 2004 and the loss of contact with my children, Thanksgiving fills me with a sense of sadness I cannot stand to even have on a such a wonderful day I have fond memories of- even as a child. I still can smell the pumpkin and apple pies baking in my mother’s kitchen and the deliciously tantalizing smell of the turkey and all the fixings emanating from the oven through the house that w would be filled soon with my brother, my grandparents and even an Aunt or two. I love watching the parade and dining on my mother’s incredible culinary delights and even relished the fact that the next day we would have leftovers as we began to prepare the house for Christmas that would not be far behind.

I also know that Thanksgiving is day of thanks for the gifts and blessing we have been bestowed. I am so very grateful for all our friends we love so much and who have deeply enriched our lives. Thank you for being part of lives and sharing your love. I will give thanks for them and I will also give thanks for my life with Paula and for the fact that we survived all of our surgeries this year. These are all truly wonderful gifts we have been bestowed and for which I am so very grateful. I cannot, however dwell that day on all that I have lost as well in the past five years. I cannot help but think upon the fact I no longer celebrate this day with my mother or father, brother or even my children or any others in my family. I will celebrate it with my partner Paula who I love so much and with a few friends who I have me part of their loving family through the threads of a shared anguish and discard from their loved ones and I will be thankful we have a place to go on this Thanksgiving- even if it is a church hall. However, if you see me close my eyes for a few moments don’t disturb me – for brief few moments I plan to slip away into another time period in my past and smell the aromas emanating from my mother’s kitchen and hear the sounds of my family gathering on this day. I will also give thanks for the memories I still cherish.

Best wishes for Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Pictured above is me in 1965 at my mother's house for Thanksgiving (I really wish however the picture had been of me in a nice pretty dress and a pair of Maryjanes instead of the dress pants and tie!!)

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