Last night, instead of consuming more Thanksgiving dinner during Leftover Friday with my girlfriend’s family, I was on the couch, the dog on the floor next to me, both of us nursing tender tummies. Mine was likely brought on by eating more pork in 24 hours than I usually eat in a year. I suspect the dog’s was from a steady diet of magic marker lids and puzzle pieces, consumed during my 2-year-old grandson’s week-long visit.
I was also sad. Really sad. The night before, I stood over a sink-full of dirty pans and cried, not at the mess, but at knowing in the morning my daughter and grandson would head back to Iowa, a thousand miles away. It didn’t matter that I will see them in three short weeks. I was inconsolable, my grief more on par with the ending of a life than the ending of a visit.
Yesterday, after dropping them at the airport, I tried cleaning through my grief. I didn’t really have a choice. While the toddler mess could wait, the dog mess could not. While I washed the dog, her bedding and the carpet, I tried to get at the heart of my sadness. While I knew it made sense to feel glum that my loves had gone away, the level of melancholy that had set in didn’t make sense. I thought about ignoring the ache–in my heart and my gut–and pushing through to attend Leftover Friday. Wisely, I didn’t. I allowed myself time–to think, to feel, to cry. What I finally figured out was that I was in mourning. Thanksgiving had always meant time with family–my family–under one roof, around a table, eating the foods my mama had made all of our lives and that, in her absence, we tried to replicate. My children would be there, my siblings, their spouses, my nieces and nephews. As much as I loved Thanksgiving with my girlfriend’s family (frankly, it was the best Thanksgiving dinner I’ve ever eaten) this Thanksgiving drove home that life has changed. I am no longer in my home state or my home town. My kids and most of my nieces and nephews are grown. Being with them at the holidays is no longer guaranteed, no longer as simple as knowing time and place and driving a few blocks.
As much as I’m a person who has made huge changes, I’m also a person who hates change. As much as I love my new life, I sometimes miss my old life. As much as I’m glad my children are grown, I sometimes wish they weren’t.
During my couch time last night I watched a Showtime special on the history of the ’70s band “The Eagles.” I was reminded of the great music they made–and the strife that was behind the scenes. It reminded me (as if I needed the reminder) that life is messy and complicated, time passes, and good comes with (and from) bad.
I also watched the movie, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” One of the many great lines: “Things change. And friends leave. And life doesn’t stop for anybody.”
I know that. We all know that. And sometimes, plain and simple, it sucks.
The good news is I opened the kitchen cupboard this morning and didn’t cry at the sight of my grandson’s box of cornflakes. I’m looking at the cardboard guitar we made together and not weeping.
Life goes on.