To my Family:
This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving. It is one of my favorite holidays. It was always one of the three days of the year that we sat down as a family for a meal. Because of your mother and I’s career choices, the family dinner was never a part of our family routine.
Every Thanksgiving in recent memory has typically been a stressful letdown in some fashion. Mom would decline her mother’s invite to her beautiful condo and an amazing spread because her mother “stresses her out”. The end result would be you not seeing your grandmother on a holiday. I would wake up early and get the bird in the oven and prep everything else for the meal. Mom could be counted on to yell instructions that I didn’t need from the bedroom without getting out of bed. Once she did get up she would criticize the way I did everything. Kids, you would be in the living room trying not to notice the rising tensions in the kitchen as I simply tried to be a good dad and make a nice meal. You knew Mom was aggravating me but you don’t dare to say anything for fear of setting her off. Thankfully, the guests still willing to come to our house will arrive and everyone will act cordial.
Appetizers would be served, I would pour the first of many cocktails that I would consume that day. Mom would be busy trying to be nice to my mother, who has never been anything but nice to Mom. I would poke my head into the living room periodically to see how everyone is doing while the meal progressed. When the turkey came out of the oven, we would gather everyone to the table and sit.
You kids would start eating until I remind you to wait. We never ate together as a family, and never said Grace so it’s not your fault. You just forgot that your mother would insist that we all go around the table and say what we are thankful for. When it is my turn, you will all make fun in anticipation of mine because one year I made the mistake of being sincere and loving and was mercilessly teased about it.
We would all eat too fast and run out of awkward conversation too soon. You kids would leave the table before I wanted you to, my fault for wanting to savor the rare moment of having all of you together and in front of me. Mom would have a panic attack on dishes and start cleaning the kitchen. The remaining of us would nurse our cocktails or coffees then retire to watch football.
If I was able to get this far without Mom telling me to “go fuck myself” about something then I was in the clear. She was full and content and it would be at least an hour before she started complaining about how fat she was.
The rest of the day would be smooth. Our guests would leave and we would all go our separate ways.
That is how most Thanksgivings went. Incredibly, I wish this year will be the same.
This year we will be at a restaurant because we don’t have a home together anymore. We haven’t been together as a family in almost a year. We will get a big table. Mom and I will pretend to get along and awkwardly smile over our wine glasses knowing that we just talked about divorce but we aren’t going to tell you kids about it yet. We will have a great meal and then go off in three different directions.
This is our life now. Everyday life is hard enough. Holidays just suck.
I wish more than anything that things were different. That we were the happy family that I always wanted. I am thankful that I have such a wonderful relationship with you, my children even though our family dynamic stinks. Maybe you know, maybe you don’t but I stayed for 10 more years, and holiday seasons, than I ever thought possible just to extract as much joy as I could from them.
My happiness will never matter as much to me as yours. I hope that your memories of our time together will include some happy ones, that your idea of family is a healthy one despite your own experiences. If you have good memories then I will have succeeded as a husband and father.
One thought on “Day 16…a letter to my family”
Your love for your children is so obviously pure. No matter what, Billy, know that. They know it.