I really want to feel thankful this time of year. I have so much. A beautiful daughter. A new home, a townhouse that requires NO lawn maintenance. A mother who lives close by and is a tremendous help. Health. A job I love. Working on a new degree. My sisters-in-law and extended family. Good friends. Food. Clothing. Wine...
But man do the holidays make that hole in my heart even bigger. Mike's absence is so much more pronounced around Thanksgiving and Christmas. He was the center of our little family, the glue that held us together. The one who made us laugh.
It's hard to push through. It's hard not to pull the covers over my head. It's hard to feel joy. It's hard to make these special days seem more than just another day.
On Thanksgiving morning, I lay in bed trying to remember all of the Thanksgivings I spent with Mike. I wanted to write them down so I wouldn't forget.
In 2002, our first holiday as a couple, I took him home to Moundsville to meet my mother. My great aunt talked his head off the entire time, but he was gracious and kind to her.
In 2003, we made another trip to Moundsville for Thanksgiving. The details are hazy though.
2004 was our first married Thanksgiving, but we lived apart. He in Charleston, WV. Me in Charleston, SC. I flew, alone, on Thanksgiving morning to Pittsburgh where he picked me up at the airport and took me to my mom's for dinner. I remember he had to leave that afternoon to cover the WVU-Pitt Backyard Brawl.
In 2005, we were in Florida. And I had to work Thanksgiving night. It was our first holiday away from family. I was determined to make an entire dinner from scratch, all before I went to work. I got up at the crack of dawn and slaved over a hot stove all day. I don't even think the food was that good and I was exhausted by the time I got to work. I do remember I managed to get Mike to peel the potatoes. He wasn't the handiest in the kitchen.
The next Thanksgiving we had Julia. She was only five weeks old and I had this insane notion that now that I was a mother I needed to prepare an elaborate, multi-course meal from scratch, served on a Martha-Stewart-like table. I thought Mike could take care of the baby while I was cooking. I emerged from the kitchen to find her in her car seat facing the dining room wall while Mike sat in the living room watching football. A huge fight erupted. I blame the hormones and lack of sleep.
2007, the last Thanksgiving before cancer. We took a walk with Julia in the stroller that morning. And had dinner with my mom that evening. We ate during Julia's nap so we could have a peaceful meal. It was rather uneventful. Perfect, really.
By 2008, Mike had undergone several rounds of chemo. He was bald. He was nauseous and couldn't eat much. But we had just come back from seeing Dr. Greco in Tennessee and had some hope that things were going to get better.
2009. Our last Thanksgiving. Mike had a good year. We celebrated the holiday with friends at our house. I said grace. I thanked God for health.
When I write them down like that, I feel thankful that I had all those years with Mike. And I feel thankful for the friends who took Julia and me in the last two years, so that our hearts wouldn't be so empty.