I thought I could do it, make it through, boy was I wrong. Thanksgiving dinner was a two day event. The night before I would make the pies, up to 8 different pies as everyone came over for pie and drinks Thanksgiving night. I would cook Jack would clean up after me. He always laughed and said I was a good cook but a messy one.
The next day, even if he didn't have to he would get up with me to put the turkey on and make me coffee. We would relax a bit before we needed to start prepping and cooking dinner. We were like a well oiled machine, chopping and peeling and prepping. As the multitude of pans came off the stove, I would finish prepping and Jack would do the washing up as we went. I really enjoyed the team work and laughs we shared.
That first Thanksgiving after he died I was bound and determined that I was going to pull it all together for the kids and my dad. I invited my sister and brother-in-law with the hope that it was enough of a change, that it wouldn't be so painful.
The kids really tried to fill in and help. They had seen the Thanksgiving dance their father and I did for many years. They knew how it worked. Yet the rhythm was off, they weren't always sure of what needed to be done. And to top it off I went completely manic. I was like a Tasmanian devil whirling through the kitchen. So much so my sound, asked me to slow down and take it easy.
Through it all I got the food on the table. Everyone was in their seat as I put the last dish down. I sat in my chair and looked to my left where Jack always sat and there sat my dad. It wasn't Jack. I quietly said "i'm sorry" and left the table. I thought I could do it but I couldn't.
I went up to the bedroom and had a complete melt down. I cried as I hadn't cried in a few months. I let it all out, it needed to come out. I was so grateful that no one came up to check on me. They knew I needed to be alone. It took an hour but I pulled myself together and went back downstairs. I apologized to everyone but they understood.
We all cleaned up and everyone went their separate ways. I know the kids had to go do their own first Thanksgiving grieving.
Another first down, didn't make it through as I had hoped but I made it through. I kept the tradition going for the second year. That one I made it through but asked myself why? If the kids were little and didn't have their own lives I could see having to celebrate the day, for them. Some people need the tradition. For others it is a burden that holds no joy.
Now that the kids have their own lives on year three I changed the tradition. I decided to forgo Christmas presents and take the whole family on vacation during the Thanksgiving week. We were thankful to be all together and enjoyed the day. It is not, the food or the setting that makes the day. It is a celebration of what you are most thankful for. For me, that is my family, friends and the man who gifted me with such a wonderful life.
I realized that though I love my children with all of my heart and soul, that it is okay to say I need to take care of me. If that means I miss a holiday or two that is okay. We will figure it out, make new traditions where we celebrate but in a way that works for all of us. I can't hold on to tradition if it is only for them. I know they wouldn't want me to.