I just saw a .gif on Instagram that made me both laugh and be sad at the same time. It said, “Walking the f*** away from 2016 like” and showed a woman walking away from a burning car. And if I’m honest, that’s exactly how I feel. I’m ready for this year to be be finished, over. And, truly, I just want to skip Thanksgiving altogether because I’m finding it hard to count my blessings beyond cookies and sleep.
This year has been painful. This time of year last year, we were walking into this season hopeful. We were just discovering we were expecting. My biological family appeared to still be together – or as together as it has always been. Nothing seemed out of place or out of the ordinary. And then, it was all just shattered. This year has been nothing but trying to not let the shattered pieces stray too far away from the original object. And this time is nothing but a painful reminder of what was.
Thanksgiving was always associated with my father’s birthday. It’s on the 28th and sometimes it would fall on this holiday. Either way, we couldn’t get away with not recognizing it in some way. Evidence of his narcissistic behavior proudly on display as he wanted or forced us to celebrate him, get him presents, etc.
This year, my family won’t be getting together. Work obligations have taken over travel days. My father is MIA. And my mom will spend the day; hopefully, enjoying a break from work.
I’m strangely relieved.
To be fair, none of us were big fans of this holiday anyway. No one liked turkey, but because of my father, she tried anyway. It was a holiday where I felt stuck in the house, forced to watch football, eat food I don’t like, and celebrate a man I didn’t always feel like celebrating. We had no traditions. It was a day off work where the schedule was based off of the football games he wanted to watch and the nap he had to take.
Thanksgiving is a reminder that life revolved around him.
This Thursday, my mom won’t have to get anything ready for anyone. She can eat what she wants and do things on her time. She’ll see 2 of her 3 granddaughters and her “daughter-in-law”. My brother is stuck in Texas with pre-deployment to Cuba and we won’t be making the 2.5 hour trip home. It won’t be the first time that we haven’t been together on this day, but it’s the first that my mom won’t be with any of her children or her now ex-husband. I can’t help but hope she’s elated, and perhaps even thankful for the solitude.
I saw this image on Facebook back in February of this year. It came at the most appropriate time as I was struggling with the grief of having lost Jessie. We often see Cardinals in our backyard near our evergreen tree and so whenever I was in the kitchen, looking out the window, I could say my little hello to the little girl I never knew and feel somewhat at peace.
I just realized it has been awhile since we had seen our Cardinal friend, until last week, there he was, sitting under our evergreen tree, looking as vibrant red as ever. In some ways, I can’t help but think that Jesus must have known I need a little comfort this time of year, and sent the Cardinal back to visit me. A gentle reminder saying, “I still am here for you. I didn’t abandon you. I still love you.”
Despite all that has occurred this year, the amount of loss endured – loss of potential life, loss of family as I knew it, loss of actual life, loss of proximity or sameness… I do still have much to be thankful. I have the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with my tiny family – the people who are my love and life; the people who have put up with all of this bull this year with love and grace. I get to spend it with friends – friends who have added my tiny family to their family, whose parents have taken us in as one of their own, friends who are just there despite all my flaws and failings. And, I have life – life growing within me, life growing in front of me. More than anything, we have the season of Advent around the corner and the joyful expectation of Christ’s hopeful birth and what that means for all of us: redemption, mercy, grace.
I do want to just turn tail and run, but 2016 is a part of my story. And Jesus’s redeeming love is center to it all. It may still be unfolding for my father, but for me, that’s all I can see and sometimes I just need a Cardinal in my backyard to remind me.