Thanksgiving and Grief

Thanksgiving 2011.

While we did not know it at the time that would be the last time Cody and Carter would ever see their Grandpa.  It would be the last time Husband would ever see his father-in-law, the man he called on the phone over eleven years ago and in a whisper so I would not hear, formally asked for my hand in marriage.

Thanksgiving 2011.

It would be the last time I would ever see my dad outside of a hospital or full care facility.  Two short weeks after we ate that Thanksgiving meal together, the Alzheimer’s shifted and took a hold of him a bit more tightly, causing him to lash out.  There were police, paramedics, frantic late night phone calls, and just plain awfulness the likes of which I will not write about.  He died in February.

My mom has offered to host Thanksgiving at her place again. We will sit around the same dining room table we did last year but in different places. My father-in law is in town visiting from Arizona, not because of Thanksgiving but because today is his 80th birthday. We told him we were willing to travel to him but he asked if instead he could come up to our house and spend some time with us. We feel honored and are glad he is here.  But his visit is bringing up some unexpected emotions for me and a sense of damp sadness for what is lost.

Thanksgiving 2012 and I am unsettled.

I am having a hard time working through this grief I carry.  I have been fighting back tears for several days.  I am having to bite my tongue so that I don’t irrationally ask my father-in-law to stop playing with the boys.  My internal self is screaming at him to stop, to say that it is unfair that my own dad did not get the chance to play monster-robot with the boys, making them run, screaming in false terror until, tripping over their own feet, they fall to the ground and roll around laughing and shrieking with delight.  Of course he should play with them.  Of course they should love him and have these great moments with him.  And of course I am glad they are all getting to share these wonderful moments together.  It is just that I can not shake the thought that my dad would have made one great monster-robot.  And that he was not given that chance.

I may be unsettled and I may be crying inside but I am also thankful for so very many things in my life.  I hope you too can find a great number of things to be thankful for this year even if it has been not been all you were hoping for.  Even if you have pain or loss or sadness.  Embrace the time you have.  Be truly thankful for all that is around you.  Make the moments count because it is those precious moments, the good and the bad, that make life what it is.

May you all have a happy Thanksgiving.

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About shoes

I am a blogger, a former microbiologist, a stay at home mom to a herd of two boys, and a grilled cheese sandwich and beer connoisseur.
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33 Responses to Thanksgiving and Grief

  1. timkeen40 says:

    Last Thanksgiving we built a fire at my house, roasted a hog, and had fun until the early morning hours. I didn’t know it would be the last Thanksgiving I had in that house. It was destroyed in a tornado just a short weeks later. No one was hurt, so it pales in comparison to your losses, I just wanted to echo your sentiment by agreeing. Enjoy every second if you can. One of them will be the last.
    Happy Thanksgiving.

    Tim

    • shoes says:

      What an awful loss – I can’t imagine loosing my house and possessions like that. I need to keep the mentality of living in the “now” close to the forefront and appreciate the what and who in my life.

      Hope your Thanksgiving was a pleasant one Tim.

  2. Oh, I am truly sorry for your loss. A heart wrenching story…brought tears to my eyes thinking of the sadness you must be feeling.

    • shoes says:

      Sometimes the sadness races to the front of my emotions and sits there. The couple days leading up to Thanksgiving were hard but the actual day was nice. I enjoyed being surrounded by my family back in my childhood home with all those precious memories of my dad so close by.

  3. Shoes, you will always know that your dad would have made one heck of a monster robot. I know how you feel and my heart aches with you. Alzheimer’s robbed my mom of so many experiences she would have treasured as a grandma. But as my daughter has reminded me, my mom is IN us. And so she is with us. And so your dad is with you.

    • shoes says:

      Thank you for your comment, especially the part about the monster robot and your daughter’s reminder that those people we loved who are gone from us are within us. What a wise daughter you have. I told Carter the other day when he started to get sad and talk about missing his Grandpa that Grandpa was a part of him. He is not only his Grandpa’s grandson but he carries my dad’s first name as his own middle name. He liked that and I think it made him feel a little better.

      I hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  4. Oh my friend I am so sorry – so sorry for all the times you will miss with your dad. I can’t even imagine the heartache you must be experiencing. Thank you so much for your words and know you are not alone. Hugs.

    • shoes says:

      I am usually pretty held together about my dad, but there are times that I completely fall apart. The actually Thanksgiving day was fine but it was so hard watching my father-in-law play with the boys. I am glad I have this outlet where I feel free to write about my emotions and that I know I have the support of my blogging friends such as you.

  5. Such a powerful post. My hubby lost his grandfather to Alzheimer’s that left him in a vegetative state for over 10 years. It seems that the greatest of people are crippled by that disease. While your father may not be there in person, I’m sure he is looking down on you all. Hugs to you.

    • shoes says:

      So awful, I am sorry your husband, his family, and his grandfather had to go through that. I am so very glad that when my dad descended to the point where he was unable to function, he passed quickly.

      I miss him everyday but take comfort in the little things that remind me of him. Hope you and your family had a nice Thanksgiving.

  6. Holidays are always the hardest. My dad has been gone for 11 years now and I still take pause on our anniversary, Christmas, and my birthday and can’t believe that he’s not here. It’s such a cliche, but I still sometimes think he will walk back into our lives at any moment. But it does get easier. The best thing you can do is talk about your loss and feel entitled to your feelings, however irrational you may think they are. They are not irrational or selfish.

    This was a beautiful post and I’ll be thinking about you tomorrow, Shoes.

    • shoes says:

      Thank you for your kind comment. You are so right in that there are certain days, holidays and family events, that are harder to go through without him. Sometimes it seems like he has been gone forever while in other moments it seems like yesterday when I frantically packed a bag and raced to be by his side on the day he died.

      I am glad I have this blog to come to. I don’t usually choose to write about the sad and emotional but when I feel I need to it is helpful to know that my bloggy friends are out there listening. Hugs to you – hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  7. I hope you have a good Thanksgiving, even with the bittersweet memories.

  8. mimijk says:

    Would it be healing to have everyone raise a glass to your dad before eating today? I do this still before every holiday meal – toast my parents. remind my boys how much they were adored, and give thanks for all the people who I love sitting around the table. We honor our pain and we honor our present at the same time. Wishing you happier memories to accompany the painful ones and a whole lot of love around you today.

    • shoes says:

      I like your toast idea, alas I read it too late. Right before the meal was to be served, I left the dining room and put a log of wood on the fire, a job that was always my dad’s and one that he greatly enjoyed. It was a quiet moment by the fireside for me to think fondly of my dad before gathering at the table with everyone else. I hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  9. I hope your Head and your Heart can come to an agreement, so you can enjoy the day with your family. I’ll be thinking about you, Sweetie.

    • shoes says:

      Thank you. I had a rough couple days right before the holiday but on Thanksgiving I was feeling much more at peace. I have a lot of good memories to go with the sadness and I am usually balanced but sometimes the sadness takes over.

  10. Thank you for this lovely post. It brought tears to my eyes, and it also strengthened my resolve to be strong next week when I embark on a trip from Arizona to Florida with the bots so they can meet my grandmother, and she can meet them. She has good days and bad, mostly bad, and she may not recognize me. I’ve been telling the bots old funny stories of her and Grandpa, and will pull these out once we get there, because she may remember those events even if she doesn’t remember yesterday. Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for what we have, and that goes hand in hand with mourning the loss of those we are most thankful for having had.

    • shoes says:

      Oh how I wish you wonderful travels and a great time spent with your Grandmother. Through my experience with Alzheimer’s I learned that memory works in strange ways and while your Grandmother may not remember short term, her long term may be quite sharp. My dad loved to relive the good old days with me, even if he was not completely sold on the fact that I was his daughter. It ripped me apart but for him, the visits were nice. He was not my dad most of the time my boys knew him but he liked the boys and enjoyed tickling them and making them laugh and that is what the boys remember most about him.

      May you enjoy your time with her. Take lots of pictures of her with the bots so you have them to look at and talk about. Hugs.

  11. Sorry to hear about your dad. As a son, this is my worst fears. That one day during family gatherings I will be missing one important person in my life. That every holiday I will be reminded of the loving, happy memories and my heart forever crushed and longing. The pain may never go away but it does get less in time. I bet he is watching all of you this Thanksgiving with a loving smile knowing you all miss him and wished he was physically there. His legacy lives through you. Happy Thanksgiving.

    • shoes says:

      Thank you for you kind comment. It is hard to have family gatherings without my dad but we can bring him closer by talking about him and reliving the happy times and memories we all share with him. What is killing me a little inside is that there will come a day when my boys will not really remember him, but only know the stories we tell about him. I suppose that is something and it is better than not, but it chokes me up just to think of it.

  12. Hetterbell says:

    It surely must be a bittersweet time for you at the moment. I send you the very best of wishes as you work through these times of mixed emotions. Dates of celebration and dates of remembrance have a strong effect on us. I burst into tears in a shop yesterday because I saw some Christmas cards and it reminded me of how my Grandma always used to choose a style of cards that was always instantly recognisable as her choice, but there will be none of hers on this mantelpiece this year.

    • shoes says:

      Thank you for your good wishes, they do help. I was for the most part alright during Thanksgiving. It was so strange, the intense almost anger-like emotion I felt towards my father-in-law as he played with the boys and made them laugh. I was instantly jealous that he could be with them and my dad could not. I was unprepared for how I felt and I cried in the car on my solo trip to and from the grocery store one day while he was here visiting. I deeply miss my dad but I also miss him double, triple for the boys knowing what they have lost.
      Perhaps you could start a new tradition this year and purchase a Christmas card that was of your Grandma’s style. You could write her a letter inside it, or write down a fond memory of her and then place that card on your mantelpiece to look at. It may be too hard, too fresh of a loss to do such a thing this year but it might be something to try in the future, if you wish.

  13. Yoga Mama says:

    It took me several tries to get through this emotional post. It just…your pain is so real and you write so beautifully about love and loss. Thank you again for sharing.

    • shoes says:

      Thank you very much for your comment. I try not to write too much about my grief over the death of my dad otherwise we will all just sit around and be depressed but there are times I have to write about it. I was so surprised by the strength and force of my emotions over my father-in-law playing with the boys I almost could not write about it. It was pretty intense and I am glad I have this space to work through some of it.

  14. Stephanie says:

    I’m so sorry about your loss… may your happy memories of him bring you strength. Life is precious, and everyday is a gift. :)

  15. ShimonZ says:

    Your father continues to live on in you, and is reflected through you to his grandchildren. There are all sorts of partings… some are hard… it seems you’ve had to go through a hard one. But as time passes, his image will remain otherwise… the father who shared with you, and protected and provided for you… sending you my best wishes for strength and consolation… and yes, it is now that is most important.

    • shoes says:

      Yes, you are right in that it was a hard parting. I am glad that I have a lot of nice memories of him for me to have as well as for me to share with my boys.

  16. Jodi says:

    Grief is an incredibly difficult emotion to get a handle on. What I’m learning is we must give ourselves the opportunity to grieve. If you are feeling sad it is okay to cry, it is better for you to let it out than to hold it in. I hope your Thanksgiving turned out okay.

    • shoes says:

      Our Thanksgiving turned out to be very nice. It is strange how grief can pop up unexpected and be so strong. I am still struggling with it and think that I may be for quite a while.

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