Last week, I advised you to reach out to other people to survive Thanksgiving. Offer an extra set of hands, I said. Talk to the teens and old people, I said. Do the dishes, I said. Don’t feel sorry for yourself, I said.
Easier said than done, isn’t it? I found myself wanting to weep over my turkey at one point. My father and I spent the holiday at my brother’s house with his in-laws. Everybody seemed to be obsessed with their children and grandchildren, except my niece, who is treating her dog as her child. I looked around and saw no one I could relate to except the three dogs that were there. I missed my husband. I missed my mother. I felt alone in the crowd.
Oh, yes, I admit it. I felt sorry for myself, even though I knew I was not the only widow in the room. My sister-in-law’s cousin lost her husband right after Christmas last year. The last family event he attended was Thanksgiving at my brother’s house. She had a lot more right to feel sorry for herself than I did. But all day, I watched her holding one of her four young grandchildren and thought, wow, she’s surrounded by family, and I’ve got a brother and father who are busy arguing finance with the other men while the football game plays on the big-screen TV.
At one point, I went outside where the big dogs were corralled. “Guys, I have nobody to talk to,” I whined. They replied, “Did you bring us any turkey? Can you let us out to play?”
Eventually, things got better. I talked to a young man who was the son of a cousin I had not met before. He’s newly in love, very happy in his life in California. And he actually asked me about my life and work. I made a new friend and it felt good. I talked with my sister-in-law’s aunt and uncle. I snuggled with my niece’s “chi-weiner” dog, who does indeed feel like a baby, especially wrapped in her pink “hoodie.”
I survived the hard moment. The baby got on a crying jag, the older kids got cranky and rude, and I was fine with them not being mine. I didn’t find out until the next day that the mother/grandmother/new widow was never able to have children of her own. She has one stepson who feels like her own, and the other three were foster kids whom she adopted. Some of those kids have had very troubled lives. It was not at all the fairy tale story I thought it was. She worked hard to get those kids, and she also has worked hard to build a successful career. And now when her kids go off to their own homes, she’s as alone as I am. Something to think about.
The day before Thanksgiving, I met my cousin’s one-year-old daughter, who is adorable. I think she decided she liked me. Interacting with her was fun. The house looked like a bomb exploded in it, and the child, who recently learned to walk, was constantly having to be chased and captured. Did I long to have a child just like her? I did. But then I looked at my other cousin’s hulking, sullen teenagers and thought . . . maybe it’s okay.
The day after Thanksgiving, my nephew arrived at my brother’s house with his pregnant fiancée and her two daughters, plus another dog. It was loud and chaotic. Dogs barking, multiple conversations, little girls needing attention. My father and I were both glad to get away from the commotion to the peace and quiet of his all-adult, no-dog house, where we could share tea and pastries and talk trash about everybody else.
One more note from my Thanksgiving. My sister-in-law’s uncle thinks I’m my 93-year-old father’s sister. I could not convince him otherwise. How’s that for an ego boost? Last Thanksgiving, a waitress at my brother’s favorite restaurant thought I was Dad’s wife. Either Dad looks very young for his age—he does—or . . . never mind.
I got propositioned online last night by a man who told me I was beautiful. I think it was a robo-email, not written by an actual person, but it’s nice to hear. He was very handsome. He said he didn’t have any kids. What’s the story behind that?
So that’s how it went for me. How did Thanksgiving go for you? Please tell us in the comments. We can all whine together here, then figure out how to grow up and get past it.