It’s Thanksgiving! Well, it is tomorrow, but from the traffic and the shopping lines, you’d think it was all week. And it a way, it is. The nursing home has been filled with new (to me) faces: grandchildren and nieces and nephews who have come into town for the holiday are coming in for visits to their elderly loved ones. It’s quite touching, actually…but it makes me wish we had more special holidays all year long, just so these sweet people could get their favorite people coming to see them more often.
Growing up, Thanksgiving wasn’t a terribly significant event. It was Christmas that we kids lived for…which was chock-full of sentimental traditions and PRESENTS. But my mom’s family was faithful about celebrating Turkey Day together. We’d meet up in Laguna Beach and for a pot-luck on a picnic table. I remember there being lots of adult-foods like pâté and tomato bisque. (This was the 70’s, before kids were raised to like those kinds of things.) I think one year the kids were treated by something special like a big tub of Kentucky Fried Chicken, but for me it was never about the feast. It was about seeing the cousins from that side of the family and exploring on the rocks and the sand below. (This was the 70s, before kids were told to be fearful of those things, unless an adult was watching.)
As I grew older, it seemed we spent a lot of Thanksgivings abroad or in a new town with new people, and we lost our attachment to the semblance of tradition that even those beach picnics had brought. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve had plenty of fine Thanksgiving feasts at other’s homes over the years. My aunt Sue, who has a wonderful hospitality ministry (and blog) of her own throws a big feast nearly every year and invites everyone she meets. So it’s in the family somewhere! But I’ve never prepared or cooked a turkey in my 44 years and I am hoping I can get through the next 44 without ever touching a naked bird once.
But this year…this year, I get it. We are having special people come home for Thanksgiving, and I feel like we should roll out the red carpet, as if Joe and Vernon are wounded warriors coming home from some war they fight every day. We only get them for a handful of hours, but it’s a BIG DEAL. We have been making arrangements for this handful of hours for a month, at least. I haven’t recorded all the details of the planning, because some of them are too personal (ie biological) to share. But here and there, I’ve been transferring Vernon from chair to bed by myself, watching tutorials on how to attach a wheelchair to a van, getting doctor’s and nurse’s approval, making sure the kids are prepared, asking my parent’s for endless favors, finding the van to rent for the day. And that’s just on my end. I think Joe and Vernon are looking forward to their outing more than everyone else. I wasn’t even sure we would make it to tomorrow, what with Vernon’s up and down reactions to surgeries over the past month. There has been a lot of planning and hoping to get us to tomorrow, and now we are almost there!
I sat down this afternoon, in the middle of tidying my house (at long last) and realized I’d been feeling strung-out all day. I guess that’s how I deal with things that scare me. I don’t have the energy to spend a week or two being afraid of things, so I just commit my calendar and then deal with the fear the day before or the morning of. It can come on in a surprising intensity if do it that way: waiting till the last minute to realize what you’ve got yourself into. (I give myself 24 hours to work it out, if I have to. But at least, this way, I’m too far in to change my mind no matter how nervous I get.)
I’m not really afraid of how the day itself will go. It’s just the fact that tomorrow will be the first time that I’m in charge of Vernon’s safety (and Joe’s as well) since the journey began. This is an even bigger deal than prepping a turkey from scratch, I think. And it’s another thing I’ve never done. I imagine Joe and Vernon rolling around on their chairs in the back of the van all the way down PCH, falling left or right depending on the lane I change into.I told Vernon earlier today to promise that no matter what, he wouldn’t let me kill him accidentally. I promised me he wouldn’t.
So here we are. A year and a half in…and Vernon’s coming home tomorrow (for the day.) It will be the first time in a year and a half. Suddenly a year and a half seems doable. Maybe we can do another year and a half if we have to. Maybe when the two year mark comes, we will know we can do another two if we have to. And then on, and then on, and then on…
So this Thanksgiving means more than just being thankful for what we have. It’s a marker for getting through this last long season. Maybe we will celebrate again next year together and laugh at how naive we were then. But we will celebrate, regardless, somehow. Thanksgiving is a beautiful tradition because as far as I know, the country has collectively been celebrating it every year since that first historic meal 394 years ago. And in my memory of the story, it was a bunch of survivors saying: “Thank God we made it through the hard year and we are still standing, if barely. Here’s to making it through another! No matter what, we’re in it together. Let’s celebrate.”
It just so happens I have been going through the photo library on this very blog site, hoping to update the cover page with some pictures of Vernon’s recovery year-and-a-half-so-far. In the spirit of gratitude and remembrance, I’ll post some of my favorites here before deciding which ones I like best.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I am grateful for your friendship and support beyond words. Enjoy your families and/or memories. Most of us are still standing, after all. I send extra love to those who are missing their loved ones at this time. I’m still thankful for you, and I’m glad you are with us.
Some old ones I found of Vernon and the kids—pre-accident, obviously.
Kindred Rehab Hospital, Brea
I wish I could say it was a straightforward journey. But then Vernon has always been a lateral thinking guy…guess his family is now, too.
Regardless, we are thankful. Look how far he has come!