Sunday, November 13, 2011

Me vs. Thanksgiving

I try not to hate Thanksgiving, but I do.
Say the word, and I sneer and cringe. Being the sensitive person that I am, I almost take the word "Thanksgiving" as a personal attack, and might give you a small glare, and it's not meant for you, but at the day.
Those around me are tired of my attitude too, because when I mumble, " I hate thanksgiving," I usually get an annoyed sigh and an "I know," maybe even an eye roll.
Many of you know Vanessa passed just days before Thanksgiving of 2002. Her funeral was on the day before Thanksgiving, so I deeply equate that holiday with the pain and loss of that week that surrounded her death. Some years the 23rd actually lands on Thanksgiving day, and this year, it lands on the day before, so I would ask forgiveness for being a big black Eeyore cloud that week, but instead I ask for understanding. To understand that I hate that week with every part of my being, and hate turkey, and hate stuffing, and hate gravy and all the fixins that go with it. The smell still makes me want to vomit even nine years later. It's not that I want the food changed  on that day either, changing it would make me feel worse. I don't want to suck every one down into my blackness with me, I just want that week to be done and over with so I can catch my breath and put that additional year without her behind me.
The day after her funeral in 2002 was Thanksgiving day itself. A week before that she was alive, and then she wasn't. I cannot put into words the depth of sorrow we were feeling, and we both were at such a loss that we decided on that day we were going to get in the car and drive. Just go and drive. Not anywhere in particular, but maybe, just maybe to the end of the Earth so we could drive off the edge and put an end to the fire that was burning a hole through our souls.
It was bright and sunny that Thanksgiving day in 2002. Cold, clear and blue, but I felt nothing. We didn't know how long we were going to be gone. Had no idea where we were going to end up. I just couldn't be inside the house with her gone, and the memory of her all over the place. Her laundry was still in the dryer. Homemade baby food was stacked in the freezer. Toys were everywhere. Her Christmas presents were under the bed. Her crib was next to my side of the bed. It was too much and I didn't know how to be, or where to be. All I wanted to do was slither out of my skin and be gone. With her, preferably. But for now, I just wanted to run away.
Our families didn't want us to go, but also made sure we had some money and a tuned up car to go on our trip to nowhere. We said our goodbyes to our reluctant families, and drove South but didn't get too far before getting stuck for hours on I-5 in the thick Thanksgiving traffic." Oh ya, it was Thanksgiving today." I had almost completely forgotten, or didn't care. One or the other.
We drove in silence as the traffic thinned around Chehalis and picked up speed as the dark set in. In the dusk I held my makeup mirror to my face and had my eyeliner in my other hand, deciding I should maybe try to look presentable. It was the first time in a week I had looked at myself in the mirror, but saw a different person staring back. My hand dropped and no make up was put on. No amount of makeup was ever going to make this person feel pretty again. There was too much dark inside. And it hasn't since.
By late evening we had gone about as South as we were going to get that day. It was time to find a hotel somewhere, and fall into bed and try to sleep off this nightmare. We weren't hungry, but knew we needed to eat. Most everything was closed, and we found a little nameless town and looked for anyplace with lights on. We almost gave up after ten minutes of driving, but saw a place lit up and cars in the parking lot. All I remember was a big wagon wheel by the entrance, but can't remember the name. So much of the six months after her death is just gone from my brain. All I remember are fragments of that time. I suppose as a hope of preservation, my brain has withheld the memory in hopes to let the space that was my heart, begin to regenerate. Bit by bit, all these years later, I think it is just starting to.
I told Jeremy that I couldn't go in. He said, "please, don't make me go in there alone." It didn't look busy, but it didn't look empty either. I ambled out of the car with him but told him I couldn't talk. Not to anyone. And I didn't, the whole seven day trip.
Jeremy opened the door for me and a sign screamed the specials at us, and a "Happy Thanksgiving!!"
I wanted to kick it over. A waiter led us to the dining area where a couple of big families laughed and ate food that smelled of the holiday. I held my breath and Jeremy pointed to a booth far away from them, and the waiter raised an eyebrow, but obliged.
We stared blankly at the menu for quite some time. Thanksgiving food was definitely out of the question. Nothing sounded good. Every now and then a hearty roar came from one of the busy tables. It made my heart hurt that we had left our parents and I imagined their dim lonely holiday and held back tears. The waiter came twice to get our order. We still weren't ready. By the third time, we decided on a quesadilla. As un-Thanksgiving as it gets. He brought our order and we nibbled, but didn't eat much. Food was ashes in our mouth, and nothing tasted like it was supposed to. Everything tasted like salt. I was crying so much, I think the salt just hung around indefinitely.
Jeremy paid our bill and we returned to the black pavement and the random headlights that dotted the night. A road sign let us know we were in Roseburg, OR, and we spied a sign that pointed us to a Best Western  just off the next exit. We pulled in and I stayed in the car while Jeremy checked us in. That trip we stayed in some very dank places, and this one was the better of the dank, but still dank. All I remember of that night was staring blankly at Faith Hill as she sang a holiday special on the TV, feeling cold underneath the floral brown comforter that felt grimy to me, listening to the constant low sound of the freeway that felt as if it were right outside our door, and missing my baby so much I felt as if my body was splitting in two. I remember praying for a semi to loose control and crash right into our hotel room and be done with us so this pain would go away. This deep, dark pain. As you can see, the prayer was unanswered, or answered differently, if you look at it that way.
 I will write more about that trip sometime, but it would be a very long post if I continued.
So as you see, Thanksgiving is my nemesis. I can't help it and maybe I don't want to help it. It is my time for pain, and since that's all I have left of her, I will be selfish with the pain and rage against the holiday next week. Internally, of course. I have kept my loathing from Grace, because it is unfair to share our burden with her, and I don't expect her to carry it.
I will rage on by myself.
And hate it because I can.
So there.

Mean 'ol Thanksgiving


  1. hugs to you lady! Keep telling your story, I love to read it and know it will help heal your broken heart.

  2. I can't even imagine how much pain you have been in for all these years. Thank you for sharing your story, Marla. I wonder if you may begin to feel a little bit more whole the more you share Vanessa's story with us. I think it must have been so heavy to carry all that inside for so many years. I'm here, friend. And you can badmouth Thanksgiving as much as you want. I promise I won't roll my eyes. Sending you a big fat hug!!

  3. Thank you, Merry and Sarah. It does help to share, and not make it feel like a secret. Thanks for the support!