Here’s to a No-Drama Holiday!
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Below.
I come from a huge, extended family that covers about a fourth of the State of Georgia, including cousins not seen in years and other cousins not claimed in much longer than that. And plenty enough of the latter are in jail or dancing on table-tops or mowing the lawn in their bikinis and Daisy-Duke high heels next to a major highway or marrying preachers and pretending to be holier- than-thou to hide the aforementioned activities—and half of the hypocrites really yearning to be family with me because they need a loan they know there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell they’d ever pay back.
But you don’t get to choose your family…not for a while, at least.
The holiday season has always encompassed some form of family, and usually family drama. Not the storebought kind. Oh, no. No, it was homemade drama. Made from scratch. The more scratch, the better.
There was always some relative stealing something from another or messing with another’s wife or some toddler-sized cousin getting thrown into a wall or a parent refusing to speak to their children. For years, my dad— who never after the first year of marriage gave my mom a present for Christmas (or birthday, or Mother’s Day, or any other day) would give me a huge roll of money to slip to his mother. The last time I was involved, it was a rubberbanded roll of $600 back when I was in high school. Without acknowledging me, she took it from me and then snubbed my dad, later sending a note to him via his brother that she didn’t need his money, but kept it all the same. I imagine my mom could have bought some decent furniture with that….
So the holidays have always been the setting for family drama at its finest. Even when it was just my parents and immediate family.
This year, what I really wanted was for my mom to have some peace, me to have some time with my brothers, to be barefoot on the farm a little bit, to have a drama-free and stress-free Thanksgiving visit.
I got it. I got it! It was the strangest Thanksgiving I can ever remember.
I got to spend time with both my brothers. I got to walk the farm barefoot with the girls and the dog and just myself under a beautiful crescent moon with the autumn grasses tall and colorful around me and my toes eventually so cold in the grass that I couldn’t feel them. There was a wonderful, incredible serenity on the farm this time.
I got to have real conversations with my mom, without her having to run wipe my dad’s nose or worse if he snapped his fingers. We got to hear each other talk without the TV so loud that it dominated the whole house. I got to see my mother relaxed and relatively unstressed and energetic and…just such a different person than when she’s a full-time caregiver 24/7 for over 6.5 years….
Thanksgiving dinner was bizarre. A true Twilight Zone moment. Being able to have conversations, hearing everyone else eating and the bird outside the window, not having a TV blasting, my mom not jumping up and down 20 times in one meal to get whatever my dad wanted or anticipating what someone else at the table might need. It was just so different.
Change one factor….
The difference this year was that Daddy was in the hospital. The meds are working and he’s feeling better, though he won’t admit it unless it’ll get him home faster so Mama can wait on him hand and foot again. He had lots of company, though. I was there 4 times in 24 hours to visit him and get my required dose of guilt. Most of it, I let roll off or I diffused it. Still, it’s hard looking at a shell of a man who used to beat my brothers so badly that he broke doubled leather belts on them. The same man who, when I was fourteen, threw at hammer at me because I couldn’t get something for him fast enough and then declared that I obviously could move when I was motivated to do (my words, not his).
Strange, realizing today that he would have physically abused my mother more except for one thing: he was scared of her father. My short, slim grandfather would have killed him if he’d seen it, and with any number of implements including his bare hands. He was an entrepreneurial, hard-working Aquarius, but not without emotions. It’s said he learned to cuss by plowing with a mule. He lived to be 90, and was in much better shape then than my dad was a decade ago.
It was just such an odd holiday this year, seeing the way my family came alive without my dad there to demand everything be his way or no way.
I really loved seeing my mother smiling and relaxed at home. Not at the hospital, but at home. Yes.