Another year is nearly in the books. It’s been a pretty good one - perhaps one of my best. There have been no real surprises, no huge upheaval, not a lot of drama. True, my life has not been drama-free, but I must say it is in remission. Yesterday’s Thanksgiving feast at my parents’ home was pleasant. If I had my druthers, I would have had all three of my kids there, but not everything is meant to be as I would have it.
I would have put mashed potatoes on the menu as well.
Only my youngest made the trek this year. He and his friend played football and Frisbee on the same street I did so many Thanksgivings ago. My oldest went to Boston with his girlfriend this year. He approached the subject with me somewhat tentatively until I made it clear that it was all right. I always say, “Never pass up a free trip to Boston.” Ok, I’ve never said that, but it’s still sage advice.
My middle son waffled between spending time with my side of the family and his mother’s. I made it clear that it was his choice and whatever he decided was fine with me. He had to choose between spending two hours (one way) in a cramped car with his brother, their friends and me or do the same with his mother traveling to a different set of relatives’ home. In the end, he decided that he did not have to choose; neither option was too appealing and he decided to stay home with his girlfriend and another friend. Except for making sure he was ok with his decision, I didn’t try to talk him out of it.
I knew we would be driving back after dinner. It was a four-hour round trip and about a six-hour stay – 10 hours all tolled. That makes for a very long day. I always say (really, I do always say this) that the duration of a trip should be at least twice the travel time. We made an exception this time. I brought back leftovers for my middle son and company so that the traditional feast would not have to be sacrificed in the name of peace and comfort. My mother’s cooking is legendary and my son eagerly awaited his take-out order.
Although somewhat later, he and his friends enjoyed the very same meal the rest of us did earlier. The impact and the meaning and the tradition remained intact as well. He was thankful and made sure to thank everyone who had it coming. Although we didn’t share the same physical space or dining experience, we shared something deeper. We had an understanding and communicated our needs without fear of reprisal or hurt. In a metaphysical way, we shared much more than a turkey dinner.
And it is despite my vision of how it should have been. If I had to paint a picture of Thanksgiving this year, as I would like to see it – without any limitations, it wouldn’t have been this. If I were asked to paint a realistic portrait, best and worst-case scenario, I would have missed by a mile. In all cases, I would have sold myself short because the most important factor of all would have been missing – acceptance.
It is this sincere little nuance… an idea that, although not everything is necessarily planned, some things just can’t help being the way they are. Taken one step further, even if you are the type who plans everything to the nth degree, isn’t there a point where you must throw in the towel? How much simpler life is that I can recognize that time so many painful steps sooner.
I could have forced the issue. Not that I could make him come, he’s too old and too big, but I could have used the coercive and manipulative powers that I have acquired over the years to create that very reality. The reality I just got done saying I would have preferred. But that reality is contingent upon him sincerely wanting to be there, sincerely. If I “made” him come, I would have had what I wanted – physically. But I would not have had his heart and mind.
What I got was better than I could have planned. It was better than was possible to plan. Planning for sincerity is like planning for falling in love. All of the ingredients can be carefully arranged. The warm summer evening, the quiet sidewalk café and the soft music can be planned in advance, but love is unpredictable and best not meddled with. Sincerity is similar, and the best of planning cannot create it.
The connection was there. Not in time or in space, but in spirit.
My Mother used to prod me into attending many meals I'd have preferred to decline, such as Easter Dinner. I always did what she asked at the expense of my rest n driving. We could never wait to return home with that sigh of relief as we stepped thru the door.
Now-a-days I'm glad I traveled there so much n saw as much of her as possible before illness took her.
I'm way more laid back,now Mom's off my back! I got to see one daughter n grandson, but allow them their own plans without a fight. It was the In-law dinner year for the other. Someday we'll have a dinner with all of us together. Often I'm the bummer cause I have to work holidays, n local is easier. "Whatever!" is better than nowhere to go-
I bet your sons are very greatful they don't have to expect "the Riot Act" whenever they say what they feel about plans!
Glad you had a good day-
sincerity and respect. they go hand in hand, don't they?
Family........well any relationship revolves around meeting on a common ground. Don't you think. And more times than not, even when we feel like we compromise more than we want to, the end results are worth it.
Enjoy your week.
That is so profound and true. Kind of hard for a parent to do, to step back and respect your child's independence and free will. You are doing a great job of this.
There will come a time when all of you will share the same space and dining experience for Thanksgiving.
As for romance, you have all the correct ingredients going :)
Good luck on your finals!
Thoughtful post Mike - reminded me of this quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe;
"What is uttered from the heart alone, will win the hearts of others to your own."
Well, this just proves that you are a good Dad to let you children have some sense of independence without the hassle of feeling guilty.
Most time, it's easier to concede the battle, cause in the end, you'll win the war, and the guilt will hit them later on in life anyway.
Ok.... anon was me, and I couldn't get in using my avatar. I also noticed a typo (silly me!)... I meant: let YOUR children have independence.
Not sure if this will make it right either....
I understand you way more than you would know.
sounds like a busy but family full day! (hehehe 'full' on Thanksgiving... ok ok its late but IIIIII thought it was funny! lol)
I missed my Mom and brother too much this year to relax. I just cant seem to get my arms around the holidays yet again this year. Perhaps next year I will.
oh and very sound advice about never passing up a free trip to Boston... especially with a love interest! *wink
I know what you mean about the mashed potatoes! For dietary reasons, all we had this year was turkey, lots of steamed vegetables, and pumpkin pie sweetened with Splenda. The only thing that made it bearable was the Chardonnay.
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