Today, though, is always a day that makes me stop and think. The date is a "before and after" date for me, and the fact that it is also the Monday of Thanksgiving week makes it more so. Because at approximately 10:30 p.m., on this day of the week, on this date, in the year 1969, my father died. He had liver cancer, and had more or less been in a coma for several days. He would never ever get well, and to be honest, I was praying that he would die so that he could stop suffering. My mother had already taken me to see him a few weeks before so that I could say goodbye, and for so many reasons, it was awful.
And even though I knew he was dying, and even wanted him to be relieved of his suffering, it was still a surprise when he actually did die. It was the first time in my life that someone I knew intimately, and loved dearly, would die. It was terribly sad, and there are few days that go by, even 45 years later, when I don't think of him.
Ten years ago, on another Thanksgiving Monday, dated November 24, my doctor had sent me to have tests prior to having a biopsy to examine a "suspicious" finding on my most recent mammogram. As soon as the nurse told me that was the date for my tests, I knew that it would be likely that I would have cancer. Not that I am a fatalist, but I just felt that since it was all happening on that day, I would know the answer before anything else had occurred. I wasn't wrong. Unlike my father though - and years later, my mother - I was living in a time and place where cancer was no longer something to be ashamed of, and where there were doctors who studied nothing else. I was, and am, lucky.
When people learn that my father died when I was so young, they always feel sorry for me. Which I do understand, though it is not necessary. I have incredibly clear, wonderful, happy memories of him and of time we got to spend together. I have his enthusiasm (some would say that is a mild term to use) for the holidays, and though I always wish we could have spent more of them together, he is always closest to me during this time of year.
Most importantly, I learned at a young age that no one lives forever. That it is possible to continue to live when others die. That you should appreciate people while they are still with you, even if they drive you crazy, or you disagree, or you assume they will always be around because they are not sick. That you should enjoy things as much as you can, because your happiness is as much your responsibility as it is what is going on around you. That even terrible things that happen are worth being thankful for, since feelings mean you are stilll around to care.
So here I am on this bittersweet day, being happy that it's Thanksgiving week, and getting ready to make stuffing the way my father did. Missing him, but knowing that he is right here, just like he has been my entire life.
~My dad as a young man, in his backyard~
Have a wonderful week and a very Happy Thanksgiving!