I spent Thanksgiving this year traveling with Chris east on a Swiss rail train from Geneva to Zurich in the morning, then wandering through the old town of Zurich and its Christmas markets through the afternoon and evening. As we walked through this beautiful city, I thought about all the Thanksgivings in my past.
The last time I was home for Thanksgiving was November 2003, my senior year of high school. That seems like a hundred years ago even though it was just 12 years ago. Those were the days when my cousins, Ed, uncle, and I would have a Thanksgiving meal together, mostly prepared by my oldest cousin and me. Some sides would be brought over by my uncle, some crappy leftover food and chips from my second oldest cousin and his wife, who were always in a rush to leave our dinner to go to the wife’s family’s dinner in Vallejo, and a turkey that was painstakingly made by my oldest cousin. For some reason, we never called turkey gravy “gravy,” and instead my cousin insisted on calling it “au jus.” I don’t really get that even until today, but maybe that was his attempt at sounding fancy.
Family Thanksgivings for me are sadly a thing of the past. After I graduated from college and started earning an income where flying cross country to go home during a “peak” season wouldn’t break the bank, I realized I had little desire to go home during that period anyway. We were a broken family. The only reason I ever thought even for a second of going home was because I always felt bad about not seeing Ed that day, and his not having a “family” to have Thanksgiving with. After a while, the cousins stopped getting together, which meant my uncle stopped coming, which finally meant Ed had no one that day. Guilt is pretty much built into our DNA. Before he passed away, I thought, maybe I could go home for Thanksgiving in 2014, or he could come here, and we could have a meal together once again. Well, that never happened. I was too late.
“Experts” always say in those articles about grieving that everyone grieves on their own timeline, that it can take months to years to decades to let go of the regrets you have about things you wish you had done or not done or said or not said to those who have passed. That is all true. It’s hard to think of a major holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas and not think about my brother, which then leads me to wonder what else I could have done to have helped him. It’s futile since nothing will bring him back, but I always think about it anyway. He loved turkey, especially the dark meat, and we both loved the canned cranberry sauce we grew up with. It would be really great to have a Thanksgiving meal with him once again. Now it can only happen in dreams.