Thanksgiving 1950 – forever.
What child has not had a phone shoved into their face, with a mom saying “look who wants to speak with you??”. You roll your eyeballs at your mother, and, upon accepting the phone – MOST reluctantly – you are immediately connected to a relative, male or female, that is most likely homebound, or unable to attend the event.
My mom believed that my voice would make their day, in lieu of a table laden with turkey, dressings, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin & pecan pies. My childlike voice would convey the great day we were having apart from them, somehow make them cheerful, in their nursing home or living room. And anyway, if we didn’t convey that, mom was back to forking the potatoes, refilling the bugles and onion dip.
I did it to my kids. I ran out of things to say and would push the phone into their face, whispering ‘tell them you love and miss them’.
Never knowing how it felt to be alone on a special day. Eating meals on wheels, or a TV dinner. Or to be in a place so far from home, no one could understand. A nursing home, smelling like urine, TV blasting, and hearing the moans of those who don’t know where they are, calling out, to God, to anyone to bring them closer to home…
I hated prepping the plates, and taking them to our family that couldn’t attend, or I thought wouldn’t, come to dinner. When I had my own children, I would bundle them up and make them come with me. I didn’t feel wonderful, I felt irritated. Couldn’t my parents handle this better?
And now I am those relatives. It’s only fair I should endure what I had passed on. I am delighted with a text, an email… there are no phone calls in this generation, and no one shows up with a plate of food with little grandchildren around them. I sound cognizant. Therefore, I should be able to call or text myself. When they invite me I cannot come, I am overwhelmed with leaving my home.
So how could they know when I have a fear-free day, and want to be with them? I’ve turned down all their invitations. But do they know how afraid I am to leave the safety of my home? There are no words that I can use to tell them I am not the mother, aunt, cousin that I was. My world is narrow. My cousin, Jay, blew thru all of that. He knew when to call, when to text. When to stop by. And when to ignore all of the above. But Jay’s gone now.
I fear, Papa, that I have become a liability to my family. One daughter ignores, just as Jay did, whatever I say and stays part of my life. But the others, away from me, get irritated. Disgusted with my stupid repeated requests for contact. Yes, they will buy my groceries, but our visitation is 20 minutes or less. I hunger, not for turkey dinners or hot dogs on the 4th, but for them. To see them, take in what is going on in their lives.
Papa, I was so wrong in my youth to take the telephone, or accompany my Mom on holiday dinner runs. Or newspaper exchanges. Or make short trivial trips to the grocery store for them. I didn’t see that my mother was saying “I love you” with every action. “I love you” with every non-gripe. I’m late in the learning.
Papa, I wish I had learned the lessons you so afforded me. Instead, I passed along being disgruntled, burdened, bothered by family that needed so much more than a phone call or a plate of vittles.
I reap what I sowed, and yet even with that, my family surprises me. Because, despite all my best efforts, they love me.
As do you, Papa.
It’s me, Vicki