Thanksgiving is upon us. I know this because of all the “Is it me or is anyone else amazed that it’s already Thanksgiving” posts/status updates on Facebook. With Thanksgiving comes the annual questions about what everyone is doing, where everyone is going and whether or not the crazy aunt, uncle, brother, sister, in-law or whomever is going to show up. Yes, Thanksgiving is a time for gorging on good food. It’s a time for reflection. It’s a time to be grateful. But, it’s also a natural time to rip on our families. The family dynamic just calls for such things. It seems we all come from one kind of dysfunction or another.
But, that’s not what I’m here to write about. Much.
I found out this morning that my aunt is in critical condition. She was diagnosed with a form of cancer last week and it’s not good. Not good at all. While she continues to battle, I can’t help but reflect and feel badly about the fact that I lost touch with her a long, long time ago. And, while she continues to battle, it’s strangely appropriate to be thinking about her on/around Thanksgiving because that’s where my greatest memories of her occurred.
My memory of my aunt is one of a hip, crazy, fun rock star of a woman. She turned me on to AC/DC and heavy metal. I still think of her every time I hear an AC/DC tune (which is often). When I was a kid, we rotated Thanksgivings through three houses: ours, my dad’s cousin’s and my aunt’s (my dad’s sister). I was the youngest cousin at these big, festive family events. I loved them. I couldn’t understand why anyone would ever want to skip out on Thanksgiving. I couldn’t understand why, as my cousins got older, they chose to go skiing instead of having our annual feast together. Family was the coolest.
I got older. Family got more complicated. Divorces happened. Girlfriends happened. Wanting to create my own life and my own boundaries happened. And, the cliche of you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family happened. (There’s a part of that cliche I left out.) Soon enough, I was skipping out on Thanksgiving too. Family just got too complicated. Thanksgiving became an opportunity to relax with friends. No stress. That’s what it remains for me today.
But, as I think about Joyce and the fact that I’ve let her slip away all these years…I’m reflective and sad. I’m sad that family has to be so political and difficult. I’m sad that I haven’t seen her for so long. Haven’t talked to her in years. It’s my loss. It’s K-Man’s loss. It’s a great loss.
I’m not naive enough to think that all family dynamics can be salvaged. Some of them are just gone. Long gone. I wonder, though, how many relationships we let slip away just…because. So, as I reflect over my Thanksgiving meal, I’ll remember my aunt and thank her for AC/DC. I’ll think of the laughter. And, frankly, I’ll be grateful that I’m not eating her turkey. She always killed that bird beyond recognition. Thinking of you, Joyce…