It is the evening before Thanksgiving. I’ve always loved the eve of a holiday, of an anniversary or a birthday. The anticipation, the last minute shopping for… oh I don’t know, an extra pie?
“And what about heavy cream? We only have half a pint left in the fridge.”
I’d like to say that I take a dollop with my apple pie, but….Oh what the hell, I’m baring everything else, I might as well come clean here; only lashings of thickly whipped cream will do it for me.
“Oh Andrew? Did you have to put sugar in it? It’s fattening you know!” Laughter, laughter; they all thought it was funny, one teaspoon of sugar, a mountain of cream…
Back from seeing my Guru, Amma, I stare at the misty scape filing past the car windows on our way home from the airport. No shouts of “Shotgun!” for the front seat and no discussion about who would sit in the middle. There are only a few inches of back seat between Robert and me, but even the Grand Canyon does not come close to the barren emptiness of the middle seat. What an alien feeling, no child up against my right side, no squabbling in the ranks.
I look outside again. You know, I am one of those people who loves seasons, and all things being equal, I’d welcome a dank, drizzly day as I do a new Spring day. But this time last year, it was five of us – now it is four and the foggy grayness outside is no match for the rawness of my slaughtered being, but it dulls my brain and freezes the ongoing caroussel in my mind.
A phone rings! It is Andrew’s, I snap to attention.
“Who is it?” I ask.
“It’s one of Andrew’s friends,” Robert says, staring at the phone. Before any of us gets it together and answers, the friend with a Chinese name rings off.
“Here, let me see,” says Florentina taking the phone.
“Should we call him back?” I ask.
“You do it,” and I am handed the phone. “Hello, you just called this number, I am Andrew’s mother,” I explain.
“Hel-lo…I am a friend of Andrew’s from Drexel…” he hesitates. Poor thing, he doesn’t know how to put it. “I just heard something… but I don’t think it’s true.”
I don’t think it’s true either, but I keep being proved wrong.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a new holiday for us Europeans, but one that we took to instantly, and we did feel sorry for poor old England or Italy (and the rest of the world) that had to manage without it. What a great recce stop on the way to Christmas. Instead of a mass produced bird, a free range organic turkey would have come out of the oven this year; other than that, after much to-ing and fro-ing, the same dishes would have filled our plates this year as they had every other year.
Driving home, amidst traffic and drizzle, I ask myself what I am supposed to be thankful for. Nobody would hold it against me if I said that I didn’t feel very thankful. But is it true?
And what would that say of the twenty years and five months that Andrew shared his life with us? But how can I feel so much pain and not die? Why does the sound of the bad-news-ringing phone keep interfering with the sound of Andrew’s voice? Why do images of Andrew, dead on a hospital gurney, keep obscuring those of Andrew sitting next to Robert, opposite me at the Thanksgiving table?
I must be a sucker for punishment, but I wouldn’t trade those twenty years and five months for anything!
I have much to be thankful for: my husband, our daughter and our youngest son; the family, friends and fellow human beings who have taken it upon themselves to support us. Three weeks and one day from November third, and I have yet to cook a meal. Plane tickets and hotel accommodation to go and see Amma, lovingly presented to us as a gift. Palpable prayer upon prayer; where would we be without them? And so many kind kindnesses that I’m hard put to find fault with anything.
Only the silence from Andrew’s lips, only the emptiness of Andrew’s seat.