Thanksgiving has always been the holiday we spent with my Dad. Growing up with divorced parents meant splitting time during the holiday season. Most times it worked to our advantage with things like two Christmas celebrations and double birthdays too. My parents always wanted us to be home on Christmas morning so Thanksgiving became my Dad’s weekend. It also meant that I did not have a home cooked Thanksgiving meal until I was 25.
Most years we would get up super early and hang out on the Upper Westside and watch the parade. (One year we got there so early that we saw Santa getting dressed.) After Santa’s sled strolled down Columbus Ave., we would run over to the Brasserie for hot chocolate and french fries (mayo on the side). Usually we hopped on the train and went home, changed, and drove back into the city to go out for a fancy schmancy dinner that was not always suitable for children. One year we went to the Keys and rented a houseboat and had a fantastic dinner of conch on turkey day. Of course we also braved very rough seas after Dad did not heed the harbormaster’s warnings to return when the wind changed direction. Another year we zipped off to Woodstock, Vt and got to taste our first Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and during a more recent trip we ate our way through New Orleans having Thanksgiving dessert at Cafe du Monde. All memorable days filled with laughter and more togetherness than we had during the other 360 days of the year with my dad.
Two weeks ago my dad asked me to bring my family to D.C. for what we all anticipate will be my his last Thanksgiving and quite possibly his last holiday with us. Dad was so lucid two weeks ago. He had big ideas for last talks with the older grandkids and grand ideas about what we would eat. But during the middle of last week things started to change. He couldn’t talk on the phone for very long, he mixed up lots of words and forgot some important names. By the time the weekend arrived he wasn’t able to talk on the phone anymore because he was sleeping so much and that is still the case today. He was able to say “hi” to me yesterday and that was pretty fab.
So on Thursday morning we’ll load up the minivan and head to NoVa for what Alex, my preteen, won’t stop reminding me is not a “normal” Thanksgiving. We’ll meet Dave and Amy and the girls at the hotel. And we’ll get to see my aunt and uncle that we don’t get to see very often because they live way up there in Northern Michigan. Dave and I will go to see Dad. We won’t bring the kids because I’m not sure it’s fair to taint their last memory with what we are going to find. We’ll bring dinner to the hotel and let the kids swim in the poll while Dave and I go back and forth splitting our time between our dad and our families. It’s a far cry from the old Thanksgivings with dad but it is fulfilling one of his last wishes and I hope that on some level he knows we are there.
But as most of you know, my dad has at least nine lives. He survived the infamous fall into a manhole years ago and has continued to defy the odds this year. Maybe on Thursday he’ll greet me at the door, give me a huge hug, shake Justin’s hand using both hands and wrestle with each of my kids. Or maybe I’ll just hold on to those sweet memories and sit and hold my dad’s hand while he sleeps. And for that opportunity I am forever grateful.
UPDATE…Of course as many of you know, we did bring the kids and they sat with him and surpassed my expectations of what that would be like. They got to watch Grandpa and sit with him in a way they will never forget.