Brian answers the phone, it's Maryann... she's in tears.
I put the turkey down, taking the phone from my sweet husband, my heart sank.
"My dad... he took a turn for the worse. He can't sit up, his mouth is open, he's drooling, it's horrible. My dad, he looks like he had a stroke!" Maryann's voice cried to me, full of sadness and pain over the impending loss of her dad.
"Still come. You need to be with us, we love you, we are your family." I replied. "It's going to be OK. We are back together, you are back with your dad's family, we'll get through this, we love you. It's what your dad wanted and his dream has come true." I said to Maryann, my closest cousin and friend from when we were kids.
"I'm coming, I can't stay here. I just didn't want to breakdown in front of your mother." Maryann sobbed.
My mom, she looks up from the beans that she was helping to prepare, eyes welling up with tears and a big frown on her face. With her lower lip quivering she said, "He's going to Heaven. He's leaving without me, he's leaving me here alone. I want to go with him." She began to cry.
My heart broke even more for my little mom. I thought about how it must feel for her to have all of her siblings going and gone from this Earth; how she will never be able to have a real conversation. I thought about how I'd feel if I were the last one remaining. I cried inside, sucking in the tears, forcing myself not to let the floodgates break.
"It's OK Ma. Uncle Al will still be here, just like Dad and Ed, your brother Auggie and your sister Flo. They will all be here watching over you. Just think, when it's your turn for the bus to come, they'll all be there welcoming you to your big Celebration of Life party that God throws in Heaven for all the good people like you." I made my best attempt to calm her with words; it seemed to stop her tears and she went back to cutting the tips off the string beans.
Guests began arriving, it was total madness. Nothing was ready. Everyone congregated in the kitchen and wanted to talk to me. Ahhhhhh. I lost total control of my kitchen. I let people help. I got more behind. Screw it. Let's just have fun, who cares if nothing is ready at the same time.
The clean up that I needed to do the day before threw off my schedule. I've learned that Care Giver's can't be married to plans when a bladder or bowels let loose on the floor. Some things just need to take precedents and cleaning pee and poop always comes first.
Maryann arrived. She saw my face, we hugged and she busted into tears. We rocked and hugged, I assured her that everything will be OK, she's back with her Dad's family, his dream has come true.
We were sad that Uncle Al couldn't be here. All of us were looking forward to seeing him in the big room downstairs, just like 2 years ago, before my mom took her turn for the worse, requiring all of my time.
Chaos turned into lots of fun. I let go of my perceived ideal of what my Thanksgiving Dinner should be like for my guest and I enjoyed my family. I missed all of them so much, it's been quite sometime since we hosted a party. Joan, April, Amy, Dewey, Rose... all of my relatives that always come, relatives that I've enjoyed throughout the years.
Uncle Al's little princess was so darn cute, high heels and all. "Look Sue, I have high heels!" She shrieked in her little girl voice.
The generations are shifting, we are all moving up the ladder of life, making our way toward our place in Heaven.
My cousins and I, we are becoming the next group of seniors, one by one, the march of time progresses as our parents generation fight to prolong their last days on Earth.
Children were running around, giggles and laughter echoing through the house, restoring life that has long been absent from our home. The children, restored the balance that we always enjoyed over the years.
Uncle Al's Princess, she made us laugh. Her imagination is beautiful. Talking into a hand mirror, laughing and giggling, playing with my cousin's little 2 year old man, grabbing him like her mom did to my brother Marty decades ago.
Skipping down the hall she exclaimed, "I'm going to Aunt Jo's room to play the piano!" It was awesome having children here, they filled my dying heart with life.
Our Thanksgiving, it was bitter sweet. Family was gathered, love filled the air, hugs and laughter shattered the sadness that had been looming for far too long in this household. Family. We need family to get through the rough times.
This holiday, I learned that petty arguments which separate families are ludicrous and do nothing but cloud the truth. All that matters is being together and loving each other for who we are. Just like my dad always taught us, family are your only true friends. Thanksgiving Day, it has come and gone, but the memories and the love still linger.
Love is the answer, it cures all troubles and it can begin with you. Rise above the BS because to miss out on family because of anger toward something is short sighted. The only ones who suffer are the folks who refuse to let it all go and just love.
I adore my family. I feel blessed to have so many people to love and be loved in return. Life is too short because one day the ones we love will be gone and all we will have are memories. What memories will you chose to have? There's still time ... but remember, the clock is ticking.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my family. I love you all and thank you for the memories.
Here are a few more pictures of family love in action...
The lesson I learned is all that matters is love.
I love my family... ALL OF YOU!