There’s nearly always some mix of pain and pleasure with the holidays with a large family and sometimes even with small ones. In most families, it seems there are some who are absent. Sometimes it’s the ones who live too far away to make the trip. Sometimes divorce takes its toll and sometimes Death has taken ones that we love and remember. The first year following may be the worst but none of the years are easy. It’s not only the missing face in their place around the table; it’s also missing their role in the rituals of preparation and participation.
Regardless of those elements, I’ve learned that focusing on the present and those who are present helps with the healing. We had lots of help at our big old house up in northeast Kansas this year.
Jay went up to South Dakota and brought Haydn and Asher down for Thanksgiving. Hunter was home from college at Coffeyville and he and Gage came over with Craig and Christy. Jeremiah and Daniel both brought their families over from western Kentucky. Four kids each accompanied by his or her spouse and nine grandkids spread out between them gave us lots to do and think about.
In addition to all the cooking, feeding, eating and cleaning, there was plenty to keep us busy. I joined Christie and Misty for a chilly run on the hill trails near our house in Doniphan County. Well, okay, they ran and I jogged and walked. I gave the kids rides on the tractor: three or four in the bucket of the front loader and one on my lap. A bunch of us teamed up to make fresh apple cider. Jay sharpened Dan’s hunting knives while Dan played guitar and sang. We watched football and Star Wars on the TV, played “Catch Phrase” around the big table in the dining room and had a lot of fun with remote control Hummers in the driveway. The kids raked up a big pile of leaves and then jumped into them. We talked, joked, laughed and listened.
There was enough food to feed forty people and enough love to fill our hearts. After it was over, we all returned safely to our separate homes.
And all of that makes for a mighty fine Thanksgiving… and lots of reasons for giving thanks.