Sunday, November 27, 2011
In the last four years, we have lost three parents between us. What no one tells you, is that with the proverbial "changing of the guard", there also comes changing traditions that are challenging.
Anyone who has lost a parent or other loved one will tell you, holidays are among the most difficult times to navigate. They are often steeped in traditions, created by the specific group of individuals who gather together to celebrate said holiday. For many, holidays are defined by traditions. When they change, it's as if the world has been somehow turned upside down.
Thanksgiving was a huge event on the Mandish side and, Christmas on the Matthis side. Both have been altered forever by the loss of two fathers and one mother. Things, they are a changin'.
Last year was the first year our daughter, Amanda, took on Thanksgiving in she and her hubby's home. In attempt to avoid having to dash from house to house, they brought both sets of parents to their home. I helped her with the turkey and many others brought traditional fare to add to the feast. The tables were beautifully set and the mood was festive. But-for me, it was very hard. It wasn't the same.
Instead of knowing every face around the table, I was surrounded by many with names I hadn't yet mastered. Instead of knowing all the stories, the children, the struggles they'd been through, they were, effectively strangers. There was none of the spirited conversation the Mandish clan is known for, no talking over each other, no---familiarity. It just felt wrong.
I have shared this experience with other family members on both sides and we all agree, we HATE it. I hate that the Matthis family doesn't go to Mom and Dad's on Christmas Eve. I hate that we don't all spend the night, wake up complaining the it was too hot, or too cold or that someone had snored too loudly. I hate that we don't eat my Dad's famous French Toast for breakfast. I even hate that we don't have the two hour drive home on Christmas morning, listening to Christmas music and looking forward to the next celebration. I also know that to go back is not an option. There is only one direction to travel and that is forward. I get it.
Time passes and some traditions must go by the wayside, out of necessity. We are now the older generation and we have to make adjustments that are often painful. It is a process that is wrought with melancholy moments. So, we incorporate what we can into the new, and let go of what we must from the old. We forge a new path that will be equally precious with the passing of time, but, may be a little rocky in this present day.
I was glad to tell our daughter that Thanksgiving this year was so much better for us than last. Faces were more familiar, expectations were adjusted, conversation was rich, laughter rang out and we truly enjoyed the new friendships we are forging. It wasn't the same as years gone by, but, it was good. By the time we left, our stomaches and our hearts were full. Same is not the gold standard; changing with the seasons of life, may well be.
I truly appreciate the ability to treasure so many sweet memories, but also for the blessed opportunity to choose to live in the moment. It is a gift to be thankful for. I am.