For Thanksgiving this year, I didn’t want to have some big group, but I also didn’t want to be alone so I drove down to my parents’ new lake house to spend the night. Driving down, I was worried about it. I was worried that Mom would be angry about something, worried that I’d watch them bicker over pointless crap, worried that we’d eat and then I’d just sit there for 12 hours with nothing to say or do so I’d just play on my laptop, which I could have done at home.
When I got there, Mom had already gotten lunch ready and it was the usual ham, rice, corn, field peas, and mac and cheese. I’ve said her food is bland, and it is, but it was still comforting to have a familiar meal. After lunch, Dad and I sat on the deck and watched as thousands (and I’m not exaggerating that) of birds chased a striper school up the cove. Mom even came out to watch with us. It was fascinating to see. Mom went back inside after and Dad suggested we take the boat out and do the second hour of engine break-in, which basically entails riding around at about 3/4 thrust and running wide up for a minute every ten. It was a fun time, and I got the drive the boat for half of it to get a feel for it. When we came back to the house, Mom was taking a nap and it was getting dark so Dad and I set up a firepit to burn through the evening, and started drinking.
For four or five hours, Dad and I hung out in the backyard, looking at the stars, the moon, listening to classic country music from my phone. As the night drew on, Dad commented that I’d been getting a lot of text messages. I said that several friends were checking in on me, and that I’d been going back and forth with one particular friend throughout the day, making sure they were doing all right and not sweating the family togetherness too much. He said “That’s the one you keep grinning at?” and then he and I started talking about feelings.
I told my father that I only remember seeing him cry once in my entire life, after he’d given me a spanking and I told him I hated him. It’s a vivid memory, seeing his face chance in an instant from the stern parent to a vulnerable human being with feelings. He assured me that he’s cried more than that, and I heard his voice choke. Rather than give him a break, I started talking about my feelings, my struggle, my pain, and I heard him start sniffling. And then he started sharing… and we went back and forth, crying together and loving each other and it will be another vivid memory that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Eventually, he went up to bed and I stayed up to watch the fire… and to answer a call from that friend who’d been texting me all day.
I talked with them straight on until three in the morning, sharing the experience I’d just had with my father, sharing how my day had turned out better than I’d hope, and they shared how their day had gone, and their feelings. We’ve been talking for a couple of months now, and they’ve been a tremendous help in processing my feelings, in practicing being open, in listening when I needed an ear to listen as I hope I’ve returned at least half of the support they’ve given me.
The three things I am most thankful right now are:
– That friend. The person who reached out to me at a time when I was incredibly vulnerable, put their hand on my shoulder, and listened to everything without judgement. Without them, I don’t know where’d I’d actually be mentally.
– My father. Despite his quiet and stoic exterior, he has a tremendous heart and a strength I never even realized until we talked about it all last night.
– Therapy. Out of all the shitty things that have happened as a result of my actions this year, maybe they all happened for a reason and maybe that reason was to put me in front of a counselor. Therapy has pushed me to open myself up more than I thought I ever would have, and to experience more of what life has to offer, good and bad. I know I have a long road to walk, and I know there will be stumbles along the way, but I am becoming a better person every day because of this journey.
I think yesterday was the best Thanksgiving I’ve had in my entire life.