I don’t have a big family. We’ve been scattered across the globe: the result of war, struggling economies, and divorce. And since my grandparents died, Thanksgiving at my home in Clinton, Massachusetts, is usually just my mother, brother and me sitting quietly around a table, scooping brown mush, white mush, and microwaved vegetables onto our plates, ignoring the palpable presence of those who are gone or never there. Back when they were more than just a memory, my grandparents always broke the quiet by sharing stories about New York City during the Great Depression—or the day they brought my mother home from the adoption agency. Now I just watch the candles burn in the center of the table, believing I can hear the wick gasping. Then I begin to hear my grandparents’ voices. I know they aren’t real, but their haunting timbre is too much to bear. So, stuffed with turkey and various shades of mush, I walk into the living room where our out-of-tune piano sits like a coffin. I play a basic chord progression, pressing down on the jagged keys. Then my brother leaves the table to sit next to me on the wooden bench that creaks like pews in church, and he pushes down on the root notes of my chords in a higher register, creating something bordering on harmony. My mother stays at the table and listens, scanning through memories. Some Thanksgivings she joins in and sings with us, other times she just listens from the dining room, smoking Marlboro Reds and waiting for the phone to ring, for a voice, for a family looking for those who are missing.
2 thoughts on “Dealing with Grief on Thanksgiving”
Goddamn, Joe. That was really sad, comforting, and touching. Your presence is missed in Woodland Hills. Thank you for helping me to see the beauty in my own tarnished holiday.
Thanks, Sarah. Really appreciate you reading and commenting. Hello to everyone in woodland hills.