this time of year is always difficult for me. it has been for seventeen years. wow. seventeen years is how old i was when it all changed. my entire dynamic. everything i knew as normal, albeit somewhat dysfunctional - changed. it was my senior year in high school and i was here in syacuse visiting my dad for the holidays. he and my oldest brother had one heck of a blow out on new year's day. my dad died very unexpectedly the very next day. his health was poor, to begin with. but that is what i remember. a fight. and then my life changed. remarkably. even though my parents had been divorced at that point for a little over 10 years and i didn't see my dad often, i loved him. he was in my life. he helped me feel happy. he assured me everything was okay when i felt resentment from my brothers, or when they treatd me poorly. imagine the guilt my oldest brother must carry with him daily. he's an angry person. he always has been, he always will be. he is NOT a part of my life.

i have two brothers. i have lived most of my life thousands of miles away from them. after i got married, i felt a strong pull to be near them. so much so, my husband and i moved back here to be close to my family. as things turn out, i live across the street from one of my brothers. i have seen him once in the last 30 days. i live less than three miles from the other one and his family. i passed them on my street on halloween night and said hello. such a casual hello, you would have thought we were neighbors. not of the same genepool. my daughter does not know this brother, his wife, or their children. she looks at them like they are strangers. i tell this to people, friends, and they think i exxagerate. the truth is - i don't. not for an instant. it's the raw, God's honest truth. and to some - it seems sad. to me - it was.

i've learned something recently. you are given yor family. it's not a choice. however, you can CHOOSE who to BE a part of your family. genetic ties mean nothing. they're just that. genetic ties. i've grown to accept the fact - i will never support my family. they will never understand me. i am no longer going to force my husband to be a part of their lives. i am thankful i am finally old enough to see the truth in these people. the shallow, selfish truth. thankful that, though i share the same genes, i inherited a soul. a heart. compassion. feelings. something my brothers apparently did not get.

i'm thankful that i can mourn my dad, but be happy to know that i loved him - and i can have the courage to remember the happy times in lieu of the sad times... it's all i've got. i'm thankful, that i can love my mom in ways my brothers will never understand. thankful i hurt. thankful i cry. thankful i stand up for what i feel. thankful i have a good marriage to a man i can call my best friend. thankful his family accepts me for who i am, not what i can offer them.

so, this year - for the first time yet - since we've lived here, we have not received even one obligatory invite from my family for the holidays. not a mention as to what are we doing, do we have plans, would we like to join anyone. not a word. and for the first time ever, i am thankful. because i will not be forced to make up an excuse to decline the offer to join in on a store bought dinner in a box. to me - thanksgiving is about being together. family. being thankful. cooking! my most favorite part! tradition. i'm thankful.

we are staying home, once again, just the three of us. and i will still go all out, martha style. complete with the 22 pound turkey i just bought and everything from scratch but the mashed potatoes (i still haven't mastered potatos sans lumps!), homemade stuffing, apple pie, cranberry sauce, bread, sweet potatoes, salad - everything from scratch! i will spend about 12-14 hours total between baking, prepping, cooking, cleaning, enjoying my day. in my little 2x2 kitchen. with just my own lil family. we've invited on of hubby's friends who is having a rough time at home. i will extend the invite to some folks i know go out to eat on thanksgiving. and i will be completely and utterly happy.

so - this day starts the beginning of a tough period for me. i'm a mess right after christmas because of my pops. i miss him. i wish he knew my daughter. God - he would just adore her. so much so i can picture it some days. he would just love my husband. he would be proud. and this is the first year i can honestly say - i think my dad would support my feelings and my decision to stay home and not force the issue with my family. he would be here, with us. and he'd say something to me like... "who's better than you? who needs em!"

i'm thankful. for ron, for kennedy, for my Ma, my best friend joaney and her family, ron's family. i choose all of them. i'm thankful i've grown up enough to realize that it is ok.

what have you learned this year that you are thankful for?

happy thanksgiving.


tillyhead said...

{{{{hugs}}}} I'm thankful for people like you who say what they mean and mean what they say. We can't change anyone but ourselves....

Holly said...

Awwww, Shelley! That totally made me cry. I should have my husband read it because I have been trying to explain to him that family is just that...genetic ties that you did not choose. It doesn't mean an obligatory friendliness or even a relationship of any sort. His mother is just a flat out bitch. He doesn't understand that he doesn't HAVE to have anything to do with her. If my family had pulled half the crap that she has, I would have cut them off years ago. And, through this deployment, I have managed to remove the cancer, that is his mother, from our lives. She is nothing but trouble. And, she won't be coming anywhere near my children ever again. I won't allow them to be around such negativity. I don't want them to know that brand of weirdness even exists. They're too young...too innocent. Hugs to you. I'm sorry about your dad. I know this time of year must be hard for you. My father-in-law was in a motorcycle accident on the 4th of July in 2006. It left him completely paralyzed for over a year. He died 3 months ago. And, I'll never look at the 4th of July the same again. It's nothing like Thanksgiving or Christmas. But, I certainly won't be attending any BBQ's or fireworks shows on the 4th of July for many years to come. It's just too hard, and I don't feel like celebrating anything. Unlike my mother-in-law (they were divorced), he was a very kind soul. I loved him like I love my own dad. So, I can empathize a little bit. But, I hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving with your little family. ;0) Oh, and the secret to non-lumpy mashed potatoes...buy a stand mixer and whip them with a little milk. Voila! No lumps.

Holly said...

P.S. Thanks for the Longaberger link! :0)

Gigi said...

Oh Miss Shelley, my heart breaks for you, yet at the same time, I'm happy for you...happy that you'll go on and enjoy your little Thanksgiving despite all of this, happy that you've made the decision to not let others ruin the holiday for you, your dh & of course, sweet little Kennedy.

If I was having Thanksgiving dinner at my home (instead of my dh's aunt) I would invite the 3 of you to join us. I come from one of those big Italian families, where there is always room for a few more and everyone is always welcome.

I wish you & your family a wonderful Thanksgiving! {{{hugs}}}

Melonie said...

Oh Shelley huge (((HUGS))) to you! I am sooooo Thankful that you posted this and more so that you learned that somethings are not worth your energy. We do not speak to Elliott's family by choice. Somedays I feel shameful or embarassed by this even though we both know that we chose the situation and chose to not have them in our lives so we could be healthy. (They are toxic people) Anyway, I never talk about this but I constantly feel like people are talking about it in this small town of ours. Still I know that it is for the best. Sometimes you can only extend yourself so much before you realize and learn that some people just want to be miserable. It's what makes them tick! You have to do what is right for you and Ron and Kennedy! That is all that matters. HUGE love to you on Turkey day and everyday! If you ever need to talk or just a surrogate sister you've got my e-mail.

Beth said...

Shelley, I've been reading your blog ever since you visited and commented on mine. I can relate to much of what you said in this beautiful post. I'm lucky to have most of my family be more than just genetic ties, but also blessed with many "chosen" family members.

Thanksgiving will be tough this for my immediate fam this year. And the next few weeks probably won't make it any better. The 1 year anniversary of my mom's sudden death will be this Dec. 26 so we have some major times to get through. I guess I just wanted you to know that I understand somewhat of what you struggle with concerning the loss of your dad.

I had to laugh at the 22 pound turkey because my brother bought a 21 pounder and it's only three adults. :) Happy day, happy eating, and happy family - whatever form that takes. :)

Beth said...
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Lisa said...

You are so right on. I am green with envy. We spent over 11 hours traveling and visiting. Did we enjoy our holiday NOPE... Visit, leave, go onto the next.. eat, leave, go onto the next.. Was it fun.. NOPE..

Thank you for showing me that were not alone. Our families are so similar that it's almost ironic. We however have not figured it out yet and are still stuck trying to make everyone (except ourselves) happy on the holiday's.

Please email me.. :)