Dreading Thanksgiving

I walk into Room 151 and dread the next hour as I remember what day it is. Issue 5 brainstorming. Thanksgiving issue. Family issue. As everyone crowds the back table to begin coming up with ideas for the newspaper, my stomach flips in circles. Every time someone brings up Thanksgiving, all I want to do was run for the nearest trash can. I force myself to sit there and listen to everyone, but I can’t make myself participate in the conversation. All I can think about is how much my family’s pain has affected my views of what used to be my favorite holiday.

It started around 20 years ago, when my grandfather fell off a roof at a job site. He survived, but ever since then, every single illness, disease or death has decided to strike right around the happiest times for my family: Thanksgiving.

Eleven years ago, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on Thanksgiving day.

Nine years ago, my Grandpa suffered from a heart attack the week before Thanksgiving.

Five years ago, my Uncle Ken was cut off from chemotherapy because he needed an emergency quadruple-bypass surgery.

One year ago, my aunt Christina suffered from a heart attack and passed away not long after.

After every tramautic event, my family was able to bounce back, gathering around that person and raising them up no matter how serious it was. It seemed as if no matter what happened, nothing could phase our family. Everyone helped everyone, and we were able to get through anything. That is, until this last year.

My family, who almost always goes out of town for Thanksgiving, has decided to stay put here in Kansas. Only my grandparents on my mom’s side and my cousin Harry will be driving out to join us. That’s still a rough sketch of what will be happening, because every time anyone brings up Thanksgiving plans, tensions run high. The wounds from this past year are still fresh. Right now, no one can stand to even see a picture of a family happily gathered around a table with a steaming turkey in the middle. No one will admit it, but it’s because we all know the table this year will have an empty chair, filled with nothing but the memory of one incredible woman who will be watching over us. She’ll be seated right next to her son and my cousin, Harry.

It’s hard right now. My tears hit the keyboard as I write this, but I remind myself that it will get better. Everyone may be touchy about it right now, but I know as soon as we get through actually cooking the food, setting that turkey in the center of the table and gathering around it, we’ll remember why we do this. We’ll remember why we put ourselves through yet another Thanksgiving: to be able to look around and be thankful for what we have, and what’s left.

It’ll take time, but what I hope for my family is the ability to look on the bright side again. My Uncle Ken can still walk around and roughhouse with all the kids. My grandpa can still stand at the head of the table. I can still laugh and smile and pile on as much mashed potatoes and gravy on my plate without it toppling over (but I have to make sure to press a few more buttons on the little pink insulin pump attached to my side). My Aunt Christina may not be with us physically, but one day we’ll be able to focus on what she gave us while she was here, instead of just focusing on her absence.

Rachel Ferencz