It is Thanksgiving morning and I am so excited I can’t hardly wait! We are going to Grandma and Grandpa’s for dinner and it is going to be so much fun and oh my, all the yummy food to eat. There are chores to be done before we can leave and every time I look at the clock, it doesn’t look like it has moved at all and it feels like it is taking forever to get through them. My Great aunts and Great uncles will be there and my cousins will be there, my Uncle Vernon is always so jolly, he makes me laugh.
I take my shower and change into my Sunday best, as we always dress for special dinners like Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it is finally time to leave. I help my mom to carry things to the car and we are on our way. It is a cold November morning, drizzling rain and a little snow too, maybe it will turn into all snow by tomorrow. We get to the house and when we get to the back door, the outer porch windows are steamed up, you can see the little drops of water streaming down the glass. I prepare myself to open the door for that smell. I know when I open the door that I am going to be enveloped in all kinds of good smells. Turkey, dressing ( 2 kinds, oyster and regular for those of us that think that oysters are gross!), pies, mashed potatoes, and so many other things, YUM!! I was not disappointed when I opened the door when that warm, yummy air hit me right in the face, it was like Heaven. Grandma is in front of the stove and Aunt Katie is by the sink and everyone else is in the dining room, setting the table. I give hugs and run into the living room, where my cousins are and we watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade together and talk like we haven’t seen each other in a year. Grandpa had started a fire in the wood burner that morning so it was nice a cozy so I settle in his big red rocker to watch TV til dinner.
It is time to eat. My eyes are as big as my stomach. I don’t know what I want first. We say grace and then dig in, everyone starts to pass the food and it slowly makes its way to the kids table where the 4 of us a relegated to. It is delicious as always. I look around the table and I see my Grandparents, my parents, my brother, my aunt and uncle, my 2 cousins, my 3 Great Aunts, my 2 Great Uncles and my 93 year old Great Grandmother and I truly feel blessed to be there! There is football on the TV, laughter and talking all around the room and the warmth of a family breaking bread together. It is the best Thanksgiving ever and I will never forget it as long as I live!!
That is a glimpse into my childhood, thank you for letting me share it with you. I would have been about 9 when that happened. The Christmases at Grandma and Grandpa’s were just as wonderful. We would gather in the middle room around a beautiful tree to open gifts and be together. I hope that you spend this holiday season with your friends and family. The most important thing in this world is love. We can possess all sorts of material items, we can have all the money that the world can give us, we can even be the most famous people in the world but if there is no love in your life, there is nothing.
If you are in need of something to do to remember one that you have lost in your life, there are things that you can do this holiday season. I have done some of these things as most of the people in this story have passed and I miss them dearly. It can be a very lonely and sad time of year for some because they are missing loved ones, whether they have passed, whether they have parted ways for various reasons, you can make a difference in someone’s life. You are never alone.
* You could go to a friend’s or loved one’s house and celebrate with them. It is important that you not isolate at this time of year.
* You could go to a nursing home and “adopt” a grandparent. Some of the people that are in these facilities either don’t have families or they have them and they are dumped there and forgotten about. They are lonely and would love to have the company.
* You could volunteer at a Food Pantry or a Soup Kitchen. I did this my Senior Year in High School. We threw a dinner for the kids at the Domestic Violence Shelter, we had a Santa for them and we made dinner for them and it was one of the best Christmases of my life.
* You could find a church that you are comfortable in and take part in the activities that they are having. You can meet some wonderful people at the churches and it would be a wonderful way to spend the day.
* You could volunteer at a Veterans Organization. Find a Veterans Home in your area, go to your local VVA chapter, see if the VA has any Volunteer Opportunities.
* You could “adopt” children that don’t have anything and be their Santa. The best Christmas of my life was the year that my mom died. My dad worked with a lady that was married to a minister. She came to me and said that she had these 2 children in her church and they didn’t have anything and was wondering if I might be willing to help them out. They were 10 and 7, what really broke my heart about these 2 children was that the little girl stopped believing in Santa because she asked for a doll for Christmas and it wasn’t there because they didn’t have the money to get it. Between myself, my best friend, my dad, and her grandmother, we got $ 300 together and went and bought them clothes, toys, bath stuff, Krogers donated gift certificates for both kids, we had 6 full size trash bags full of gifts for these kids by the time we were done. Their mom cried when she came to pick the stuff up, my mom was with me that day, it is no less than she would have done!
* If you don’t feel like leaving and being a little more private, you and your family could set a place at the table for your loved one so that they are “still with you,” kind of like a memorial. We used to do that after my Grandpa passed. It made my Grandmother feel better.
* Turn to a support group, COVVHA, a grief support group in your community, an online support group, etc, so that you have someone that knows how you are feeling and can give you feedback and support. Some of my very best friends have come from online support groups!
So you see, there are things that you can do to get through the holidays so that they aren’t quite so lonely. It is my hope that you have plenty of love and support around you and that you have the love that I had in this wonderful memory to share. The holidays can be a very hard time of year but they don’t have to be. You are never alone and we here at COVVHA wish you the very best that this Holiday season has to offer. Happy Holidays!
Karen Y. Wengert
©Children of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance