We shook things up a bit this year and went home for Thanksgiving instead of Christmas. This had more to due with juggling conflicting schedules of a very large family and trying to get the most bang for our visiting buck.
We have not been home for Thanksgiving in more than twenty years. It was divine. Without the stress of gifts, holiday exhaustion or snow, it was far more relaxed and filled filled with gratitude. I would be a fan of skipping the December drive and doing this every year, but it was a hard sell within some of the tribe so we shall see about next time.
When we do go home, Mal and I stay with my mom while everyone else heads a couple of miles over to my sister's. Though I talk to my mom many times over the course of a week, when I go home I get an overload of her and her of me. It doesn't take long for us to get on each other's nerves.
Our politics are as far apart as they can be, and thankfully she doesn't subject me to Fox News while I'm there. The t.v. or radio, however, are on all the time. Her house is nursing-home-hot. Our conversations rarely scratch more than the surface. I eat my feelings from her very stocked fridge.
She weighs just over a hundred pounds. She doesn't eat her feelings or talk about them.
My sister and I once joked that if Mom ever said "I love you" our first thought would be that we must have terminal cancer and nobody told us.
Both of my sisters and one of my brothers live close to Mom and help her with anything she needs. I owe my siblings a lot for that. While I went off for a lifetime, they stuck close by and do all the things for her that I am not there for. As a result I think their relationship is different. Close in proximity makes for close in heart? Maybe. I'm the one who shows up once or twice a year and tries to pick up where I left off and it doesn't always work out so well. And if I'm thinking Mom will confide in me about her loneliness since Dad died or her worries about getting older, that just isn't going to happen. Nor would it with any of her other kids, but I often wonder if that's the kid I wish I was. The one who secretly knows her troubles and drives off with them for safekeeping.
Instead I call her often and tell her about things around here and listen when she tells me about her pain-in-the-ass neighbor who calls her for everything. She is irreverent and sassy, even at 87 years old, and I am always amused by her. We trade our stories over the phone and I try to keep my spot warm even though I'm the one that left it empty more than thirty years ago.
"The coffee's made, Kath. If you get up before me just plug it in."
"Okay, Mom, but you know you'll be up first," I answer back.
"Oh damn. I forgot to get you half and half. I meant to do that today when I was out."
"It's okay, Mom. Really. Milk is fine."
I wake the next morning to the sound of the garage door closing and hear her come in. It's early. I put a sweater on over my tshirt and go out to the kitchen.
"I ran to Walgreens to get you some half and half. I knew you'd rather have that than milk in your coffee,"
I love you too, Mom. Even if neither one of us knows how to go about saying it.