Thursday, December 6, 2012
First Thanksgiving without Mother was hard
The holiday season is upon us again. My, how time flies.
I am thankful for Thanksgiving. It is my favorite holiday, much more relaxed than Christmas. The leaves are beautiful. It always occurs on a Thursday, so the four-day respite is predictable and easy. There is always family, great food and football.
We had planned to travel to Texas to visit my sister Melanie in Austin and numerous cousins in San Antonio. That would have broken a decade of not having to travel on Thanksgiving - yet another thing for which I am thankful.
But my mother’s house sold with an end-of-month closing date. Suddenly Thanksgiving had a purpose: the final clearing of my mother’s house. So my sister’s family came here instead.
My sister Melanie is a year and a half older than me. Although we had our spats as children, we have been close all our lives. Now that our parents are gone, that bond has strengthened even more. Although not raised in a particularly religious environment, we both ended up more religious than our parents. That is a great common bond to have.
Growing up, my sister was a fantastic horsewoman. She won high point at all the shows around Houston, Texas, where we lived during much of our childhood. Melanie ended up with a degree in chemistry from Ole Miss and became one of the first women to work offshore.
Her husband Steve Stringfellow is a great guy, always affable and upbeat. From west Texas, she met him in the oilfield during the boom days of the ’80s. When oil prices collapsed, she and my father conspired to send him back to school and he earned a degree in petroleum engineering at Mississippi State. Now he works as a drilling equipment sales executive for Halliburton and jets all around the world.
While Steve was getting his engineering degree, Melanie earned her CPA and a master’s in tax accounting at Mississippi State. She has taught accounting at various colleges and dabbles in real estate. They have two grown children who live in Austin.
With degrees from both Ole Miss and State, my sister really didn’t know who to root for in the Egg Bowl. Given that we come from a long lineage of Ole Miss grads, I think that tipped her over to the Rebel (Black Bear?) side.
We watched the Egg Bowl at River Hills. Sitting next to us was a bride who had exited her wedding reception in the other room to watch the game. Now that’s a fan!
What’s more, she left early in the third quarter with the game tied. Apparently her husband was eager to get the honeymoon started.
Good food, good company, good wine, no work, tons of time and lots of quality time with distant family members. That’s Thanksgiving. The walks in the sunshine with the wind-blown leaves added the perfect mood.
Our precious mother died this spring, leaving a big hole this Thanksgiving. Indeed, it was one of the few in our 54 years without her there. I grieved hard and fast and thought I was over it, but you are never really over it. The wistfulnesss of fall and the missing seat at the Thanksgiving table brought it all back. I think everyone cried at some point.
Then there was the final task of clearing the house. Most of this work was done last spring such as clothes and personal effects. We left staging furniture to help the house sell and boxes and boxes of Halloween decorations. My mother loved Halloween. She was a fun person and Halloween was fun.
It took us six months or so to sell the house. My mother bought it at the peak of the market and paid the asking price, so we took a hit. Such is life. Despite the optimism of real estate agents, I have found, unsurprisingly, that Jackson values have taken a substantial dip like the rest of the nation. Why would we be spared?
We spent a day loading up a UPS pod for my sister to ship back to Austin, but still much remained. How strange that our problem is too much stuff. We have no place to put it all and used furniture is not very marketable.
One of my mother’s prized possessions was a hand-carved dining room table with beautiful chairs made from willow branches and polished stones. It is indeed beautiful, but we all joked that the chairs were intensely uncomfortable. It will now reside in the foyer of the Northside Sun’s rental offices. It doesn’t seem right.
There were many joyful moments shared by dear friends and family around that table as we ate countless delicious feasts prepared by Celia. She was a great cook. Those days are gone forever.
Watching the final dissolution of my parents’ possessions is a painful lesson in the fleetingness of life and the ephemeral nature of our prized possessions.
That night we gathered around and watched an hour-long video of my mother talking about her life. It was as though she was right there with us.
Where does the soul go? How can the overpowering spirits of my mother and father simply be gone from this Earth? How is it that I am left alone? Time stops for no one. Even me. Even you.
As a Christian I believe I will join my mother and father again in Heaven, but that often feels distant, remote and unclear.
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