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Rated: ASR · Non-fiction · Biographical · #1036934
The season of Thanksgiving starts a time to fight grief.
Season of Sorrow
by Vivian Gilbert Zabel

         The Thanksgiving/Christmas season has always been a special time of the year for me, a time of family, being thankful, and giving. As a young child, I knew that I would see grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins that I might not see for months. My mother would make her famous potato salad and pumpkin pies if we were going to a relative’s house for Thanksgiving. If my father were stationed too far from the rest of the family for us to make the trip “home,” we still had “her” dishes plus turkey or ham. Christmas meant something special for each of us children. Even when I was old enough to realize that we were poor economically, I knew that somehow, someway my parents would have a gift for me, as well as “Santa” gifts for my much younger brother and sister. The most important part of the holidays was the fact that we were together as a family.

         When Robert and I married, I didn’t know my husband came from such a different environment. To his parents, both Thanksgiving and Christmas were just days on the calendar. They might, or might not, have a meal more “Sunday” quality than everyday, but nothing extra happened. Over the years, he moved to my way of thinking. Poor man didn’t really have much choice. Thanksgiving and Christmas became as important to him as to me, a time for our family to celebrate and be together.

         However, sorrow too soon tried to destroy our joy in the holidays. December 19, 1968, our daughter Regina Louise was born, tiny and frail. The morning of December 20, she died, leaving a grieving family behind. I’ve written indirectly about this situation in other stories, but the sorrow never completely leaves. Even if I don’t notice the date, on December 20, every year, a cloak of sadness envelopes me. However, I cling to the desire to make Christmas special for my family, a time for family.

         Sometime Christmas night 1986, my father died, alone. He had to work at the hospital over Christmas Eve and Christmas night on the three to eleven shift. Mother came down to the Edmond area where my brother and I lived. In fact, she stayed in town with my brother and his children. Christmas Eve, I awoke during the night to the sound of sleet hitting the roof. Unbidden, the thought washed through my head, “My daddy will die alone just as his father did.” I pooh-poohed my crazy idea, turned over, and went back to sleep. The next morning, my brother carefully drove Mother and his children to our house over roads covered with piles of snow over a bed of ice. Our youngest and his wife weren’t able to make it for dinner because the roads were in worse condition to the west and to the far north part of the state. After dinner, our older son and his wife made their way to her parents’, but they called back to tell us the roads were dangerous.

         After my father got off work that Christmas night, he went to a dark and lonely house. He died sometime after preparing for bed, or after he awoke during the night. Another shadow of sorrow over the holiday.

         My grandmother, my mother’s mother, died three days after Christmas in 1993, all of her children by her side. We helped my mother pay her way to California a few days before Grandma passed away, but we didn’t have the funds for me to go. Mother also told me that my children and husband needed me with them for Christmas.

         About two weeks before Thanksgiving 1996, my mother had a stroke. I sat by her side for those days given us to say goodbye. She died on Sunday before Thanksgiving. Her funeral was the day after Thanksgiving. At least she is no longer in pain. However, the day after her death, my ex-son-in-law stole two of my grandchildren. For nearly fourteen years, we didn't know where they were or if they lived. The hole left by their absence kept growing as the years passed.

         The season of sorrow once again will appear, but I will fight it. I will not allow the sense of loss to take away the joy remaining. I’ll still be able to be with my husband of over fifty years. Thanksgiving day, we will have dinner together or with our youngest and his family; and his in-laws, close friends, will be there. Perhaps we'll have dinner with our oldest granddaughters and their families. Christmas plans aren’t made yet, but we’ll be together and see some of our family. The love will remain, and the memories.

         How sad that this season of good tidings is also our season of sorrow. God bless us all and give us a deep abiding sense of comfort and happiness that overcomes grief.

         Yes, I remember when ... But from despair comes hope, and from love comes healing.
© Copyright 2005 Vivian (vzabel at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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