Friday, November 23, 2018

Thanksgiving 2018

Thanksgiving happened. 

Aunt Stacey came to our house on Wednesday to make stuffing and prep the turkey. Here she is letting Benjamin help her mix the egg into the bread (Aunt Stacey is a terrific chef and enjoys having little sous chefs around to help; she was giving Benjamin all sorts of jobs):

Andrew stayed up until 2 AM making pies.

I stayed up until 2 AM cleaning up after him.

When we finally collapsed into bed I said, "Baking your grief away?"

"I think so," he admitted solemnly.

He made six pies last night (apple pie (the way his mom likes it), pumpkin cheesecake pie, a more traditional pumpkin pie, Carolina Beach pie, lemon meringue pie, and banana cream pie), as well as a cranberry cake. In the morning he broke out the recipe for Yucky Pumpkin Pie and had Rachel and Miriam make a couple of those. So we basically had pie coming out of our ears.

He also made mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes. Miriam made the cranberry sauce. Oh, and Aunt Stacey roasted some asparagus.

It was quite the feast.

Here's Grandpa Frank carving Stacey's phenomenal turkey:

We had 21 people come for dinner (Grandpa Frank, Grandma Pat, Aunt Stacey, Aunt Nicki, Emma, Naanii, Auntie Josie, Aunt Katharine, Uncle Todd, Kayl, Uncle Jacob, Aunt Shayla, Carter, Grandpa, and our family of seven). Here's a picture of the big kid table:

And one from the other direction:

Unfortunately, no pictures from the little kid table worked out, but here are some pictures of the little kids...

Emma was thrilled that Alexander finally let her hold him:

And here's cute little Carter:

We're all baffled by how alike these two look lately considering they don't share any DNA (but they're sure adorable little cousins, anyway).

Here are some pictures Aunt Shayla snapped of the clean up efforts (don't be fooled by Rachel who is "helping" clean up by scraping the final bits of marshmallow from the sweet potato casserole dish):

Shayla had lots of fun with my camera, it seems.

And then Rachel took over and she had quite a bit of fun with it as well. 

Here's Aunt Stacey reaching over to give Alexander's belly a tickle:

And here are the the Tangreens enjoying a snuggle on the couch:

Here's Alexander asking for his ball back:

And here he is standing up—he stood up all by himself today (several times) without the help of anything but the floor:

Here are a few portraits Rachel took of Kayl:

The next two pictures are rather blurry (because the camera figured what we really wanted to see was every detail on the faucet) but I liked them because they show Alexander's favourite game in progress—identifying facial features:

It was an odd Thanksgiving.
Bereft of gloom.
Bereft of joy.
Empty, yet full of emptiness.

I imagine we all felt very much like the mountains today (picture courtesy of Rachel), shrouded in clouds:

I don't feel the despair, the worry I felt the week Karen was dying anymore, and my grief has shifted from openly sobbing whenever I'm asked how things are to walking around in a fog. So I didn't feel particularly sad today but I certainly didn't feel very happy either. And Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays (Columbus aside—I grew up without necessarily attaching the whole Columbus story to Thanksgiving so I don't know how I feel about all that, but perhaps a day of mourning would have been more apt for our household), so I thought I'd feel at least a little cheerful. But nope.

Uncle Cory and Riley came over a little later in the evening for dessert and conversation (as well as Aunt Linda and Garrett—and thank goodness, too, because all the Heiss relatives fled the minute the sun started to set (they don't like driving in the dark, any of them (which I can't really blame them for)) which meant we had very few people to eat such a great number of pies, and while I can support baking your grief away, I'm not so sure about eating your grief away).

Anyway, Reid was saying something about how the whole month has been crazy, with Karen being sick, and then her passing, and then planning the funeral, and now hosting Thanksgiving dinner...

"It's kind of nice that way, really," Cory said. "It's good to get that first holiday out of the way. That way you know you can get through the others."

Cory's dad passed away shortly before Christmas during Cory's senior year of high school, so I'm sure his advice is sound. That said, we're hoping for a few quiet weeks before the Christmas rush—no holidays, no visitors, no chaos. Just the ol' grindstone of work and school and work and school.


Oh, Auntie Emily texted me this morning to ask me to check on her dad because she'd talked with him on the phone and he sounded either sad or sick. I stared at her text message for a while, thinking how I could possibly respond to that.

"Well, he is sick," I said (but hopefully he's on the tail end of that).

He's just going to be sick until he's not sick anymore.

Also, he is sad.

He's just going to be sad until he's not sad anymore. And there's very little I can do about that.

I have no idea where the tail end of that is, either. Perhaps it's something that has no tail end. I have the feeling that's the case. I think, rather than being something that ends, grief is something you get used to having around.


  1. Also Rachel made the deviled eggs. And was it Grandma Pat who made the cream cheese filled celery sticks?

  2. Wow, what a lot of pies and food, and what a great crowd. It's sad to not see Karen there, though. I'm all teary-eyed reading this post, knowing how much Karen is missed.

    And when I saw that picture of Reid at the big kids' table, I thought: "Aha, THAT is who Alexander looks like!" At least that expression...see the picture of Emma holding Alexander just below a bit. Something about the mouth. At least in pictures since I only know Alexander through photos.

    I'm glad you made it through yesterday.

  3. I don't know if you watch "This is Us" but I'd recommend it but it is an emotional roller-coaster every episode and you have to be emotionally prepared for that.

    Anyway in one of the episodes Randall, (who lost his father 2 decades earlier), explains losing someone unexpected as follows:

    "When you lose someone when you lose someone suddenly, and unexpectedly, it hurts differently.
    I had a tooth that got infected once.
    Woke me from the dead of sleep, middle of the night.
    It was this dull, throbbing, excruciating pain, it was awful.
    But then, the pain changed.
    It became sharper.
    Like sudden, direct bursts of pain that came out of nowhere.
    Boom, boom, like a lightning strike.
    That's what unexpected loss is like.
    (SNIFFLES) It's like, uh, a lightning bolt you can't even see reaching inside of you and tearing"

    He got interrupted/cut off at that point.

    I've thought about his description a lot since. (I also realized how wrongly I remembered it after looking it up again.) I think this is still a fairly good description of the grief and pain that comes immediately after a sudden loss. However, I remember the quote talking more about how grief comes later striking like lighting. That grief can strike suddenly and with the speed, intensity, and randomness of a lighting bolt. And sometimes it just sucks to be struck with lighting.