Sometimes being thankful hurts. Let me preface this passage with a disclaimer—if you are looking for syrupy sentiments of cheer to fill your heart with joy might I suggest the Hallmark store. That just isn’t how I am feeling right at the moment.
Thanksgiving has become a bittersweet holiday in our home lately. Our children—especially B.—aren’t exactly the most welcome family members at festivities. In fact, this year I had just set my plans on auto-pilot…we would stay home and if anyone deemed to visit the second class grandchildren, it would be after the big day. (Gives new meaning to the term “Black Friday.”) I had a small, intimate plan for the 4 of us that included chicken nuggets & BBQ sauce for C. and plenty of DVDs for B. since that is the tradition in our home. My husband and I would enjoy the usual meal with our own spin. There would be the predictable phone call where my children were supposed to feel love via the phone line instead of in person. Such is the live of a family when Autism is the unwelcome guest at the dinner party and discreet discrimination begins with family.
So, I wasn’t overly excited when I was told that my parents would be joining us on Thanksgiving. I’m happy that my children will see them ON the day like many other lucky and blessed children around the country. However, there are reasons why they are coming that have more to do with guilt than actual joy in spending time with my children. Also, they are bringing their favorite grandchild with them. (Long story.) So, my children will once again get the pleasure of playing second class citizens albeit in their own home this year. Oh, my parents will be there…but their focus will be primarily on the perceived perfect grandchild and not on the ones who starve for attention. Ironic that on this day of feasting, my children will still go hungry in a sense.
I think of all the families who are incomplete around our country—those separated by distance, economic woes, military deployment, broken families, the homeless and forgotten. It hurts so much that there are so many people desperate for something to be thankful for on this day and throughout the year. It hurts to think of how many of us—the American family as a whole-- have to endure this pain. It hurts to think of how divided our country is over heavy-handed idealism that is crushing so many people for no effective reasons. And then I look at the pain and division in my family and I literally have to force a breath into my lungs beyond the pain in my chest. Why can’t my children be accepted and appreciated for who they are? Why can’t my parents be thankful for them the way they are thankful for the others in the family? And why do I let myself be exposed to this pain year after year hoping it will be different?
I told my husband that this year I will not hold my tongue. I will serve up some acerbic comments along with the stuffing rather than hold my comments back. I plan on being thankful for the children in my life even when there are times they drive me to my knees in tears. I will be thankful for the fact that I am their mother despite my faults and failings with them. At least I will go to battle with anyone for them, even my own family. I will give my children the chance to be themselves when no one else will in quite the same way. I will give thanks that my faith says God has a plan for them even when I question it to the very fiber of my being at times.
I will say a prayer of thanks for those who continue to make strides in the various areas of disabilities for their perseverance and fortitude. I will pray for the memory of the parents who preceded me and others in the fight to have our children acknowledged, educated and provided with rights. I will pray for those who can’t be with family on Thanksgiving and for those who overlook the family sitting down at the table. I will pray that our military service people are kept safe and feel appreciated by a grateful nation.
I will pray I survive the day with some sanity intact. I hope your Thanksgiving is happier.