My vulnerability and why I’m thankful for it.

Dad and I shooting pool. We both won.

Two years ago, I wrote this last-minute Thanksgiving blog about my mom’s recent heart surgery, and my gratitude that she survived.

This year, she’s gone.

I lost my best girlfriend, but I gained a surprising new confidante–my dad.

What’s important is our current connectedness.

When I was sixteen, I never could have imagined sitting on the couch next to my dad with my legs up on his lap, discussing our dreams and fears late into the night. I never could have imagined us side-by-side, holding hands, sharing our deepest feelings. Not that long ago, if you had told me a day would come when no one in my family would understand me as well as my dad, I’d have suspected you of imbibing a little too much holiday sauce.

Yet, it has all come to pass.

When I was younger, my dad and I didn’t relate well to each other. He was an involved father with all six of us kids–changing diapers, building a backyard ice rink, attending games and performances–whatever was needed. He said, “I love you,” regularly, and I knew he meant it. But we just didn’t bond emotionally. I closed my heart to him. The complicated dynamics of our previous relationship don’t really matter–what’s important is our current connectedness.

I’m trying to pinpoint when this new relationship with my dad started, but it was less a point and more an evolution.

Since 2016, when my declining health forced me to leave my job, Dad has never neglected to ask me how I’m feeling. And in spite of the embarrassing symptoms, humiliating symptom-management, and undignified procedures I’d endured, nothing was ever TMI for him. His only concern was for me. The more I shared my distress, the more love he gave.

Vulnerability is an opening for love.

Vulnerability was not a state or characteristic I’d have associated with my dad in the past. He was used to being the family provider, his rock-hard Catholic faith buoying him through stressful times. But as my mother’s health declined, and she became more and more in need of care, my father wondered what the future held, and for how long. His faith wobbled.

Dad felt unmoored, perhaps for the first time. And I felt deep compassion for him, perhaps for the first time. His floundering to find his footing opened a place in my heart that had often been closed to him. It was an opening for love.

We’re often afraid to share our angst, our fears, our unsettledness. It’s risky. Others may think poorly of us or act unkindly. They may use our weakness against us. It’s wise to be cautious.

But sometimes a risk pays off. It did for Dad and me. I’m glad we’re flawed human beings because it is our shared vulnerability that brought us together.

This Thanksgiving, you may have an opening to share your vulnerabilities. Dare you take it? If you do, please let me know!

Regardless, I wish you a day filled with deliciousness of every variety.

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A heads-up on my memoir.

My son Matt will be getting part of my memoir manuscript to read soon, and I wanted to prepare him for what’s in it. I wanted him to know how much I loved his newborn presence in my life over 30 years ago, even though I struggled so much as a new mom.

I wanted to give him a heads-up before he reads about my postpartum depression. It was never diagnosed, wasn’t really recognized in 1986. But I had it. BAD.

It’s been terrifying to write about, to remember and relive it. But it’s part of my story and I can’t leave it out.

So I talked with Matt about all of this over the Thanksgiving weekend and he was OK with it. I hope when he reads the details about those late night scenes, he’ll still be OK.

I’ve told him if he needs therapy as a result, I’ll pay for it and go with him. I’m joking, but serious.

 

A special thankfulness this year.

 My mom will soon be looking spiffy again, I'm sure! My mom will soon be looking spiffy again, I’m sure!

I’m writing this on Thanksgiving morning, as I sit alone in the kitchen enjoying my coffee. It’s before Michael is awake and before Matt, our older son, comes over and we hop in the car to drive to Boston to spend Thanksgiving with Steve, our younger son.

I know, it’s a little late to be working on a Thanksgiving piece; most writers have probably prepared theirs days ahead. And if you get my posts via email, you won’t even see this until Friday.

I wasn’t going to write anything at all. Not that I don’t have things to be thankful for – I have many. But it seems that everyone writes about thankfulness at this time of year, and I didn’t know how to stand out from the crowd.

But, well, maybe the spirit of the day has moved me. Or maybe it’s my special thankfulness today that has inspired me to conclude:

How can I not write? 

So here goes.

I’m thankful that I have no turkey in the oven. No green beans in the fridge, the almonds waiting to be toasted at the last minute. None of my signature cranberry mousse or frozen cranberry banana salad ready to appetize.

I’m thankful that the day before Thanksgiving, I shopped at TJMaxx rather than the grocery store, and I took a nap. And right now, I’m writing rather than stuffing a big naked bird.

I’m thankful that this year, I’ll be sitting in a nice restaurant with my three favorite guys, dressed in my new outfit from TJMaxx that I won’t need to protect with an apron, ordering grilled salmon  and not washing dishes afterward.

I’m also thankful that if I choose to, I could have a house full of food and family and friends and love and warmth. And I could do that every day of the year if I choose. What blessings.

But my special thankfulness this year is that my mom will be going home from the hospital tomorrow. My mom, 84, my best girlfriend, with grace and fortitude, has pulled through a grueling surgery.

How can I not write?

Supporting her in a grueling journey of a different nature, have been the “L.A. Team” as I call them -family members out there on the West coast, 3,000 miles away from me.

How can I not write?

I haven’t been able to get out there due to my own chronic illness, but I’ll be flying out on Monday to shower her with all the love and support I can muster. For myriad reasons, I expect my time there will be grueling as well, but who wouldn’t jump at that opportunity to do that for their best girlfriend?

I’m thankful that I can hop on a plane and be at her side to hold her hand, kiss her head, share memories and laughs, and, as I told, to “bear witness to her ordeal” if she feels the need, and to help her put it behind her.

How can I not write?

I just did.

Wishing you a day full of blessings, large and small, mundane and special.