Thanksgiving and memories

This is going to be a tough Thanksgiving.

The wound of my dad’s death is still raw, and as I prepare to host the family gathering, I find myself blindsided by emotional landmines as I get ready for the day: seeing his place card from last year and putting it aside because he won’t be here, looking at last year’s menu and remembering the olives I added to the shopping list because I knew he’d like them. Even looking through my photos to pick out which ones I want to use for this post.

This holiday, above all others, is the one that most reminds me of him.

My dad grew up on a turkey farm in Demarest, New Jersey. Below is a picture of the old farm house.

Willett's Farm in the winter

Willett’s Farm, Demarest New Jersey

My dad loved a good meal. He loved the family gathering, the food, the turkey–everything about Thanksgiving. We eat, we talk, we eat and talk, we eat some more.

And because so many people live far away and stay nearby for the holiday, we all gather the next morning for brunch and do it all again: the eating and the talking.

Below is one of my favorite pictures of my dad, from Thanksgiving 2011. It was taken during the Friday brunch. A sunbeam illuminated my dad’s plateful of French toast; he smiled at me as he anticipated sitting down to another great meal.

I miss him.

My dad with a warm breakfast, lit by a sunbeam, Thanksgiving 2011

Norman Willett, my father

When my mom walks in our front door this year–without my dad–I will do everything I can not to burst into tears. In my heart, I’ll hear his greeting, as he would rattle off nicknames for everyone as he said hello.

“Hi Swooz.” That’s me.

“Where’s Corinnable?” (My daughter Corinne.) “Where’s The Aaron?” (My son.)

“Hello, Dogalusess. Where are the pussycats?” My dad had a soft spot for my dogs and cats.

Calvin gently sniffing my dad's hand.

Dad reaching out to Calvin

While he sometimes mentioned the cats who lived on the farm when he was growing up, Dad talked a lot about one dog that he adored: Ruby, an Airedale.

I have just a couple pictures of Dad and Ruby. The one below is my favorite, showing Dad and his younger brother walking along the road by the farm. Ruby waits just up the road for them.

The road is empty, save for the two boys and the dog.

My uncle, the smaller child in the picture, will be with us for Thanksgiving along with my aunt, as usual. So will one of my brothers, my mom, and Corinne and Aaron.

Even though the table–and eventually our stomachs–will be full, there will be an emptiness surrounding us. My dad’s absence will be visible and palpable.

And we will take a moment or two, when we’re all gathered, to be thankful for the time we have–and had–with the people who mean the most to us.  [Tweet]

Circa 1936

Ruby, waiting.

Wishing all my readers a wonderful holiday.

You may enjoy reading two poems I wrote a few years ago, for Thanksgiving:

Thankful for Dogs

Thankful for Cats
Today we’re participating in the Wordless Wednesday bloghop. Take a moment and stop by some of the great blogs below.

Blog Paw Wordless Wednesday

19 Comments on "Thanksgiving and memories"

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  1. Brian Frum says:

    Yes, we know how tough the holidays can be and we send you lots of love and hugs. It will get some easier, it just seems to take so darn long.

  2. Kitties Blue says:

    Mom remembers some of these photos from when your dad passed. Our hearts and love go out to your as you celebrate this Thanksgiving without him. Maybe everybody can share a favorite Thanksgiving memory of your dad. Have a blessed Thanksgiving! XOCK, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo

  3. meowmeowmans says:

    We send much love, and lots of purrs and prayers for you this Thanksgiving. It’s really difficult, isn’t it? I still miss my dad every day, but it does get easier with time.

    Hugs, and wishes for a love-filled Thanksgiving.

  4. This made me remember my father-in-law and all of the fun our holidays were with him. The first year of holidays truly are the hardest to endure. Just know that he’d want you to be happy. ♥

  5. Oh I am so sorry 🙁 I can only imagine how hard this will be for you.
    I wish your a family a great Thanksgiving and lots of love to go around.
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  6. Gilligan says:

    I love the poem about dogs! My mumbles could only be described as “murgly.” *wags*

    Sorry to hear about your loss. Several members of my humans’ family have passed this year, as well. I do my best to cheer them up whenever possible.

  7. Cathy Armato says:

    What a beautiful post and photos. I know how you feel, I lost my Dad 2 years ago. The holidays just weren’t the same. Stay strong, you’ll get through it. Love your Thankful for Dogs poem, shared it in Twitter.

  8. Such a touching post! Firsts are the hardest. Your Dad was a great man to have left such a wonderful legacy and to be missed so much. Hugs and purrs from all of us.

  9. I’m sure you are thankful for all of the wonderful memories you have of your father, although I know holidays like this can sure be tough.

    The photo of ‘Dad reaching out to Calvin’ is beautiful.

  10. What a beautiful post! Memories to cherish forever. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  11. I envy you having had such a loving and caring relationship with your Dad. You know he will be there in spirit

  12. Thanks so much for this post, it’s hard to miss a part of your family during the holidays …. I cried while reading, but I enjoyed the memories you shared with me. Have a good Thanksgiving

  13. What great memories you have of your dad. We send you comforting purrs knowing that today may not be the easiest days for you, but know that your dad will always be with you.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  14. So sorry fur yous loss, blessings and purrayers to yous fur Fanksgivin’.

    Luv ya’

    Dezi and Lexi

  15. Lily Lau says:

    Those are unforgettable memories… Your dad was a really good person, I’ll pray for him tonight and for you all to always remember him with a smile 🙂

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