why I love my uncle lew
With my mother dead and gone and my dad just gone, I often feel adrift in the world, not really anchored to any family before me. My Uncle Lew reminds me where I come from, what we carry in our family, and how we look tragedy in the face and laugh hysterically. We are cut from the same cloth, we are family (sing it with my sisters and me).
here's his account of thanksgiving 2005....
The days leading up to Thanksgiving found mother in “one of her black moods.” She was extremely unhappy and no amount of cajoling or joking on my part could bring her around. Her own mother, Dede, also suffered from this malady. Depression. Severe depression. But it’s a self-induced depression and I was always able to lift Dede’s spirits with a joke or an anecdote. Mother, on the other hand, had been immovable in her quest for misery. In fact, she always seemed to desire the misery of others, too. That if SHE was to be unhappy; so then should everyone else. To be sure, there were many things which she COULD be upset about – the loss of so much from Katrina, her oldest son not wanting to speak with her – many things. But her voiced-aloud worries and frets were over such minor mishaps – the weather was turning cooler, the ugly wallpaper in the bathroom, she had spent too much money on some “dressy” clothes which she was afraid she’d never get to wear – seemingly simple things which could not be changed. I had tried in vain to assist her in discovering how “lucky” we were and that we had so much to be thankful for. The “old tapes” of past holidays began to play in my head. Mom has always had a very bad habit of being depressed during the holidays, finding fault with everyone around her and generally being unhappy; of seeking out the minor miseries instead of focusing on the beauty all around her. I vowed to Marlin that I wasn’t going to let her ruin this Thanksgiving.
Two days before Thanksgiving, I made her cry; but she listened.
I told her how much we had to be thankful for. We were all healthy. We’d lost everything; but we did have each other. That single fact should be enough to sustain us all.
I told her that Marlin and I had planned a very special day for all of us at this lovely, historic hotel – perched right on the Gulf, with expansive views of the surf – such a “special” place that it had – over the years – become a Thanksgiving Tradition here in Galveston – everyone “dressed to the nines” and went to the Galvez Hotel for their sumptuous Thanksgiving Buffet, their live holiday music and the glittering spectacle of Victorian-themed holiday decorations.
I also told her she needed to start looking for the “good things” in life and stop focusing on “the miseries.” It’s easy to find either, there are always things you wish were better and always things you can be grateful for. The perspective is up to you.
I also made it very clear that I was NOT willing to be around her if she chose to be so dreadfully unhappy. Her actions on Thanksgiving would let me know if we’d spend Christmas together. Marlin and I have only spent ONE Christmas with his family in Iowa in the 29 years we’ve been together and it was easily the most joyous Christmas I’d ever enjoyed. I marveled how the little children were allowed to be giddy with candy-induced excitement. How adults and children, too were allowed to laugh, run, and play with such abandon. It was loud, punctuated with shrieks of laughter! There were no admonishments, no one corrected someone else’s manners, etiquette, or ridiculed them for some past transgression. The two smallest children assisted with the passing of gifts and delighted in RIPPING the festive bows, ribbons and paper from everyone’s gifts! There was no “saving of the paper,” or careful removal of the bows and ribbons for next year. This was complete and utter destruction to get to the real prize inside! And the prize many times was something handmade and heartfelt. Everyone, and Marlin has a HUGE family, was so happy to be able to spend time with each other. They had also welcomed me into their circle as if I’d always been there, that Marlin was so lucky to have found me. As I crawled into the coldest sheets I’d ever slept on, I cried because it had been such a glorious day, grateful that I had someone so warm to cuddle with.
I told mother that she could very easily push me toward spending the holidays with Marlin and his family in Iowa and that she COULD – if she so chooses – spend her Christmas alone in Galveston, or perhaps go to Houston and be miserable with Ron & Sarah.
It was a gamble that paid-off. When Marlin and I showed-up at Mom’s apartment on Thanksgiving Day, she wore her brand new Ives St. Laurent suit and a gracious smile! The golden gabardine, double-breasted jacket with the matching slacks was tailored to fit; but so was that stunning smile. She was happy and gracious and actually went to the buffet table TWICE. She ate heartily, she thanked God for allowing us to be together, and she marveled at everything beautiful around her. It was as if she had eyes which only saw the wonders of the season.
It was one of those wonderful days – what Lewis Carroll called a “white stone day” – and Mom found that she could be happy, that she did have the power to make herself have a good time. Perhaps she also found that it’s easier for all of us to love her, if she makes herself receptive to that love.
I await Christmas with giggly expectations, dreaming that it will be a “white stone” day and each day I’ve found a happier, positive Mom.