Thanksgiving—it’s here again. That mix of gratefulness with a little tinge of bitterness.
You see, in our house, someone is not here to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Someone is not home to stuff a turkey or whip up mashed potatoes. Someone is not sitting down to enjoy a piece of pumpkin pie topped with a huge dollop of whipped cream.
That someone is my husband. Daddy to my children.
He’s not home because he’s working.
Instead of lounging in his jammies with us as we scope out our favorite parade floats, he’s double- and triple-checking the to-go orders that will be picked up at the restaurant.
Instead of chopping onions and celery on our cutting board, he’s mixing cornbread and biscuits in the massive, commercial-grade mixer in the restaurant kitchen.
Instead of sinking into the couch to watch football after a filling feast, he’s walking the dining room, asking guests if they enjoyed their meals and wishing them a happy Thanksgiving.
My restaurant-manager husband spends every Thanksgiving preparing, cooking, and organizing hundreds of Thanksgiving meals for other families. Grandpas, grandmas, moms, dads, aunts, uncles, children, nieces, nephews, and cousins.
He slices what seems like a mountain of turkey. He packs up what seems like a million to-go containers. He plates what seems like an endless supply of pumpkin pie.
And he does it all with such grace and brilliance and professionalism.
I, on the other hand, am not always so accepting of this reality.
I reluctantly mix up and bake my standard Thanksgiving dinner contribution, pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.
I begrudgingly drive our three children to my parents’ house for the Thanksgiving meal we will eat without my husband. Everyone asks, “Is Mike working?” And the answer is, “Yes, of course.”
I unenthusiastically make a plate of leftovers, knowing my husband will pick at this offering. Even though my dad’s turkey and mashed potatoes are the best, it’s difficult to enjoy them after looking at and smelling the same food in the restaurant during a shift that lasted at least 12 hours.
Perhaps you have a similar situation. Maybe your husband is working on Thanksgiving, too.
Maybe he is a restaurant manager like mine. Or maybe he is a physician, nurse, pharmacist, or some other healthcare professional, caring for the sick. Or maybe he is a first responder—a firefighter, a police officer, or an EMT, protecting citizens and rescuing the injured. Or maybe he is a journalist, covering the stories the first responders are battling. Or maybe he is in the military, and not only is he gone for Thanksgiving, but he’s been away for months.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten some of the people who work on holidays. But I used to be one of them when I was a newspaper reporter. It was a lonely gig.
And, in a way, being the wife of a restaurant manager is a lonely gig on Thanksgiving. Despite being surrounded by my children and my parents and my extended family, all of whom I love dearly, there’s just something missing. Someone. And that’s where the bitterness creeps in.
It’s difficult to be bitter on the one day a year when most people are overflowing with thankfulness. In fact, I’ve found it’s highly frowned upon to be crabby on Thanksgiving. Most people are happy to have a day off work. They are thrilled to be with family members and friends, enjoying delicious food and lovely conversation.
Ultimately, I really try not to wallow in my negative feelings about Thanksgiving. After all, the blessings in my life are almost as big as the mountain of turkey my husband slices.
But if you’re not there yet, that’s OK. Maybe you’ll never get there. Just know there is this sisterhood of women whose husbands work on Thanksgiving.
We’re here—watching the parade, making the muffins, carting the kids to grandparents’ houses, packing up leftovers. We’re here, counting our blessings but missing the man who makes us forever thankful.