For many years after we five kids left home, we gathered in my parent's house for Thanksgiving. In the earliest years we came home from college or lived in easy driving distance and they were the only ones with a house big enough for all of us to gather. Over time, we spread out to other states and cities and the holiday gatherings varied in size and make-up depending on who traveled, had babies or new spouses.
After they retired and settled down (first in Tahoe and now in Palm Springs) my parents planned trips around holidays and family events and went back and forth between the Bay Area and Idaho.
After all these years we kind of have this down. Whoever is hosting does the turkey and we split up all the other dishes and bring wine and champagne. Since we have done this so often, we pretty much know who likes to do what, which foods go over well and that Polly likes to make the dessert. Dad gets concerned over the champagne consumption, but hey! Dinner is always served - eventually.
But this year something went wrong.
Dad is mad and won't come.
I am not certain of all the details; he and my sister got upset and she reacted by saying she was too stressed out. I didn't know she was being put on the spot or I would have stepped in, but the bottom line was she couldn't say what he wanted or needed to hear and he couldn't let it go.
This year is different in other ways, too. Polly is an interior designer and work has dried up. Her husband weathered countless lay-offs at Schwab, but not the last one. He is 48 in an industry that likes youth. They are worried about losing their house. They have 3 girls in elementary school.
We already lost our house, we know how hard that is. We have 2 kids in college. I have not had a job since January and have only gotten 2 calls for interviews since then. I am working with my husband to do what I can to help bring in clients to his practice. Each month we hold our breath that nothing big breaks or goes wrong.
My other sister and her husband are doing fine financially. She has taken on the care of his father who appears to be suffering from dementia. She spends hours every week taking him to appointments, shopping for him, paying his bills, doing his banking and making his meals. He is combative and unkind to her. She also has 2 kids and a job.
The stress is massive.
I am not sure why I am writing about this. I thought I might explore why my dad is so touchy and is it a by product of age. Or maybe to discuss how hard it is to get everyone together these days - we have made life pretty complicated with all our activities and our stuff.
But it looks like I am really saying - life is difficult for a lot of people right now. People have a lot of stresses and problems and maybe give someone a break if they say something you don't like. They might be touchy or anxious. You may not know what they are going through. So take a moment. Take a breath. And be kind.
We can all use some kindness.