I remember your 76th birthday. It fell on Thanksgiving back then, same as this year, and the year before you left us. I had not yet left you for Cal, had not yet become a mother, and you were not yet fighting. We were all gathered at Mama's house, comforted by the aroma of her soulful cooking, laughing out loud from a collective familial humor, genuinely feeding off of and enjoying the company of each other. Aunt Shalonda and aunt Vicki were there, and so was uncle John. The babies of the family were still babies back then, running around doing their thing, having to be told a time or two to stay out of the way. Those were the days.
You loved to wear your dresses. You were wearing one that day. You had your hair hanging in your signature press 'n curl and a big smile on your face. Plates were non-traditionally being served and reserved between the aunts and granddaddy, and wrapped up to be taken home by uncle. You made your way down the hall behind granddaddy as he had something to show you. It was then that Mama and I made our move. She placed your cake on the table, and I strategically placed a 7 and a 6 on top. Seeing you coming, aunt Vicki met you at the end of the hallway before you could make your entrance back into the party, with both hands cupped over your eyes. I can still hear the two of you. "I can't see!", you blurted out. "Hush woman", she replied in a laugh. She held you steady, until we were ready, and when she lifted her hands, we broke out in song. Happy Birthday to You. This moment forever lives on - when it is on its last breath, I revive the memory via visual media.
I asked Mama for this year's Thanksgiving plan. She said there wasn't one. She said she wasn't feeling it like she used to. Its true. Nothing is like it used to be. You, aunt Vicki and uncle John are no longer with us. I don't think this family has had any celebration like that since you began your fight and lost. I suspect there will be no gathering at Mama's house, or comforting aroma of her cooking because your absence is much too painful for her. To celebrate, would be to acknowledge that which we can not change.
Here's to wishing you were here.