I know a guy that is going to be alone on Thanksgiving, and he says his “anger earned it. It’s OK, though.” He’s a friend of mine. Over the years, he has become a different person than when he first encountered adulthood. He’s not as angry, at least not any more. A passionate guy, to be sure, but he had a temper. Which is why he’s going to be alone.
I asked him to explain this to me.
“It was about five years ago. My now wife has a thirty-something daughter. Smart, funny, and has been a great Mom to her four year old. Anyway, she asked her Mom to help her move all of her stuff in her apartment. She brought me along. I didn’t mind, until I saw that I was the only guy on the project. Her daughter had herself, two teenage girls, and her mother. To move an entire apartment. On a Saturday. In 100 degree heat. At 5:00p.m. With two teenage girls. With teenage girl arms. When her mother had to get up. At 4:00a.m.”
He speaks like this when he’s trying to make a point. Kind. Of. Deliberately. So. He. Holds. Your. Attention.
“On the way up there, I was bothered. Nothing huge, just annoyed and irritated at the idea that I have to help his kid move so late and in this heat. But when I got there, I saw the two girls and knew that I was on this mission alone. So, I started grabbing stuff from the storage and began putting it on the truck. I’d moved things a time or two in the past, so I got the big stuff that I thought should go on first, and worked my way down.”
“The first thing I grabbed was a sofa and, to make a long story short, she was on the other end of it. I slipped, she fell, she got pissed and got in my face. I yelled back and left. Five plus years later, after three verbal apologies and one written, I’ve discovered she holds a pretty strong grudge. So I go to my office on Thanksgiving when she and her son come to the house.”
“Oh,” he said, “It gets worse. My stepson and his family don’t invite me over, either. Since I left their mother nine years ago, he’s spoken to me maybe a half dozen times. I raised the kid after his father abandoned him, but I was young and, you guessed it, often a little pissed. My ex told me that she knew I would blow up about something, “about every three days.” Yeah, I wouldn’t invite me over to the house, either.
“So I stay at the office with the dog and read. And pray a lot. And I this year I’m going to do all my Christmas Cards. I’m sending one, for sure, to my stepson and his family. And I’m going to send one to my wife’s daughter.”
I told him I thought that was nice. He said, “Well, maybe, but that’s not why I’m doing it. And if you write about this, make sure you don’t emphasize what a great thing I’m doing by trying to make amends.”
Instead, he said, “Write this.It’s Thanksgiving soon, right? There are three things that people remember on Thanksgiving: Turkey, Football, and Arguments. There are even essays online about how not to argue on Thanksgiving, and how to best react to people that have different opinions than you do. This is how much of a big deal this is.”
“But all the essays suck. I’ve read them. They don’t work. Just moronic.” He smiled, “Did anybody tell these people that there’s this thing called alcohol that is kind of a staple at Thanksgiving? And that when you combine alcohol and your family, things tend sometimes get a tiny bit strained?” He started to laugh. “All this stuff they write about involves self control. At Thanksgiving. While drinking. With your family. Self Control. Seriously?” He was making a point again.
Then he stretched out, looked me straight in the eye suddenly becoming almost gleeful, and said, “But check this out: I’ve developed a new way to keep from getting into arguments when people get together on Thanksgiving. And the next time I get invited to somebody’s house, preferably one of my kids or staying here with my wife’s family, I can hardly wait to try it.”
Looking at me with this big smile on his face his said, “Want to know what it is? I said, absolutely, knowing he was about to make another big point. He stood still, looked me right in the eye and said three words. “Stuff. Your. Face.” Told you he was going to make a point, yet again.
“When you’re pissed, just eat. Christ, they’ll be enough food, right? When somebody says something annoying, reach for a roll. They say something that just ticks you off, find the drumstick. And when they just wont’ shut up about god knows whatever the hell they’re yammering about, start eating a pie.”
“I mean,” he said, giggling, “how pissed can you get when you’re wiping off stuffing from your shirt with one hand and putting more whipped cream on the pie with the other? You’re beginning to get sleepy, you’re starting not to care, and the only thing on your mind is whether you can undo your belt a notch without having to get up from the table.”
I told him I thought this was brilliant.
“Yeah, I know. It is.” I really like this guy. “
And trust me on this one, too. You’ll feel better the next day, trust me. And you’ll be able to show up someplace for Thanksgiving next year. Ten pounds heavier, but you’ll at least get an invitation.”
“They might have to get you a bigger chair, though.”
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