“How are you spending Thanksgiving?” my coworker asked yesterday at five as we waited for our elevator.
“Just making dinner for my sister.”
My schizophrenic sister, my two rowdy dogs and me in my house. It’s become my new “family” tradition.
It’s almost 8:30, and I’m surprised she hasn’t called by now. She will call every half hour until I answer and tell her what time I will pick her up. I’m not complaining, just sharing the truth of how it is with her. Actually, the calls about Thanksgiving started two months ago.
“Nancy, are you going to have me over for Thanksgiving?”
A part of me bristles at being pinned down months in advance. “I’m not sure what my plans are, Bonnie. We can talk about it later.”
We’re really the only family we have. I have a sister who died, another one to whom I don’t talk because she makes up stories about me and others, and a brother with whom I haven’t kept in touch.
I was very close to my mother, who died in two thousand. If she were alive, she’d have taken the Greyhound from Minnesota to Montana to see my sister and me. My father died in nineteen eight three, twenty-six years ago this January. So it’s just Bonnie and me.
(I should mention that my family includes a precious daughter, Alex, who goes to school in Kentucky, far away from home. She’ll be back in two weeks, but she’ll spend Thanksgiving with her roommate and her family in West Virginia.)
When I was married more than a decade ago, my husband, daughter and I would spend time with my in-laws: a Norwegian family big on large birds, super-sized mashed potatoes and lefsa. I lived in Minnesota, and my mother would travel with us sometimes to see the in-laws. Though divorced, I’ve kept in touch with my ex-in-laws, but I wouldn’t think of traveling there to see them for a holiday.
I’ve told myself through the years that family is what I make of it. I have close friends, my daughter, and a sister who loves visiting me over the holidays. I was content to not have family connections.
Then this summer, I went back to Minnesota for the first time since my mother died. I saw my wonderful Aunt Evelyn, ninety-one and going strong. We spent hours together talking about family. It was so nice to know someone who has been there my whole life.
My family blossomed a few months ago when I joined Facebook. Two nieces (whom I’ve never met) and my brother’s wife contacted me. I’ve met faraway relatives of my grandpa in Finland. I’ve connected with a second cousin and the wife of a cousin, both whom I haven’t seen in years. Another cousin whom I’ve never met stopped by to say hi, and he’s told me a bit of the family tree on my dad’s side. Through him, I’ve met another distant cousin.
The tapestry of my family is so much richer and deeper than I could imagine. This Thanksgiving, it will still be my sister and me at the dinner table, but I am grateful for the family I’m meeting, thanks to Facebook. Thanks for connecting with me.