‘Thanksgiving Day – 2019’
(28 Nov 2019)
Now that America’s Thanksgiving Day is complete and passed, I shall share some of my memories of Thanksgiving Days past – some good, some bad – without spoiling your festivities.
Most of my childhood Thanksgiving Day holidays were spent with extended family at their home about three-quarters of a mile from my home. For several years, I addressed them as ‘Mr.’ (John) and ‘Mrs.’ (Pat) til one after-school visit when ‘Mrs.’ told me that I could now begin to call her ‘Aunt’. Bizarre. Their children were Jack, Gail, Carole, and Bev. Gathered extended family members watched football on either of two TV sets in two different rooms. We’d eat at a l-o-n-g extended table with everyone sitting around it.
In 1968, Kathy, Bev, and I took a leisurely stroll to the convenience market down the street. We snacked on fresh oranges that we plucked from the neighbours’ citrus trees; the homes of this development were constructed within a former citrus grove, common for the Phoenix area where citrus was once the prime crop here. The three of us got a surprise when we returned to Bev’s home. We saw police cars there. Seems that Hector pulled his gun and started shooting. The adults were hush that evening. ‘Uncle’ John was a bail bond agent. I learned later that Hector was a professional drug pusher and hired killer, he would murder my former neighbour Debbie the next year. Some family, eh!
Thanksgiving Day 1969 was memorable for Slim. He was born in September, this would be his first Thanksgiving Day. We stayed home for Thanksgiving Day. The smells and aromas must have been quite the experience for a young puppy.
Thanksgiving Day 1971, my first Thanksgiving Day residing at Greece, was complicated. I incurred a serious illness a week or two before the holiday. I was absent from school. Several class-mates created hand-made ‘Get Well’ cards for me. The school held a Thanksgiving Day gathering; my illness prevented me from attending.
Our Thanksgiving Day holiday the second year at Greece was better, different, unique. Our home was at Maggana, a small village about a 30 minutes drive south of Xanthi (the ‘big city’) and about five minutes from Dasahori (the neighbouring village where the Voice of America transmitter site was located). Zoe, our landlady, arranged for one of the village residents to sell a turkey for our dinner. Grigori, Zoe, and their daughters Effie and Stavroula, joined my father, Kathy, Slim, and me for dinner of American fixin’s.
Thanksgiving Day 1978 was typical attitude with Dear Ol’ Dad. The Forest Service hired me effective a few weeks later, so this should have been a celebration. Instead, my father was angry at me because I would be moving away from home. He accused me of abandoning him. Abandoning? I learned later that he made reservations to travel cross-country to his New Jersey family for Christmas and New Years before I received my job offer, that he didn’t include me, that he had no problems leaving me alone at home.
Skip to Thanksgiving Day 1988. I would not know that it was to be my father’s last Thanksgiving Day. I had no idea about restaurant offerings in the city where I was living. Didn’t matter. My father was driving 90 miles from his home town to where I lived. He wanted me to call restaurants, choose one, and we’d eat a dinner there. All the restaurants that I called were no longer serving for the day, or their message said that they were closed for Thanksgiving Day. My father was angry at me that I couldn’t secure a reservation, after all, it was my fault, eh. Finally, after driving all over town for a couple hours, we found a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant that was open for another 30 minutes; they let us in and served the last of their Thanksgiving Day fare.
Thanksgiving Day 1993 was to be especially cruel. I had been traveling from my home at Tucson to attend occasional job interviews at Phoenix during the Autumn. Cousin Carole invited me to visit at their home a few times – seemingly comforting and hopeful as I tried resurrecting a family relationship. Carole invited me to their Thanksgiving Day gathering at one visit – I felt welcomed for a change. It had been quite a number of years since my last Thanksgiving Day holiday with them (1970). Oops. ‘Aunt’ Pat and Cousin Bev arrived home. Carole told them that she invited me for the holiday. Nope, ‘Aunt’ Pat told me that I was not wanted to come for holidays. Apparently my presence was okay when I was a child putting on Gail and Carole’s make-up – ‘Oh, Nickie! What a cute little girl!’ As an adult woman wearing my own make-up was absolutely abhorrent for family to experience.
Thanksgiving Day 2008 was among my worst. I had been fired from my employment with the State of Arizona after nearly 20 years – fired because I am Transsexual. I drove to the Fry’s grocery store. I thought to maybe wander the aisles looking for something while killing time. I found cooked stuffing at the deli department. I sat inside my car and ate the stuffing. Alone. I cried. I was scared about my unknown future – no work, no more income, maybe become homeless.
Thanksgiving Day 2014 was tied for my worst. My home had been ransacked and burglarised. I assembled some beans and canned mackerel to cook in the microwave oven. I had some fresh cranberries that I heated in the microwave oven. I stood at my back door and nibbled on my dinner. I saw a squirrel in my backyard; I tossed a cranberry to it and wished it ‘Happy Thanksgiving Day’.
Sheesh! My mind is going kaput.
One curious – memorable – Thanksgiving Day was with Alana, my Bestie, a few years ago (2016). We thought that Denny’s would be serving dinner. They did – kind of. More like a snack, the cheapskates. We were still hungry. We found a Jack-in-the-Box and ordered burgers and fries.
This year is memorable – another Thanksgiving Day with Alana. She moved into my home recently. We have different tastes, we each made our own fixin’s. Kapung Khaf, Alana! Welcome home. I watched pieces of the three NFL football games between napping; I have no idea what are the final scores. I watched ‘Michael Clayton’ (George Clooney, Tilda Swinton) on DVD. I browsed social media.
Thanksgiving Day is promoted as a day for family. Not much family for me.
My father died in 1989; I wrote about our last Thanksgiving Day.
My mother died in 2002; I have no memory sharing Thanksgiving Day with her because of our fractured family and broken home.
My sister Kathy and I are not blood family. She is the biological daughter of our mother and our father, but neither our mother and our father are my biological parents. Kathy held antipathy toward me during my entire life – how rude of me being the intruder who drew attention from her parents. Her correspondences were erratic, accusatory, bullying throughout our lives since her / our father died. She perceives of me as a bald, beer-bellied man who fancies parading around in dresses. She finally got her wish and dissolved our legal relationship last Spring. I don’t expect to ever hear from her again.
Kathy has two children: Mike (her son) and Rachael (her daughter) – both nearly in their 30s. She lied about me to them to kindle their antipathy toward me. They have never corresponded with me though I have made numerous efforts to correspond with them through the years. They have no idea that I established a college fund for each of them in 1992 with the beginning value at $10.000 each; Kathy was responsible for those investments, she blathered to me in 2010 that she blew their college fund years earlier before they would have gotten to it.
Other family is not much different, certainly no better.
Cousin Bev from my father’s family called me a ‘monster’ who ‘hides in her bushes’ waiting to ‘attack’ her – never mind that I have no idea where she lives and have no interest wasting my time on her. I have not seen her since 1993. Kathy gave a small box of our mother’s mementos to Bev to deliver to me; that was 2006. Bev couldn’t be bothered to contact me about this box until 2016. She called me one day that Summer to tell me that she has the box and will be bringing it to my home. She all but literally threw it out her car window as she drove by my home.
Cousin Jack, Cousin Gail, and Cousin Carole (Bev’s older siblings) likewise have had no contact with me. That’s expected. Their families are hard-core Right-wing Republi-con Drumpfians. Jack is active as a Republi-con Party leader. They bullied Cousin Chris, one of our cousins, to commit suicide about 15 years ago.
There’s Cousin Nancy from my mother’s family. Her mother is listed as my Godmother on my Baptism Certificate; evidence suggests that Cousin Nancy’s mother could be my biological mother. Her parents and my parents encouraged us to form a sibling relationship though we only met a handful of times during our lives. We corresponded with each other as pen-pals for at least two decades. She invited me to attend her wedding, she paid for my round-trip air fare and accommodations; I made a film of her wedding, reception, and the family re-union surrounding that event. She began sending anti-Transsexual literature to me in 1985; the books were published by her Seventh Day Adventist Church. Last when I heard from her was 1986. I found her on Facebook in 2015; she denies our relationship.
Cousin Nancy from my father’s family is another work. We met only once – August 1976. Her daughter corresponded with me to complete an ancestry assignment for school about two decades ago. We re-connected in 2017; she rejected me in 2018. She boasted how she and her family are pro-Trans and pro-LGBT. I discovered that to be a lie. She is a proud, self-described Right-wing Republi-con Christian Con-servative Deplorable. She openly supports Crooked Drumpf’s anti-Trans and anti-LGBT agenda.
Next comes Uncle Pete. Add to that. I was recently doing a random Internet search for Uncle Pete. He was at family gatherings when I was a child. Reading his Obituary, I now learned that we worked at the same Arizona state agency (Department of Economic Security) at the same time and for the same sub-agency. I now learned that he died in 2010 following a long infirmity after a stroke.
Can we lose something that we never had?
I lost my entire family. There is not one family member of my extended family of cousins who welcomes me into their life.
As I shared with you, I have not been welcomed to a family Thanksgiving Day since perhaps 1970.
The last gathering of extended family for any holiday for me was Christmas Eve 1979. They hurt me. That year was quite a momentous year for my Transition, but they would not allow me to share anything about my achievements and experiences.
That is the lengths they will go to shed me from their lives.
Interesting, the definition of ‘family’, indeed.
I shared Thanksgiving Day well-wishes with numerous friends among social media. Thank you, one and all.
On the other hand, not one comment or message came from any family members.
I hope that you had a good Thanksgiving Day. No matter wherever you live, there’s always time to give thanks to your family and friends who support you.
Please return for the next essay.