Thursday, November 24, 2005

TO HAVE AND TO HAVE NOT



Today is Thanksgiving but the day that I'm truly focused on was yesterday. November 23rd, this year and every year before it, is the day my father celebrated his birthday. He would have been sixty-one.

And in truth, I had forgotten about this special occasion. I was so preoccupied with the work I was given, which was attending to the needs of 100+ mentally ill, ex-homeless, and some drug-addicted, consumers, serving them food during their Thanksgiving dinner. Granted it was a day before the actual celebration but when you have little-to-no family to celebrate with and you have almost no money to spend on turkey and stuffing, you take what you can get. Even when it comes prematurely.

I stood behind a few heaving trays of mass produced food--food I wouldn't normally consider appetizing--scooping out healthy servings of whatever it was I was stationed in front of, whether it was an unusually yellow vegetable mashed potatoes or unusually yellow macaroni salad. The people I served asked no questions, made no critical or disparaging remarks, and rarely, if ever, refused anything offered (the soy glutton wasn't, understandably, popular). There was not a centimeter of plate left exposed as they piled their food like edible mountains. As their appetites increased, mine decreased. I felt simultaneously saddened and sickened by their extreme appetites and forgotten, or perhaps never-learned, table manners. I felt even guiltier for judging them. This was a meal unlike the ones they would have the other 364 days of the year. And the consumers were obviously all well aware of this. They made repeat trips down the line with a Tupperware or two in hand. All the while, I thought that while I did not have much of my own (I'm not making a pay check and moreover, all the money I have is going to a sub-par education), there is so much that I do have.

To be a minority with a mental illness coupled with a persistent drug addiction, to have been such a person, and to have lived on the street for years with no one caring for you--this is almost something I could never fathom. Yet here I was surrounded by dozens of people who were celebrating Thanksgiving as if they had plenty to be thankful for. And in reality, they did in this specific moment, this afternoon, they had food, friends, people caring for them and ultimately, that's what we all need.

On this day, eerily, I thought about my father as if his presence were hovering over me. And while I do think of him often, on the pre-Thanksgiving Day celebration, his memory somehow weighed heavier on my mind.

The next day, when speaking to my mother on the phone, we spoke about Dad's birthday and how much we missed him. I told her what I had done on Dad's birthday and she said that my father would have been proud of me had he been there.

In retrospect, I realized that he had indeed been there, channeled through the memories in my mind.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Howard Jay Meyer said...

may ur dad's memory be for a blessing.
if u come 2 my blog and comment, i'll link 2 u, then u please link 2 me.
PS saw u on bangitout

2:21 PM  

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