Notable Dishwashers of Family Gathering’s Past

I am happy to report that our family has managed to survive a major holiday complete with meals, visiting and all those dishes to wash!  Clem gave me a nudge, to let you know that I hail from and currently reside in Canada, which is why I’m talking about Thanksgiving already LOL.

Anyway, it was a reminder that hey….things have changed, and it won’t ever be the same, so deal with it and just keeping swimming….or eating. Whatever floats your boat, or sinks it for that matter! 

I’ve finally unpacked and washed the laundry…how do we generate so much laundry?!  I swear we have a stowaway in our suitcases that we never see, who brings extra clothes or wears more than we wear…perhaps an elf of some kind?  I wonder if it’s willing to reveal itself and offer some housekeeping services for room and board?!

It’s confession time!  I hadn’t been back home to visit my folks in nearly two years…ouch…yep…2 years. The last time I was at their house, it was Thanksgiving exactly two years ago. We needed to go, so I could see my grandfather in the hospital before he passed away. He died a week after we were there and my parents actually ended up going to the hospital, which was in a town just over an hour away on the Saturday evening because the doctor on call thought he wasn’t going to make the night.  We hadn’t been visiting as often, because our kids’ activities consumed our weekends, and Clem and I weren’t comfortable leaving Lea in town in the event there was an emergency.  Plus, my folks were in town visiting often and trying to help when Lea had scans and appointments and needed more hands on deck.  My dad says that company are similar to fish, they start to stink after a few days LOL!  So we see my folks very often and regularly, just not always on their turf, no overlapping with extended stinking!

My folks recently, (and when I mean recently, I mean days before we arrived) moved into their brand new house that they had been building for more than a year.  We hadn’t been there to see any of it, so it was definitely new territory. The house they moved from is our old childhood home. I can’t imagine how my mom feels leaving it all behind after 34 years or so.

We went over to grab a few things the one day, and it’s funny how it hit me that when I come back ‘home’ to visit, it’s not the same ‘home’.  Also, I didn’t really know how to feel when I realized I will never walk back into that house again once it’s sold.  All the memories of riding down the stairs on the giant couch cushions (I seriously wonder how we survived childhood!), the massive amount of cooking we’d done at Christmas in my Mom’s kitchen (the over-risen tractor tire [in Ukrainian it’s called a Kolach] incident or the pampushky [Ukrainian donuts] that had risen beyond our control), and the smash up hockey we played with mini sticks in the family room, all contained within the walls of this house.  The memories of bringing our children to visit for the first time at grandma’s house, the excitement of the newest arrivals being immersed and welcomed into the family.  I know it’s just a house, but for some reason, it feels like it is the vessel that holds all those memories, and not our brains.  With time, I’m certain that my brain will heal and the shroud fogging the old memories will lift.

Clem had quite a few solemn moments this weekend, not sure if it was because he had to wash so many dishes, or he was missing Lea who normally stood by his side partaking in the cleanup.  The banter and the giggling those two did while washing dishes was always fun to watch. Had to watch yourself too, or you’d be thrown in the middle, often becoming the butt of all the jokes and haggling!  He keeps mentioning how much he missed her this weekend, it just confirms how close those two were.  He’s always felt that she was his sister and not a sister-in-law.

Lea provided constant entertainment at any family get together.  She’d hover and pace impatiently in the kitchen offering all the help in the world to get to the eating part as quickly as possible while simultaneously hollering at her kids to not destroy everything. She was often aggravating and at the point of attempting to bend time and space for faster service, her level of impatience was beyond comical!  As soon as the food was ready, we’d stand back and watch her throw her kids’ plates together, literally.  Her kids were well past old enough to chew but she’d still cut everything up into the tiniest of pieces so that they wouldn’t choke.  Think microscopically previously chewed and ground up pieces!  The girl was handy with a knife!  Sometimes I’d bring out my Slap Chop for her to save time!  The stink eyes I’d get were astronomical!  We’d gently joke about her actions, but we knew there were underlying issues.

This is a story for another time, but behind all of her helicopter parenting, was a deep fear.  Lea lost her first baby when she was around 20 weeks pregnant.  She went into a doctor around 12 weeks, who proceeded to ‘dig around internally’, and that’s when things started going south.  She had spotting on and off after that visit, but it wasn’t until she’d cut the grass, albeit a little excessively, that more bleeding and cramping began.  Long story short, she spent 4 days on a gurney in a curtained off section of the emergency room in our hometown, before giving birth in the wee hours of the morning, to her very much alive baby boy in the toilet of the public washroom of that emergency room.  As far as I know, no one told her she was going to lose her baby or what was going on.  She was alone and afraid and to add insult to injury, a highly intoxicated individual blatantly said something aloud to the effect of using birth control, while the nurses were trying to help her.  She hovered and obsessed because she’d already lost a child.  We joked about the food chopping, and she knew it wasn’t malicious, but it was sad to think what thoughts were going through her mind while she did what she thought was necessary.

That said, she was a champion slammer of chow and would be done before some of us had the chance to sit down.  At that point, she was already trying to collect our plates so she could wash the the dishes and get her kids home to bath and be put to bed!  I can’t even begin to explain how many meals I ate, running behind her while she carried my still full plate over to the sink. I’d frantically be shoveling my food into my pie hole before her ceremonious plate disposal and subsequent washing!  I’m not exaggerating LOL!  And this was early in the evening, like 6:30!  Maybe she didn’t like us or want to visit LOL?  We would all poke fun about her running away, to which she’d scowl and launch into an explanation about how her kids would destroy everything and how ‘tired’ they were (in uncanny fashion, she’d mention that line and her kids would suddenly burst out with unbound energy).  She was an expert at eating and running.  I should’ve made her a cape and bestowed a name to that superpower.  Good times.

I secretly admit, that I take great pleasure in hearing other’s stories, about the people who ‘make’ their gatherings or the epic fails that make the gathering notorious! I don’t know if it’s because I relish in indulging in the laughter and joy of the reflection or the fact that I can relate. Maybe it just makes me feel less quirky because most of the time it feels like I am living a Griswold’s life LOL! No idea, but it’s just my thing.

I love being able to reflect on the memories I can recall right now, as my brain has really sunk into the PTSD type process that has become all too familiar.  What few things I can recall, are my saving grace that gets me through the sad moments, where all I can think of is her kids and her missing out on the family gatherings she loved so much.  Mom and I often wondered aloud what things would’ve been like if she were still here or to not have had cancer in the first place.  The thoughts aren’t really comforting for me, they just invoke anger.

Lea’s oldest came through the door and told Clem outright that he misses my parent’s dog that died over a year ago and that he misses his mom.  We all do buddy, we all do.  As Clem said, what do you say in response, other than we’re right there with him?  We are not a religious family, but we are indeed deeply spiritual in many ways, often finding Lea in nature or signs of herself in our surroundings.  Her energy is still very much present.  He mentions his feelings and thoughts to us very little but when he or his little brother do, it’s heartbreaking.  That, by far, has been the hardest thing to deal with.  Lea’s kids are very young, too young.  I just hope he knows he can always come and talk to the many of us about her and we can tell him all the stories that will keep his mom very much alive in his mind and his heart.

This Thanksgiving, I was and truly am grateful and thankful for that very reason the most, the gift of family, and for many other things too numerous to list. I’m happy and grateful I have a list to be thankful for.   

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