• I last saw my father on Thanksgiving. Months later, he died in a fire.
  • I keep a box of his things that I look at every Thanksgiving to remind me of him.
  • I’m getting my kids involved in this tradition by sharing a few things about their Grandfather.

There were no festive tablecloths or juicy turkey, cranberry sauce or mashed potatoes with melted butter. We didn’t have stuffing or pumpkin pie. But there was my exuberant father, who offered me peanut-butter crackers and coffee at his house during the Thanksgiving holiday before he died.

My father lived in the house, a pole barn converted into a house since the summer. He looked relaxed with a big smile. I felt a deeper connection than ever before, an optimism for his new beginning: after years of instability in recovery from alcoholism he had finally settled into a sober life.

This house was his place of restoration, his cove for making new plans.

there will be no peace

Three months later, a fire and explosion caused by hitting ice on a gas line took everything. I was 28 when I became a kin.

When I found my father’s sports jacket in his car after he died, I hugged it to my chest. The jacket – navy, with brass buttons and two front pockets – made him look sharp. It could have been one of the best things he ever owned. I still haven’t washed it in 10 years.

Sudden loss can be complicated to make peace with, and the fragility of life remains in my thoughts every day. But the untold goodbye is a reminder to keep telling stories, so when time moves me forward my father is not forgotten.

i miss him every thanksgiving

After my father’s sudden death, Thanksgiving took on a whole new meaning. This is when I bring out my father’s memory box, his jacket and hat, his pocketknife, his thermos and his silver ring that was received before his cremation.

I think of him wearing and using these mementos – all that was left of his life. I built the memory box from scratch, and over the years I’ve gathered documents from his life, from medical records to his college diploma, that help me answer questions I never wanted to ask him about his life. meet.

It’s a countdown to the next 90 days to the anniversary of his death, and a ritual during these months of reflecting and going through the box has helped me face never seeing him again.

I read the handwritten notes she had made the last time she saw me. I read the cards and letters he sent her in the years before she died. I see not only the words in his handwriting but also the moments and places, as if we are having a conversation in the past.

I replay past voicemails he left, which I have preserved and will share with my children, just as I will share his anecdotes about helping others. They might laugh at my father adjusting to the digital world, saying, “I got your voicemail — not your voicemail, your text message and your picture. ‘Picture’ is definitely ‘picture’.”

I wish I could tell him now, and taking the time for purposeful reflection helps me when a sense of loss hollows me out, when I am overwhelmed with sadness about how he died, about those conversations. In what we will never do. This memory box has helped me understand her complexities, and I have become more grateful to be her daughter.

Now that my kids are a bit older, I’ll share my ritual. After our Thanksgiving meal, I might play oldies enjoyed by Ricky Nelson, Elvis, or The Platters. I can buy my kids favorite candy. Together we will go through the box and pass the artifact. I might say, “That’s your grandfather’s hat and jacket,” and maybe my son will try them on. I’ll show my kids his ring.

And it would be a tradition, a way to connect them to their grandfathers and their roots.

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