My worst Thanksgiving was not the one that took place two weeks after my first wife, Krista, died. It was the one that took place the year before I married her.
The Thanksgiving after Krista died was surreal. I was still numb and in shock over her death and the death of our daughter, Hope. It was also the first day in nearly two weeks that I had nothing to do. No funerals preparations or trips to the hospital. It actually felt good to sit on the couch with a plate of food and watch football all day. Looking back, it was probably a good for me to sit there and not have anything to worry about.
But it still wasn't my worst Thanksgiving.
That distinction goes to the one three years before. I was finishing my last year of college. I was engaged to Krista and had started a job with America Online the month before. I was grateful for the job. It paid well and provided benefits even for part-time employees like myself.
Holiday shifts were determined by seniority. And since I was literally at the bottom of the seniority pool, I had to pick from the shifts that no one else wanted. And when it came time to pick, all I found myself stuck with the 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. shift. Basically that meant while my family and Krista were enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, football games, and everything else associated with the holiday, I was going to be stuck answering customer service calls.
I tried to tell myself having to work that shift was a blessing in disguise. AOL was paying its employees double time and half for working the holiday and we desperately needed the money. I also thought that the call volume would be very low â€“ so low there was rumor that they would probably send some people home early.
Thanksgiving arrived. I spend the morning with my family then about quarter to ten, drove to work. The streets were empty. Stores were closed. And those people I did see driving around had smiles on their faces as they were driving off to have Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family.
I arrived at work, put on the headset, and started taking phone calls. To my surprise, call volume was high. There wasn't any downtime between phone calls. Most people I spoke to complained about being on hold for over five minutes. Most people that called were with their family. As I talked to them I could hear their family in the background laughing and talking or cheering for their football team. Each call reinforced that I was stuck in front of a computer while others were enjoying the holiday.
After work I drove home. My family and Krista were playing board games and having a good time. I fixed myself a plate of leftovers and jointed in few hours of fun that remained.
For me that Thanksgiving is forever lost because I missed out time with my family and Krista. While they were having a wonderful day together and making memories, I was at work. Instead of being there to witness the meringue of a pie that caught fire (burns like napalm, Krista said) or picking raisins out of the stuffing or watching the Detroit Lions game with my dad, I was stuck in front of a computer.
I don't think I made a bad decision by working -- I did need some way to pay for the upcoming wedding and our life together. But it wasn't until years later that I realized how much I was really missing out on. I told myself there would be many more Thanksgiving days with Krista and my family.
Little did I know that I would only have two remaining with Krista.
But these last three Thanksgivings with Marathon Girl have been the best because I've appreciated every moment with her and our families. No matter how good or bad food or the overall day has been, I've learned to make as many memories as possible. Because you never know when this could be the last Thanksgiving with someone you love.
There is only one Thanksgiving in 2005.
One chance to make Thanksgiving memories.
I, for one, am going to do my best to take advantage of it.