There is no “Thanksgiving Day” in England.
To be sure, there have traditionally been harvest festivals and celebrations there for thousands and thousands of years, and in saying that there’s no “Thanksgiving” in England, I assure you I’m not in any way trying to invalidate those observances.
But, the fourth Thursday in November in England is a Thursday much like any other Thursday.
Realising that I was going to be far from my family on the fourth Thursday of November, Alex‘s mom, Kay, went to a great deal of trouble to surprise me with Thanksgiving dinner. I probably should have been able to guess that something was up when Alex started dropping questions here and there about what Thanksgiving celebrations consisted of. (A lot of food: turkey, potatoes, green bean casseroles, yams, stuffing, beets, pumpkin pies, and of course the traditional Thanksgiving family brawl, the food coma, and [American] football.)
Dinner was lovely – I wish I had at least taken a picture of the pumpkin pie. Kay really went all out on that pie – which, to be honest, is my favourite part of Thanksgiving. We even had ham rather than the traditional turkey because, well, that’s the way we do it at my parents’ … none of us actually being big fans of turkey. There was no green bean casserole, and no stuffing, and no football on the television. (But there was mead and four kinds of potatoes! I love potatoes.)
All of it was meant to make me feel less homesick, and like I wasn’t missing out on anything.
As much as I love my parents, and (most) of my extended family, not once did I ever feel homesick. Not once did I feel like I was “missing out”. Being with Alex is home, to me. But now, I feel a little like some of his family has become my family, too.
For a long time I avoided having to speak on the phone to my father very much by virtue of being unable to accept collect calls without paying a hefty deposit to my phone company. (Never mind the fact that I’ve had the same home phone number and account for fifteen years, or that we’ve always paid the bill, and that a huge deposit to allow us to accept collect calls seems unreasonable in these circumstances, it was convenient for me to just say that I couldn’t do it without paying the deposit). Since he, as an inmate of a correctional facility, didn’t exactly have a regular long distance plan of his own, phone calls were rare. By rare I actually mean they never happened.
And then my father discovered that he could pre-pay for his calls if he had money on his books.
I suppose that one positive thing that I can say about my father is that he has a great work ethic. He’ll work long hours without complaint, and he’ll even ask for overtime. Despite the low wages an inmate receives, he’s got plenty of money on his books to pre-pay for phone calls. Apparently so much that for the next week he intends to call me every single day. Every day because I’m leaving on the first of next month and, pre-paid or not, he won’t be able to call while I’m abroad for the next three months.
Yesterday’s call is still fresh in my mind. Probably because it still has me seething just a little bit.
I suppose the call started pleasantly enough. Within two minutes, though, the tone went downhill entirely. “How’s the weather” turned into “I don’t watch the news any more, it’s too depressing” which turned into “this nation is more wicked than Sodom and Gomorrah before the Lord destroyed it” which then became “It’s not enough that we’ve got all these homos, but now they get to get married, too”.
My dad said the look on my face was enough to make him clear the room.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve known for a very long time that my father is a horrible bigot. I spent a fair few of my formative years in a household where religious, ethnic, and racial slurs were tossed around casually by one parent while the other tried to teach me how hurtful and wrong that behaviour was. I’m thankful that I had my mother to show me what kind of person I wanted to be.
There are a million things that I can think of now that I wish I had said to my father. I’ve had time. Whether I should have been surprised by what he said or not, though, I certainly was. Surprised and angry.
I suppose I should be thankful I have my father to show me what kind of person I don’t want to be.
Today is Father’s Day – at least here in the U.S. – so I wanted to take a minute to acknowledge my dad, who, at least to me, is the best dad, even if he’s not my biological father.
We’ve had our rough patches, and neither of us are perfect people, but I wouldn’t trade him for all the world.
My biological father – well, I don’t wish him any ill, but that relationship is rocky, to put it very mildly. He’s been imprisoned twice in the years that I’ve been alive, and neither of them have been short stays. Factor in the time I’ve not spent with him, and the fact that he’s been abusive both towards myself and my mother, and it’s fair to say that we don’t actually have much of a relationship at all.
Nevertheless, I’m thankful for him. If nothing else, for being half responsible for my existence, and for showing me what a good dad isn’t.
One day I’m hoping I have good reason to wish Alex “Happy Father’s Day”. I think he’ll be a wonderful dad… but not trying to put the horse before the cart here. First, we’ve got to get that permanent residency thing sorted out.