It’s relatively well known that I got engaged a week after my parents split up. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to plan a wedding OR had your family break apart, but I would advise against experiencing both in tandem.** My job was also at an all-time low. We are talking peak stress five days a week.
For the first six months of this strange new world, my brain seemed to shut down. I had a hard time remembering things. There are dinners I went to with people whose names and faces I can’t recall. There were meetings I forgot I attended within 24 hours of attending them. When I wasn’t forgetting things, I was fretting that I had some sort of early on-set Alzheimer’s. I may not have appeared to be a hot mess, but a hot mess I was.
Which is probably why I’ve never told this awesome story from the first Thanksgiving without both of my parents.
My parents separated in July 2009, and by November, they were still living in our house together. A couple weeks before Thanksgiving, my dad had had it.
“I just want to let you know that I’m moving out,” my dad said to me over the phone. “I am still trying to figure some things out with your mother, but I’ve just come to the conclusion that I can’t live like this.”
We’re either together, or we’re not is what I heard, and I didn’t blame him. He had an apartment and would be moving into it two weeks before Thanksgiving.
When I asked my mom what our holiday plans were, she quipped that they’d be the same as always — my aunt, uncle, cousins, their kids and my aging grandparents all staying at our house. My brother, my dad and I were disheartened. I think were hoping to find a way to work through the first Thanksgiving apart, together.
But on we trudged. And we were low on drama until the day after Thanksgiving. I walked into our house after dinner with D’s family to nobody talking to each other.
“Uh, hi. What’s up?”
My mom topped off her wine glass and led me out of the kitchen and into the home office. She looked like she’d just done battle.
“We have a bit of an issue,” she said, nodding at the computer.
I sighed. Every year at Thanksgiving, we had issues with our family computer. The issue being my uncle or my cousin’s fiance — let’s call him R — being on it for all hours AND changing all the settings on it. Totally rude stuff that my dad had to fix the day after everyone left. I was expecting to hear what a bind she was in now that my dad was gone.
“I walked through here about an hour ago and caught R looking through a bunch of our family photos. Photos that he would have really had to dig around for.”
I agreed that this was weird, or at least, an invasion of privacy.
“I watched him for a few minutes and noticed that he was saving a bunch of them to his email account, including a bunch of you, as well as photos of you and D.”
“What the f-”
“I know. So I said, ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ And he said, ‘I was just looking through some of your family photos.’ And I said, ‘Yes, I can see that you are looking at OUR private family photos on OUR family computer. Which is incredibly intrusive. I also see that you are saving some of them for your own use. Do you want to tell me what exactly you’re doing with them?'”
“What the F*CK, MOM.”
“He tells me that every year around this time, he’s responsible for updating the website for [ILLINOIS COUNTY NAME]. And he always seems to do that while he’s at our house for Thanksgiving, so he likes to use some of our photos to update the website.”
“Are you telling me that for the last however many years, he’s been stealing our family photos to use on an Illinois county website?”
“Yes. Yes, that is what I’m saying.”
I let another F-bomb fly and then asked, “What did you say then?”
“I told him that for more than 10 years we’ve invited him into our house and put up with all of his bullsh*t and that he had crossed the line. And that he needed to delete the photos from his email and stay off of our computer.”
“You said this in front of everyone?”
“Yep. And then he left.”
I sat down at the computer and pointed my Web browser to his county’s website. I spotted a few of ours immediately, but quickly realized that there were hundreds of pages to this website. There was no way I could get through them all.
This was not the first time R had been lambasted at a family Thanksgiving (the guy’s a real a-hole), but it was the first time my mom — hostess of the festivities — had gotten involved.
The next morning, R was back in the house and approached me when no one else was around.
“Hey, Megs,” he said.
“Dude…” I cautioned.
“Where does your dad work now?”
“I wanted to talk to your dad about this photo situation. And to get his permission for using some of them.”
“I’m sorry; what didn’t you understand about my mom telling you that those photos were totally off limits to you?”
“Well, I just wanted to get your dad’s permission.”
“My mom said no. That’s all you should need to hear. And my dad wouldn’t give you permission anyway, nor would he appreciate you showing up at his workplace. I also say no. End of discussion.”
By the time last Thanksgiving rolled around, our house had sold and my mom had moved into her own apartment, which she invited everyone to infiltrate. Somewhere in between meeting her boyfriend and covering my emotions with alcohol, R told my little cousins that my mom moved into an apartment because she was “too poor” to live in a big house like they had and I almost had to kill him.
This Thanksgiving, D and I are flying to Chicago and staying with his sister. It will be the first Thanksgiving in 29 years that I’ve been away from my family. And I’m totally OK with that.***
**Special shout-out to LP and KCO for also being in this awesome club.
***Actually, I always miss my grandparents.