By Patrick Hempfing
A little part of me feels like a hypocrite. Since September, 2011, I’ve written a monthly column that reminds readers to “cherish the moments.” Obviously, we cherish some moments more than others, but whether it’s a spectacular moment or a stressful one, we don’t get the minutes back, so we may as well make the best of them. Yet here I sit, wondering if my present circumstances reflect my own good advice.
In five hours, it will be Thanksgiving Day, 2014, and by my own choice, I’ll be spending it alone. The day will be different from my previous Thanksgivings. I’ll have turkey, but it will be of the cold-cut variety, slapped on a foot-long sub roll by a fast-food employee. Every other Thanksgiving, my turkey has been hot, smothered in gravy, and served by someone I love. Even though Thanksgiving is not about the food, I’ll miss the freshly made filling and delicious apple pie covered with heaps of whipped cream.
Thanksgiving is not about football, either, but after eating 2,000 calories, it sure feels good to stretch out on the sofa to watch the games. I like to enjoy part of the action with my eyelids closed and my mouth hanging open, and I’m not usually the only one snoring. As much as I enjoy the food, football, and nap, for me, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks and spending quality time with family.
This year, I’m still thankful, but I chose to spend the holiday without my family, catching up on work. My wife, Mattie, left with my 10-year-old daughter, Jessie, two days ago. They’ll have a wonderful time celebrating Thanksgiving with family in Florida. I had planned to go, but after careful consideration, I opted to stay home. It’s just my dog, Sadie, and me. Sadie would have preferred playing with my relatives’ dogs in Florida and getting in on the Thanksgiving turkey. I’m pretty sure she’s mad at me. So with Thanksgiving Day only a few hours away, I’m all alone in my dirty house with my angry dog.
I should be thankful; I have everything I wanted. Quiet time to work on my manuscript. A bookshelf full of books to read without interruption, other than to toss Sadie her stuffed gorilla now and then. The entire house, every quiet square foot, is mine.
After the past couple of months, I’m due for a little time to be master of my castle, instead of just the “man chair” tucked in the corner of the garage. First, I battled a respiratory infection that required four trips to the doctor’s office, cough medicine with codeine, steroids (oral and nasal), penicillin, another kind of antibiotics, a chest x-ray, and an inhaler. I spent seven weeks spitting, hacking, sleeping upright in my recliner, and wondering if I would need to finish my manuscript wearing angel wings. I lost 8 pounds. During this time, Mattie had work that required her to go out of town, not once, but twice, and they weren’t short trips. She was gone for five days, home for four days, during which my in-laws (whom I love dearly) visited, and then Mattie left for another eight days.
My medicine bottles received more attention than my computer keys. I fell behind on chores around the house. My To-Do list grew longer than Santa’s list of good boys and girls, but unlike St. Nick, I don’t have a workshop full of elves.
A few days before the planned Thanksgiving trip, I reluctantly informed Mattie of my decision to stay home to work. I added, “I feel like a hypocrite because I tell my readers to cherish the moments. How can I miss Thanksgiving with my family?”
Mattie, knowing that I really needed the time, responded, “It’s okay. You need to cherish the moments with yourself right now.” Wow, I married well.
As I chew my Thanksgiving sub tomorrow, a number of thoughts will likely cross my mind. This isn’t my mother-in-law’s turkey. It’s okay, Sadie, jump up on the sofa beside me. Most importantly, I can’t wait for Mattie and Jessie to return. My man chair works just fine; I don’t need a whole house to myself. Yet I will also be thankful for the peace and quiet, something we all need at times. That doesn’t make me a hypocrite.
Until next month, remember to cherish the moments. Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving Day 2014 update: It turned out that the sub place closed for Thanksgiving. Fortunately, the Chinese restaurant didn’t. I enjoyed my meal, though it wasn’t nearly as good as my mother-in-law’s turkey.
Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year professional career in banking, accounting, and auditing before he became a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad, and writer. Follow Patrick at www.facebook.com/patricklhempfing and on Twitter @PatrickHempfing.