I have never been one for tradition. It would probably take a team of chimps about 2 minutes to surmise that the genisis of my feelings is linked to my untraditional upbringing. Living 2500 miles from your closest family for the better part of 18 years does not help.
On Thanksgiving day 2003 I boarded a plane headed to L.A. It was the first time I would spend the holiday in Cali in over a decade. Two days before, my grandmother lost her 11 month battle with cancer. “Luckily” for me, most people travel before and after the holiday, which made it possible for me to make it home to bury my grandmother. I did not care to speak at her funeral. I had no desire to take part in funeral or repast planning. I only went home to be a pall bearer –to make sure that the woman who, along with my mother, always took care of my every need, made it to her final resting place with the love and care that she deserved. When I got to the funeral I found out that my family decided that I should be an “honorary pall bearer” who sat with the family while a motley crew of in-laws and family friends were to see to the final needs of my grandmother. It was explained to me that the family “traditionally” did not serve as pall bearers for their own loved one. I responded by leaving the cemetery and going to the movies (no lie, I saw Bad Santa).
In the years that followed, I saw less and less of my family. Law School/bar study/work provided me serviceable alibis, but the truth is, I did not want to see them. Our matriarch was gone and my once cohesive family had fallen into disarray. Two years ago, things began to change. One day, as I considered my grandmother’s life, two things stood out: she loved her family unconditionally (albeit sometimes the love was tougher than others) and I could not remember ever hearing my grandmother complain, not even when cancer was eating her from the inside. I realized that carrying a grudge against my family not only did not honor my grandmother, but it disrespected the way she lived. I decided it was time to let it go.
One of my fondest memories of time spent with my grandmother was when we spent the day delivering food to the “elderly” as my grandmother put it. I was glad to be there. It felt good to see the smiles that the meals put on the recipient’s faces, but the best part was giving my 68 year old grandmother, her two surgically repaired knees and her artificial hip, a brief reprieve from taking the meals from the car to the doors… fresh legs.
As I struggle to develop a sense of normalcy for my fledgling family, I want our traditions to have value…. to have meaning. Today, I will start my day running in the So Others Might Eat (S.O.M.E.) Thanksgiving Turkey Trot. Every dollar raised will go to provide meals to those who otherwise might go hungry. After that, I will deliver meals to the “elderly” and others in need. I can think of no better way to show how thankful I am for the extraordinary women I was born to and the amazing one that was born to me. It is too early to call this a tradition yet but I hope it evolves into one. I really hope that as Ella gets older she can join me on both the run and the deliveries. Lord knows, I’m gonna need fresh legs.