Looking Back at Thanksgivings with Leukemia and My Ex

Last updated: November 2019

The first Thanksgiving after my divorce, my little son put his head down on the table and cried. “I want Daddy to cut the turkey,” he said. He was about five or six and the most attached to his father. My daughter was so young that now, more than 20 years later, she doesn’t even remember him living with us. My older son was old enough to have formed a bit of a life of his own.

My mother said it was too heartbreaking to do another Thanksgiving this way. The next year, we went to a restaurant. The place was full, but it was sad in a different way. We went back to doing it at my house. It’s a Colonial well-suited to the occasion. It got easier, but you could tell that my son still missed his Dad. I’m sure the other kids did too. They just didn’t show it the same way.

Leukemia changed my relationship with my ex-husband

I don’t remember exactly when we started doing it together. Slowly we went from not being able to even stand near each other at our kids’ sporting events, to talking a little, to doing such things together. The shift started when I got leukemia. He comforted me and moved in with the kids when I was in the hospital. It was during this time period that we had our first “family vacation” as a divorced couple. He was planning a Cape Cold trip with them at a time when I couldn’t be left alone.

So he took me with them.

It was not a friendly divorce. Still, this might sound odd, but while our last vacation as a married couple had been horrible, this one was pleasant. I wasn’t feeling great, and he took good care of me. We had a common interest – the well-being of our three kids – and we enjoyed having a good time with them. The pressure was off. I didn’t have to think about whether I wanted a divorce, because I already had one.

Post-divorce Thanksgivings have gotten easier

Our post-divorce Thanksgiving dinners have also been easier than the married ones. When we were married, he got angry at the mess that my mother and I made in the kitchen when we were doing our part of the meal. As a divorced couple, we are able to laugh at the friction we had in the kitchen in those days.

Things got more complicated when our older son married and had children (now 2 and 4.) Her parents are both divorced and remarried. The more players, the more complicated the playing field. Last year, his wife’s grandmother – Granny to everyone – invited everyone to her house. It was great, and I loved the sound of telling people I was going to Granny’s house, even though all my grandparents are gone.

It’s not going to work out this year. He is going to his wife’s father’s house. On many years another single friend and her daughter have done it with us. That’s not going to work out either. So it’s going to be me, my ex-husband, and the two other kids. At first, I thought that was pathetic. But then I was telling another friend how odd it is that the holiday has gotten equated with stuffing ourselves with food and stuffing our homes with people.
There are, sadly, people who have nobody with whom to celebrate and people who don’t have enough to eat. I have a former husband who I get along with, plenty of food to eat, and two children who will be fun to be around.

Keeping perspective even years after leukemia

It is easy to lose perspective when you’re as far “out” as I am. But periodically I remind myself to read what I wrote on my blog when I relapsed for the second time, “I have been crying a lot, picturing myself at the end of the road. Thinking I won’t see my children finish growing up, won’t see my grandchildren.”

So what if I don’t see them on a certain day? I’m thankful that the generosity of my bone marrow donor made my predictions wrong on the dark relapse day.

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