TWO MEMORABLE THANKSGIVINGS
Thanksgiving has always been a time of new insights for me. Like in 1986 when I finally caught a glimpse of why my father beat me with a razor strap. I saw a letter he was writing to his brother and in it he said, “I am making lemon icebox pies for our Thanksgiving dinner. I get to lick the Eagle Brand cans and the mixing bowl. In my youth I had to make baby formulas for my twin sisters’ Alive and Ruth. Times were hard and I almost hated the brats that they could have Eagle Brand and I couldn’t. Ever once in a while I will open a can of Eagle Brand and eat all I want.”
The way I got this insight was from something Dad’s sister, Roberta said to me at a family reunion. I had gone to the reunion to ask all his living brothers and sisters (there were 10 children born to my grandparents) where he got his anger. I explained to them that Dad had beaten me many times and I had come to the point of desperately needing to know why.
I asked if his father beat him and they actually laughed. Grandpa Isaac, they said, was much too laid back to discipline his kids that way. So my father’s rage did not come from his father.
Finally Roberta said, “His anger may have come from being loaded down with the care of his nine brothers and sisters. He was the oldest child and took on way too much responsibility for a boy.”
When I read the letter he was writing to his brother about licking the Eagle Brand cans, I got a flicker of insight. I recalled a time when I walked in the kitchen to see him eating from an Eagle Brand can with a teaspoon. He looked kinda sheepish when I walked in and put the Eagle Brand can away.
When Aunt Roberta gave me her opinion, I asked myself, “Would I have been angry to have the care of nine brothers and sisters?” Absolutely! I only raised two kids but I learned how stressful it can be to have the care and responsibility of children.
While I definitely do not think there is any good reason to whip children, I do know how important it is for the beaten child to have at least a tiny bit of knowledge about why their father did it. You see, the beatings instilled a rage in me that was not easy to control. The only thing that ever reduced the rage was the tiny insight from Aunt Roberta and one more thing -- remembering all the loving things my father ever did for me. And there were many.
Thanksgiving dinners when our family was all together remain one of the dearest memories of my life. So another Thanksgiving after my parents died I was freshly divorced and felt sad and alone. My sister was living in Florida and my brother was not having a Thanksgiving dinner.
A dear black friend, asked me where I was having Thanksgiving dinner and I told him my family was not dining together. He quickly invited me to feast with him, his wife, his mother and some other family members.
I did. And as we held hands around the table and blessed the food and the occasion, tears came to my eyes as I had the insight that we are all one family. We all need the same things, like to be with those we love. We need to feel loved. We need each other and love is not related to race or nation.
It was one of the sweetest experiences of my life. I can hardly wait to see what great experience and insight will come to me this Thanksgiving.