My family of five hadn't had a Thanksgiving dinner together in three years. This year we will all be together which I can't say is great because we don't do anything as a family that turns out good.
I think this Thanksgiving meal will be different. I invited Thelma.
None of my family knew Thelma or have ever seen her. I knew her. Well for the others in the family they have "seen" her but not as a real person with feelings, wants, and desires like the rest of us. Probably at one time or another I figured they all have passed by her, maybe even put some coins in her cup. At least that was what I thought.
I asked Thelma to be at my house at exactly twelve o;clock. I chose twelve because if there is one thing we can do together without fussing, it is being on time. So, at twelve we all came to the table. We were all smiles, but I knew better.
I remember as a kid when we would be on the way to God's House my mama and dad would fuss and fight all the way to the church. But once there, they'd get out of the car and would be all smiles - this perfect loving couple that could be on the cover of the Time Magazine. Yeah right. We three kids learned how to smile and pretend from them.
Anyway, we sat down. Mama was thrilled we could be together again. Dad, he wasn't to happy. More than once he has been told his sons Bill and William were his clones. Seeing, hearing and watching, well as Dad he knew who they were, what they had become was clearly his fault. He also knew had he listened to their mother they would have turned out to be good boys. Sure he was proud they were rich, but rich doesn't make you a good person. Dad knew Bill, the oldest would rather be in the Ocean partying in his hundred thousand dollar yacht. William , the second oldest, would rather be at his million dollar Penthouse watching football. Lastly, there's me, Julie the poorest of the family, the one who talked everyone into coming.
Mama asked, "Why the extra chair?" Dad said, "Are we doing a Clint Eastwood thing with the empty chair?" Then Dad sat in it to be funny. "Is this going to be the ghost of our past that will tell all?" Bill said jokingly as he looked at Dad. William replies, "Let's hope not, cause this family has never shared love at this table. We were always to busy trying to destroy each other with secrets." And then Bill adds, "And if not secrets we always end up arguing over stupid stuff like 'who gets to sit where." Saved by the door bell ringing. I went to the door. There was Thelma. Laying on the ground behind her was her bicycle.
I could tell right away someone tried to comb her hair. She had on a different dress than her usual. Her shoes were a mixed pair, one brown and one black. Someone in the YMCA tried to help her look her best. I introduced Thelma to the family.
"Thelma thank you for coming today. You know me. Let me introduce my family." Just as I was about to speak she said, "I know them. Your father gave me these shoes I am wearing. Your mother was the one who gave me this pretty dress. This one, "pointing at Bill," gave me one of his coats for winter. I remember he said he had too many. And him, "looking at William, "he never told me his name, but he brought me a sandwich to eat last couple of Wednesdays. And you, you always stop by on Thursdays and sit with me on the park bench. I tell people that you are the only family I know and have."
Bill jumped up and pulled her chair out for her to sit down. Mama quickly got up and sat a plate for her. Daddy changed places he sit next to Thelma. William asked if he cold sit on her other side. Everyone rearranged themselves and then Daddy offered to say Grace but I interrupted, "Dad may I say Grace this year?" "Sure", he said. I have never heard my Father say Grace. I thought this is to beautiful of a family moment for him to mess it up trying. He looked at me thankful.
"Heavenly Father, . Thank You for this bountiful meal that is a reflection of how You have blessed us all. But most of all, Thank You that our special guest, Miss Thelma has reminded our family that by loving others we can learn to love and respect each other." "Amen."
For the first time in a long time, each of us took a turn sharing a favorite family memory. William shared how Bill taught him to throw a softball. He become good at it and was a star player in High School. Bill shared how Dad came to his first grade class and taught everyone how to draw a cartoon face. For the rest of the week Bill said he was the most popular kid in his class. I looked at my Mama. My favorite memory has to do with you mama. I was only five but I remember it like it happened yesterday. When Granny was sick and dying you opened her hospital room window and let me crawl in so I could tell her how much I loved her. We laughed, dad was caught shedding a tear, mama came over and kissed each of us on the forehead. I looked at Thelma. "Thelma do you have a memory?"
"My memories are different. Sometimes someone will be charitable toward me, yet I know by the way they act they think I am some disease who they must not touch or wee must not breath the same air together. There is no memory there. However, when someone comes along and gives with a smile, now that is something to remember. That is why I came today. It was the smiles all of you have given to me this month. The memory that you cared. That is the memory that brought me here."
Mama got up and walked over, hugged Thelma and said, "Thelma you are a God send, one of God's angels. This family needed a angel to teach us."
Thelma spoke up. "Next year all of you are invited to be my guest at the YMCA. I have never ate there but I would like to if you all come. I never wanted to eat alone."
Daddy spoke up and said with pride. "I think I can speak for all of us. You will never have to eat alone again. We will all be proud to come and eat Thanksgiving with you next time" Then Mama began, "You will need a new dress......"
That day mama let me sneak in to see my Granny at the Hospital , well Granny proudly said to me, "I know you". She made me so proud to be her granddaughter. Well I can say "I am so proud to belong to this family. "I KNOW THEM."