Jack rested back into his chair and took in the scene.
At the other end of the table sat his lovely wife, Sylvia. Between them were gathered his eldest, James, his bride and their two little ones, Jack’s middle child, Stephen with his serious girlfriend and Jack and Sylvia’s youngest, Sam, who was becoming a fine, young man in his own right.
The conversation was lost into consuming the feast set before them. What moments ago had been catching up talk was now nearly silence, except for the unmistakable sound of many happy people devouring a hearty meal.
Jack thought about how much had happened to lead to this day and how it could have turned out so very differently.
Jack and his first wife, James and Stephen’s mom, had not gotten along well not long after their wedding. It seemed one thing or another was always going wrong in their lives and in their relationship. While it wasn’t an all out war, it was a distant, sometimes cold, often brooding relationship, fraught with a constant risk of ugliness spewing onto the surface. While James and Stephen didn’t often witness any verbal battles, everyone in the house felt how toxic it all was. Everyone was living under that cloud.
When Jack and James and Stephen’s mom finally divorced, she was bitter, she was angry, she was hostile. She used the boys as pawns, tools to hurt Jack in his most vulnerable place. There were weekends withheld, holidays thwarted, vacations delayed and frequent interruptions when father and sons were together. Through it all, Jack remained constant, consistently providing time, patience, guidance for the boys in their perception of it all and civility in his negotiations and public considerations of the boys’ very difficult mother. Jack can’t say that never a harsh word was spoken to the boys about their mother. No one is perfect and least of all Jack. But Jack remained mindful that the boys were stuck in the middle and no more empowered to fix the situation with their mother than Jack was when he was married to her.
Thankfully, Jack moved on and met the woman of his dreams, Sylvia. They married and she gave him another son, Sam. She made a home for James and Stephen and welcomed them in, bathed them in love and created a very safe and different space than the boys had otherwise known. She, too, had spared the boys from much of the consternation created by their mother’s drama.
Time passed, years passed, and James and Stephen’s mother relaxed. The drama largely slipped away. Decades had now passed and, as time forces upon all things, everyone had gotten older. This past year, James and Stephen’s mother had passed away. The boys were devastated. Jack was there for them whenever they needed him.
Now, Thanksgiving had come and his boys were gathered home, all of them, James, Stephen and Sam. Jack had a Daughter-in-law who was lovely and a wonderful addition to the family, a potential Daughter-in-law who seemed very nice (one tries not to get too caught up in that in case it doesn’t work out), and two incredible grandchildren who were everything that Jack had ever heard grandchildren could be. Jack was smitten.
Jack thought briefly about how this scene would be different if he had stayed married to James and Stephen’s mother. He shuddered. He thought longer on how the scene would be different if he had joined their mother in her anger, her acrimony, her constant efforts to battle. He thought how different the boys would be if he had joined that fray. He thought it quite likely that the boys would not have chosen to share a Thanksgiving meal with him had he chosen that path.
Soon, Jack set those dark thoughts aside and raised his glass in a silent toast to his life and his family. Life goes on. Life is good.