It was our second Thanksgiving alone. We were with family, of course, but our own. As widows, though, Carol and I were alone for the second Thanksgiving in a row, but the first since we became a couple. Maybe that's why the emotions bubbled just below the surface.
Carol has always cooked the turkey for the Madigan clan. But it was Mike who took care of the neck, giblets and the other accessories stowed in the bird's chest cavity. It was when Carol had to reach into the turkey this year and pull out the innards herself that she felt the wave of grief roll over her. For her it was realizing she'd never smell that unappealing scent of sauteing giblets that she'd always associated with Mike being with her and the family at Thanksgiving. The second wave came when her daughter found Mike's name tag (Opah), and contemplated whether to display it again this year.
Carolyn had just ordered the new plum-colored uniform that Delta Airlines would be debuting in the fall of 2017 when she became ill. It was when I was walking through Delta's terminal on my way to my flight to Chicago, and seeing all the attendants in their plum-colored uniforms that the wave hit me. For me it was the realization that Carolyn had never gotten the chance to wear that unappealing shade of uniform. The second wave came when it then struck me that Carolyn had also never gotten the chance to enjoy even one day of her planned 2017 retirement from ever having to wear that plum-colored uniform even once.
Carol and I have both already committed to each that there won't be a third Thanksgiving apart. What we haven't worked out yet is whether she will experience for the first time listening to Arlo Guthrie's “Alice's Restaurant” played during the Roth-Champagne dinner, or whether the Madigan clan will hear it played during their feast for the first time. Either way we're planning a “Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat,” complete with “twenty-seven 8x10 glossy photos” posted on Facebook.
The problem, of course, is what to do with the empty places - two in the case of the Madigans were Carol to accompany me to Chicago next year, and one in the case of the Champagne-Roths. We don't have that worked out yet, because it's not really up to just us. A lot depends on how the others would view those spaces: empty or filled with new love, new beginnings and new happiness.
We have time to work all that out.