complaints, family, holidays

That “damned ham”, and our crappy Thanksgiving… Things are looking better today, though.

Our Thanksgiving dinner was not much better than Charlie Brown’s… This post is probably going to be depressing, so I offer fair warning.

I hope everyone who celebrated Thanksgiving had a good day yesterday. Our Thanksgiving, quite frankly, kind of sucked. It’s partly my fault, I guess. Bill and I just never got around to making any concrete plans for what we were going to make for the holiday. He bought a two pound raw ham, because it’s just us, and we don’t have tons of refrigerator space. Then, as the afternoon got later, I reminded Bill that it was Thanksgiving, and he said he’d bought the ham. This was “special”, because we almost never have ham that wasn’t sliced for sandwiches at the deli. Other than that, we had our usual mashed potatoes and peas, and no rolls, gravy, special dessert or anything.

That “damned ham” wasn’t that great. It had kind of a gray look to it, which gave me the willies. I’m used to ham that is pink. But it turned out the ham wasn’t spoiled or anything. I’m just not used to having one that isn’t cured. It was a bit dry and tasteless. I would have preferred roasted duck or chicken, I guess. Oh well.

Last year, we ordered our Thanksgiving dinner from a local restaurant that caters to Americans. This year, we didn’t see their ad for the dinner until it was too late to order. I also remember that last year, we had leftovers forever. Even half a turkey is too much for us to finish on our own, and it came with a bunch of sides. The food was delicious, but way more than enough for us.

I used to really enjoy cooking and was good at it, but Bill kind of took over that task some years ago. And he’s been working a lot and, I guess, was kind of tired and didn’t think to do anything particularly special yesterday. Neither of us really thought about what we should do for the holiday. He looked so tired last night that I suggested ordering sushi or something, but he said he wanted to cook the ham. So he did… At least the wine was good. We had an Amarone from Tuscany.

And we later had a talk that was kind of like this… Bill will probably never live down that “damned ham”, which wasn’t salty at all…

Thanksgiving used to be my favorite holiday. I used to love visiting my extended family in Virginia, hanging out with my aunts, uncles, cousins, and beloved Granny. Now, a number of aunts and uncles and my Granny are dead, and we have a pandemic going on that’s gotten worse. A number of Christmas markets were set to start and had even gotten their kiosks set up, only to be canceled at the last minute thanks to COVID-19… and then our Thanksgiving meal was like any other meal on any other night.

It’s not even so much the lack of special food that was disappointing… I guess what disappointed me was that it was like any other day. I miss seeing people and doing fun things, like going out to eat in restaurants. Things had been slightly more normal in the warmer months, but now that winter is approaching, the weather is grey, damp, and depressing; it’s cold; and everywhere in Europe is locking down again.

We thought about going to lunch, but we were waiting for a package to get here, and German delivery drivers don’t often just leave packages like they do in the States. Then, Bill was supposed to have a session with his therapist, but the therapist canceled because he was sick. So we just hung out at home, like we would on any other Thursday. All my friends were posting pictures of their family gatherings and food on Facebook. And there we were with that “damned ham”.

Here in Germany, authorities are starting to implement a new system that requires even vaccinated people to get tested before they can go anywhere. It seems like too much of a pain in the ass to me, so we just skip it and stay home. And well… it just kind of sucks. The 2G+ system isn’t required everywhere– yet… but we’re also getting to the end of our vaccination efficacy, and some of Bill’s co-workers are getting boosters. I guess we’ll be getting ours soon, too.

To look on the bright side, at least we didn’t eat too much, didn’t get indigestion, don’t have tons of leftovers, and had a minimal mess to clean up. We won’t be gaining any weight. It was also nice to be with Bill yesterday, as it always is. He’s my favorite person. I was just kind of disappointed, I guess. Thanksgiving really is just another day in Germany. I think I’m missing home a little bit, too, even though holidays with my family can turn into an emotional minefield.

In 2014, I went to Virginia for what has, so far, been my last Thanksgiving at home. We went because my dad died that year, and we had a memorial for him. While we were there, I talked to my Uncle Carl, who sadly passed away about six weeks later. He had leukemia. But during that visit, he was still alive and we talked about a tenant who was living in a spare apartment he owned. He was talking about how he was trying to help him. As we were talking, my Uncle Bill approached and said to Carl, “That guy who is living in your apartment is a P.O.W.”

I looked up at Uncle Bill in confusion and he said, “Piece of work.” Apparently, the tenant who was living in my uncle’s spare apartment was not paying rent. However, he kept the apartment spotless. Carl wanted to help him because the tenant had a girlfriend who was pregnant. She was getting welfare assistance, so they couldn’t live together. Carl’s wife, Betty, couldn’t stand the tenant and was barely civil to him. Betty, also, has sadly passed on, as she was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease at the time. Carl had been taking care of her until he got cancer. I’m so glad I was able to go home that year. Carl spoke at my dad’s memorial service. But it wasn’t much longer before Carl had a memorial service of his own, which of course I couldn’t attend.

I remember thinking, the last time I was “home” for Thanksgiving, that that would be the last time I saw some of the people who attended that year. I was right about that. In 2015 alone, I lost three uncles. By 2019, I’d lost an aunt and another uncle. Last year, I lost a cousin and my father-in-law. And in 2020, there was no Thanksgiving shindig, thanks to COVID-19, which continues to fuck things up in 2021, even though we have vaccines and new medications.

Even as I feel this “ennui”– which is pretty normal for me, because I often get a little depressed and nutty during the holiday season– I realize that I probably shouldn’t feel this way, since we are actually pretty fortunate. We did, after all, just have a fabulous trip to Austria, Croatia, and Slovenia, and we managed to do it before everything started shutting down again. But then I remind myself that feelings are just feelings. They usually pass. It’s not helpful to feel guilty for being sad.

We went to bed at our usual time last night. I had a vivid dream that involved an online friend of mine and occasional blog reader and commenter named Andrew. I dreamt that Bill and I took over a mini amusement park Andrew and his wife started. It was built into the side of a mountain, and there were train tracks around it. They had also lived in the park, which was all indoors. I remember that as Bill and I took it over, I had resolved to start slowly, building one attraction at a time, so we wouldn’t get overwhelmed. We had just built the carousel when I woke up.

Then, this morning, Bill gave me some news about his daughter. A couple of months ago, he remarked that she was “glowing” during their Skype session. I made an offhand comment that she was probably pregnant. Well… last night, they made the announcement. It’s funny, since I have only met her in person once, and didn’t actually see her on that Skype session where she was “glowing”. I usually don’t hang around when they chat. But when Bill mentioned the glowing look in September, I had a feeling she was about to expand her family. Guess my instincts were dead on again. Then, Bill gave me a cup of coffee and a Berliner that he got from the local bakery. That was better than that damned ham…

Anyway… enough of my whinging. Bill is working from home today. I am washing all the bedding, which is always a treat at bedtime. I love having fresh, clean sheets on a bed. And we do have much to be grateful for, like the fact that we have each other, plenty of food, and the means to put fresh sheets on the bed. At least we’re not in prison, right? There’s fresh hope for 2022, as Bill looks forward to becoming a grandfather again. And we can always have a special meal. Maybe we’ll go out for one this weekend, or even make one at home. Bill likes cooking with me… but I don’t like cooking with him. I’m not much of a team player. 😉

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law, racism, true crime

Chasing and finally catching justice for Ahmaud Arbery…

I remember being horrified as I first read about Ahmaud Arbery’s last moments on this planet. The 25 year old Black man was out running in Brunswick, Georgia on February 23, 2020. He was unarmed, and made the unfortunate decision to pass through Satilla Shores, where he would eventually encounter the three White men who ended his life. Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, chased Arbery in their vehicles. Unlike Arbery, two of his pursuers were armed. The two McMichaels had weapons and rode in a vehicle together as they chased the young man who was out for a run. Bryan brought his camera, which he used to video the confrontation. In light of what happened yesterday, I’m sure Bryan wishes he’d left the camera at home.

Gregory McMichael, a former police officer in Brunswick, had initiated the chase when he saw Ahmaud Arbery run past his house. He had wrongly suspected Arbery of burglary or theft in Satilla Shores and decided to take it upon himself to make a “citizen’s arrest”, bringing along a .357 Magnum pistol revolver. Travis joined his father, toting a shotgun. Bryan inexplicably decided independently to join in the chase, but hadn’t known if Arbery had done anything illegal.

Although Arbery had, on several occasions, entered an under-construction house with no doors in the neighborhood, there was never any evidence of theft, according to security camera footage. Travis McMichael had made a call to 911 about a week and a half before Arbery’s final run. He reported that Arbery was breaking into the unfinished house. Moreover, according to The Toronto Star, Arbery’s relatives were known to local law enforcement.

Gregory McMichael did have a past with Arbery, as McMichael had been an investigator for Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office from 1995 until his retirement in May 2019. When he was in high school, Arbery was sentenced to five years probation as a first offender on charges of carrying a weapon on campus and several counts of obstructing a law enforcement officer. He was convicted of probation violation in 2018 after he was charged with shoplifting. McMichael had been involved with the case, and was instrumental in getting Arbery’s probation revoked.

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, had asked that the Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney, Roger Barnhill, recuse himself from the case. This was because Barnhill’s son was a prosecutor who had worked with Gregory McMichael in a previous court case involving Ahmaud Arbery. It was very fortunate that Cooper Jones had made that request, particularly since she hadn’t known that McMichael and Barnhill had any ties to her son’s legal past. She simply hadn’t wanted Barnhill on the case because his son worked for the Brunswick district attorney’s office. If Barnhill hadn’t recused himself, Cooper Jones’s lawyer, Lee Merritt, said, “the case would’ve been no billed to a grand jury and the McMichaels would’ve gotten away with murder.”

Barnhill had written in his letter of recusal that Arbery and his family had been in trouble with the law in Brunswick, and that his older brother was incarcerated. One of Arbery’s cousins also had a past with the police department. To those revelations, attorney Lee Merritt said:

“This speaks to the wider issue of mass incarceration. If Black people have any kind of criminal record, somehow that justifies their murder.”

But talk to some people in the community, and they will swear up and down that a person with a rap sheet deserves to be killed if they’re caught doing something illegal. Especially if the person with a rap sheet is not White. Sure enough, it took 74 days before the three men who were responsible for killing Ahmaud Arbery were finally arrested and charged with murder. The local prosecutor was friends with Gregory McMichael and did not want to bring charges against the men. So yes, the men were brought to justice, but it could have easily gone the other way.

Justice is served.

The trial took place in Brunswick, but every Brunswick Judicial Circuit Judge recused themselves from the case. Consequently, Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley presided over the trial. Yesterday, I watched as Judge Walmsley read the verdicts for the three men who claimed “self-defense” when they decided to pursue and kill Ahmaud Arbery. I’m not sure why these guys thought Arbery didn’t have the right to defend himself when he was confronted by three men, two of whom had weapons.

Travis McMichael was pronounced guilty of all charges. Gregory McMichael was pronounced guilty of all but one charge of malice murder. William “Roddie” Bryan was pronounced guilty of felony murder (3 counts), aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a felony (1 count each). These were just the charges brought against them by the state of Georgia. There are still federal charges pending against the three men.

Not a happy day for these guys. They will probably not see the light of day as free men again. Bryan looks like he’s about to burst into tears as the judge announces the verdict.

I am impressed by Judge Walmsley. He handled this case very soberly, professionally, and fairly. I think his conduct starkly contrasts that of Judge Bruce Schroeder, who was reportedly more brash and quirky in the way he ran Kyle Rittenhouse’s recent trial in Wisconsin. The result of Rittenhouse’s trial was much less lauded by the public, as Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges. Of course, these two cases have to do with race relations, but they aren’t really that similar. It still surprised me that Ahmaud Arbery’s case in Georgia seemed to end much more fairly than Kyle Rittenhouse’s case did in Wisconsin. Personally, I think Rittenhouse was acquitted because the prosecutor was too ambitious about the level of charges against Rittenhouse. I do think Rittenhouse should have gotten some prison time.

Today is Thanksgiving, and I have no doubt that Ahmaud Arbery’s family is giving thanks that the men who were responsible for killing Ahmaud will have to pay for their crimes. Ahmaud Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, let out a celebratory whoop when the first guilty verdict was read. He now says that he and his family can move forward. Maybe this is a sign of some progress in our country.

This video was key evidence that got three men convicted. It was recorded by William “Roddie” Bryan, who probably wishes he’d minded his own business on that February day last year.

I don’t take any delight in seeing people locked up in prison, but I do think prison is necessary and just for violent crimes, especially those done out of hate. There is no excuse for the way these men hunted down Arbery and killed him. I do have some compassion for the loved ones of the incarcerated, even though I do think they belong in prison. Prison is tough on families, and Gregory McMichael’s wife is going to see her husband and her son go away, probably for the rest of their lives. I’m sure that is heartbreaking for her. But I also think that justice is finally being done. The McMichaels and Mr. Bryan should not have taken the law into their own hands.

If anything good has come out of this incident, it’s that some very old and bad laws have now been stricken from Georgia’s books. According to The New York Times:

…the trial of [Arbery’s] accused killers also brought up issues of policing — although in this case, it involved questions about private citizens and their rights to detain people who they believe to be breaking the law.

Those rights in Georgia were spelled out in a controversial Civil War-era statute that was significantly weakened by state lawmakers in direct response to the outrage over the Arbery killing. Lawmakers also passed Georgia’s first-ever hate crimes law as a result of the incident.

All of that set up a remarkable kind of trial in which the defendants claimed they were not guilty based in part on an old law that their actions helped to dismantle. At the same time, they were not charged under the new Georgia hate crimes law., though all three have also been indicted under the federal hate crimes statute.

Maybe the new legislation against hate crimes will mean that Ahmaud Arbery’s death won’t be entirely in vain.

Incidentally, Bill and I have been to Brunswick, Georgia. We went there in October 2009 to pick up my car, which was brand new and had just been shipped from Germany. I remember it to be a very weird town, mainly due to the strange taxi driver who picked us up at the tiny airport there. He was an old guy who drove like a maniac and scared the wits out of Bill. Bill ended up complaining about the dude at the hotel where we stayed– an Embassy Suites that was connected to the mall, which apparently didn’t even have an ATM.

The manager of the hotel actually refunded the cost of our stay because Bill noticed that the hotel had a shuttle and it wasn’t mentioned on their Web site. He had If we had known the hotel had a shuttle, we could have been spared the wacko taxi ride with the sketchy guy who had to be paid in cash and drove us to a bank. We never went back to Brunswick, although the beach area was kind of appealing. I think if we ship our cars next time we move to the States, we’ll have them delivered in Charleston. It may cost more, but it’ll be a lot less weird.

Happy Thanksgiving, if you celebrate. I think our holiday will mostly be a normal day, albeit with Bill off. He just vacuumed for me, which is a real treat.

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Duggars, holidays

Jinger Vuolo’s new baby girl… and Happy Thanksgiving!

The news came out last night (my time, anyway), that Jinger and Jeremy Vuolo of Counting On have welcomed their second child, a girl named Evangeline Jo. The baby was born on Sunday night, November 22, and she joins her two year old sister, Felicity Nicole.

I don’t mind the name Evangeline, I guess… and that’s a good thing, since she’s not my kid. I think “Jo” is a bit of a weird middle name that doesn’t really have a ring to it, but Jinger says it’s in honor of Jeremy’s middle name of Joseph. Felicity’s middle name is Nicole, like Jinger’s is, so I guess it’s only fair. Now that both kids have their parents’ middle names, are they going to stop having babies? They do seem less interested in mass breeding than Jinger’s parents.

Sometimes, I think Jeremy Vuolo decided to “rescue” Jinger from her humongous family. I remember when 19 Kids and Counting was still on, and Jinger commented that she wanted to live in a big city. Michelle Duggar was quick to clarify that Jinger meant she wanted to live closer to a Walmart, not explore the streets of New York City. Of course, it was obvious Michelle’s clarification was a fabrication. Jinger married Jeremy, and now they live in Los Angeles, which probably suits her fine. And it looks like she’s kind of detaching from the whole fundie lifestyle, although she’s still religious.

It will be interesting to see which of the Duggar kids reject the whole super Christian shit altogether. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jinger does. I think Jill may also ditch it, too, which is funny since she always seemed to be the biggest Kool-Aid drinker and tattletale when they were growing up. But, just as heads tend to clear when people escape a toxic, abusive environment, so do adults tend to follow their own instincts and live their own lives when they break away from their parents’ domain.

Anyway, I wish Evangeline luck. She’s been born in strange and interesting times. And the people on the Duggar Family News page are relentless in their criticisms already. Now, the Duggars have Ivy, Evy (Evelyn), and Evangeline… maybe they’ll form a singing group someday.

Moving on…

I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. This year is going to be harder for a lot of people for many reasons. I’ve seen lots of people bitching about those who decided to travel. I’m not going to judge the travelers. I hope they’ll all be okay and don’t pick up or spread COVID-19. I know some of them will… but I also know that being away from family is hard for a lot of people. And I also think people should make up their own minds about what they want to do.

Bill and I, of course, are staying home. It’s cold and gloomy outside, but we have a fireplace, and we ordered a takeout Thanksgiving meal from a local restaurant. There are only two of us eating, and we need to do what we can to help businesses survive. They’re doing a Thanksgiving meal, so we’re taking advantage of it. We ate at their place before they moved to the German/American golf course last year, and we had a fantastic meal. Hopefully, today’s offering will be just as good.

I miss my annual family gatherings… but sometimes, being overseas makes things easier. It’s a lot easier to say no to gatherings when you live in Europe and your family is in America.

So… enjoy your holiday, be safe and happy, and eat your fill!

The featured photo was our living room last night. God, I love having a fireplace again!

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condescending twatbags, language, social media

For the love of Christ, stop nagging!

Thanksgiving is coming, and that means there are lots of articles on the Internet about holiday travels. This is nothing unusual. Every year, there are articles aplenty about that annual trip to Grandma’s house. It’s the busiest time of the year for travel. But this year, traveling is ill advised, thanks to the coronavirus. Experts are “begging” people to stay home, socially isolate, and love their family and friends enough to stay away from them for however long it takes to tame the virus. Lots of people have heeded the call and are staying home. Others are ignoring the advice and have made travel plans, COVID-19 risks be damned!

Well… given that an ocean and several countries separate me from my family, I have no problem heeding that advice. Bill and I haven’t been “home” for Thanksgiving since 2014, even though Thanksgiving is a pretty big deal in my family. Most years, there is a big reunion in Natural Bridge, Virginia. It’s gotten so huge that I don’t even know everyone who attends anymore. My aunt sensibly canceled this year’s event anyway, weeks ago. I suspect some of my relatives will be gathering in spite of the pandemic. While I don’t necessarily condone ignoring health and safety tips from the powers that be, I also know these folks well. Many of them are devout Christians and Trump supporters, and they’re simply not going to let a virus stop them from being with each other at Thanksgiving. And they’re sure as hell not going to let someone on the Internet shame them into changing their plans, either.

I will bet my Georgia relatives, in particular, will get together this year, because their sibling and my oldest cousin died last weekend and they will feel the need to gather and mourn. This branch of my family is unusually close-knit. Before their eldest sister died, there were four siblings. Among themselves, they had eleven children, and some of those children now have married and had their own kids. They all live somewhat close to each other and see each other often. One of my cousin’s daughters is about to have a baby, and another is engaged. Besides needing to mourn, they have a lot to celebrate. So I bet they’ll still gather, in spite of all of the expert advice against celebrating holidays in groups. I’ve seen them posting photos and videos of themselves living life as normal– sans masks or social distancing. Nothing I can say or do will change that reality.

Barf. Thanks so much for the stale PSA. Do you really think sharing something like this changes anyone’s mind, other than those who already agree with it? Are people who read this really saying, “Gee, maybe I should cancel the holiday after all. What a wise social media post!”?

My relatives aren’t the only ones who will probably be together. I just read an advice column in The New York Times entitled Ask Real Estate. Today’s question is, “Do I Really Have to Quarantine if I Visit Family for Thanksgiving?” I’m not sure what this question has to do with real estate, since it’s about visiting family during the holidays, not buying or selling a house. I guess it’s because the person lives in an apartment building in Manhattan and buildings have rules about quarantines. I actually like the answer this person got from the columnist. It’s reasonable and civil, with advice on how to lower the risks of contracting COVID-19 and running afoul of building management.

Of course, the comments are something different. COVID-19 is definitely a scary thing, and a whole lot of people have gotten sick and ended up dying. Quite a lot of people have also gotten the virus and are suffering from “long hauler” syndrome, meaning they can’t shake those lingering symptoms after the acute illness has passed. There’s also no telling whether or not the virus will lay dormant and re-emerge during times of stress, like the herpes virus does. What if, years from now, after you’ve forgotten about having had COVID-19, it roars back after you’ve had a cold?

And so it seems that a lot of people just can’t resist. They have to leave annoying, preaching, holier-than-thou comments, along with all knowing statements like “this is why we’re in this mess”. And then there are a few other statements like, “No, you don’t have to follow these ridiculous rules. We live in a free society.” Those statements always inflame the virtue signalers and shamers, and they feel compelled to respond in the most irksome way possible.

Naturally, the people who dare to post something other than, “love your family enough to stay home this year” are getting smacked down by those who insist on cajoling, pleading, demanding, nagging, and whining. I’m sure it makes people feel better to post these responses. I just wonder what good they do. Have you ever met anyone whose mind was changed because some stranger on the Internet insulted them? I don’t think I have. I know that when someone insults me, I usually withdraw from communicating with them. Even if someone doesn’t insult me by calling me a name, I probably won’t be too interested in conversing with them if they respond in a condescending manner.

I’ve seen a lot of people pointing to Asian countries as societies to look up to in this mess. One commenter on The New York Times piece wrote a lengthy story about how her son, who just moved from China to Thailand, has had to put up with all sorts of restrictions on his freedom to stop the spread of the virus. She wrote that Americans need to do what they do in Asia. I fear it will never happen because, on many levels, Asian cultures are not like western cultures. Moreover, I don’t think Asian cultures are necessarily better than western cultures are.

I mean, yes, they do some things much better than we do. In other ways, their culture is not so good. For instance, a couple of days ago, I read about how dog owners in one Chinese county aren’t allowed to walk their dogs and must keep them tied up or in a pen. Failure to comply with the rules can get the dog killed. I’ve also read about students and workers being so ashamed of not measuring up that they commit suicide. Some others die due to overwork. Or how about the guy in Singapore who was arrested for having a one man protest? It consisted of just him in a mask holding up a cardboard sign with a smiley face on it. These are just a few examples off of the top of my head.

They have a different mindset over there. Personal honor is a big deal. Some Asian ideas are well worth considering, but hard to emulate. Some Asian ideas are just plain bad– like working so hard that you die, like the young woman in Japan who clocked 159 hours of overtime in a month and then promptly dropped dead. Yes, some Asian countries are getting on top of the coronavirus by aggressively locking down and forcing people to wear masks. But their citizens are dying of other things that are less likely to be a problem in the United States or Europe, like extreme overwork or suicide because they didn’t get perfect grades.

Still, I understand why people feel the need to school others and scold them for living their lives on their own terms. Right now, the virus is spreading like wildfire. Healthcare workers are stretched to the limits. Bodies are stacking up in morgues. People have lost their jobs, their homes, and loved ones. However– it’s not just coronavirus that is killing people. Natural disasters are also deadly this year. I seem to remember a lot of people in California having to run for their lives as wildfires swept through their neighborhoods. I’ve read about hurricanes and tornados and all manner of other disasters upending and ending lives this year. And goddammit, I think some people just feel like they deserve to eat turkey and mashed potatoes with their parents and children this year. Some people think that living in solitude is worse than the threat of catching and spreading a potentially deadly communicable disease. Nothing you or I say will make a difference– except maybe if they or a loved one actually gets sick and/or dies.

Either way, it takes time for attitudes to collectively change. I suspect there will either be a treatment or a vaccine before people voluntarily start deciding to adopt the draconian rules imposed in some Asian countries. In any case, drastic changes in American attitudes are definitely not going to happen this year. Many people are bound and determined to have their turkey. They have already made up their minds and made their travel plans. And no amount of nagging, virtue signaling, and insulting from strangers on the Internet will change that reality.

Oh… but people still think their pithy, sarcastic, shaming, scolding comments will change hearts and minds… or they just feel better for having written them. I suppose it comes from feeling helpful in the face of something so tiny, yet so very powerful. There’s, maybe, a bit of a rush that comes from telling someone off. I wonder how many stop to think about how the person on the receiving end feels. Frankly, at best, they very likely won’t care. At worst, it will make them angry and more resolved to do what they want anyway. Or maybe they’ll pass along that anger to someone else. In the end, all that nagging turns into more noise that makes living through a pandemic even more annoying and soul sucking.

I’m probably wasting my time by writing this piece. People are going to do what they’re going to do. I guess what I’m trying to do is comment on a behavior I see as mostly futile and highly irritating. I think it’s very unlikely that I’m going to change anyone’s mind about their plans for the holidays. I might be able to convince someone who has any regard for my opinions… that would most likely only be Bill, and that’s just because he has to live with me. I can’t think of too many other people who care that much about what I think or want to avoid disappointing me. So I don’t tell other people what to do… I mostly try to avoid giving advice, unless they ask for it. When I do, on occasion, offer unsolicited advice, I often apologize, because I think most people are irritated by it. Sometimes you can’t help yourself– and I get that, too. I also realize that people are going to do what they’re going to do, no matter what I think or say or post on social media.

But yeah… I think the holiday season is often annoying even during normal times. It’s especially annoying this year. It’s a good thing there’s booze and ibuprofen.

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family, memories, musings

The Heavenly Thanksgiving Party…

Thanksgiving has historically been my favorite holiday. For years, I loved it because it meant going to my Granny’s house, hanging around my mostly fun extended family, seeing the mountains of Virginia, and eating good food. Then afterwards, we’d have a party. There are a lot of musicians in my family, so on Friday after Thanksgiving, there was typically dancing and live music. I remember a few post Thanksgiving Friday night “hops” over the years that were real “barn burners”. Almost every year, for as long as I can remember, there’s been a big Thanksgiving family reunion party at Granny’s. It was something we could all count on, except for a couple of exceedingly rare years when it didn’t happen. 2020 is one of those years.

I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving since 2014. I went there to sing at my dad’s memorial service, which was held over Thanksgiving so more people could come to his memorial. He actually died in July 2014. Since then, a lot more people have passed away, but living in Germany has kept me away from home for their funerals. Some deaths have hurt more than others.

I’m not a very religious person, but I do like to think that Heaven is a real place. I imagine my cousin Karen, who died on Saturday, arriving in Heaven, being greeted by long lost loved ones like her parents and our grandmother. I think of my Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Bob waiting by the Pearly Gates, ready to embrace her and lead her to see Granny, who passed away in 2007.

I love Rhonda Vincent’s music… even when she sings about Jesus. I picture the Homecoming kind of like this.

I like to think of the arrival of a new soul in Heaven as a big party, like the ones we had years ago at Granny’s house, when everyone was still young enough and healthy, and wanted to stay up visiting. My mom would have a couple of drinks and get on the organ and play with my Uncle Brownlee’s band. Or my Uncle Steve would play trombone. There was a lot of dancing and singing and drinking too much… Maybe that’s what homecoming was like for Karen and my other relatives. Maybe they’re all sitting around a big table, as if they’re waiting for more people to join the party up in Heaven.

Actual footage from one of our Thanksgiving parties… That’s my niece dancing with one of my cousins. I’m pretty sure the music was live, too. It usually is.

I picture my Aunt Nance serving turtle cheesecake that has no calories. I picture my Uncle Kenneth sitting at the table telling stories with my Uncle Carl and his wife, Aunt Betty. I think of my Aunt Susan, who died in 1962, healthy and making up for lost time with her brothers and sisters who have finally passed the bar. I think of my Uncle Brownlee playing organ while my dad nods along approvingly. I think of Granny and Pappy looking on adoringly. No one is drunk or angry or being obnoxious. Everyone is having a great time, just like we did at so many Thanksgiving parties over the years… and they’re all waiting for the rest of us to arrive.

Thanksgiving 2014. A number of the people in this picture are no longer with us. They’re at the Heavenly Thanksgiving Party.

Then I start thinking about all of the people I’ve found as I’ve searched our genealogy. I wonder if they’re at the party, too. Will I somehow know my ancestors in Heaven? What about people I’m related to by marriage? What about Bill’s dad, who died just nine days ago? Somehow, I think if Heaven exists, he’ll be there. Because anything is possible in Heaven, right? And there will be no worries about not enough bathrooms, cleaning up the mess the next day, lack of parking spots, or paying for anything. There will be room at the table for everyone; everyone will be heard and appreciated; and there will be no talk about politics or controversy. And no one will be sneakily taking any unflattering photos, either. 😉

Me and my sisters in 2014… this picture was taken by my cousin, Karen, who just passed away a few days ago.

My Uncle Brownlee was probably my favorite relative. We had a lot in common. His birthday was the day after mine and we shared a love for music and off color humor. He died in 2019. I couldn’t be at his funeral due to the logistics. Now that we have COVID-19, it’s even harder to go home. And even if we were in the United States, people would probably shame us if we tried to have a gathering this year. In fact, attending Thanksgiving with a bunch of relatives on Earth might hasten our own arrivals at the Heavenly Thanksgiving Party.

I don’t think about God as much as a lot of my relatives do. Some of my people are super Christian types. They don’t curse and they go to church a lot. They figure cursing offends God. Personally, I think if God is as perfect as people claim, S/he (does God have genitals?) is probably above being offended. Being offended is a human thing. I don’t think God is human. Humans aren’t perfect. I’d like to think that God is nothing but wisdom, kindness, and love, but that’s probably too simplistic of a description. The fact is, I can’t imagine God, although I’m not quite at a point at which I don’t believe in God. But even if there is no such thing as God or Heaven, I do think that concept has inspired a lot of people to do incredible things. And that’s mostly a good thing. On the other hand, the concept of God has also inspired some pretty horrible things, too… albeit for very flawed human reasons.

Granny’s house… it’s been the family homestead since the 1930s.

Anyway, as Thanksgiving approaches, I am picturing my long lost relatives, all of whom loved being together on Thanksgiving (I presume, anyway), and enjoying the holiday up in Heaven, eating, drinking, laughing, singing, dancing, and visiting, with no worries about anything. They could have that Heavenly Thanksgiving Party forever, if they wanted to. Because Heaven is a perfect place, where there’s no suffering. Or, if they hated parties on Earth, maybe they’re somewhere they loved to be. Sitting by a quiet, rushing brook in the most beautiful place, with nothing but the company of beloved pets… actually, that sounds more like Heaven to me. Ditto if I’m surrounded by books and music and maybe enjoying the company of my favorite person, Bill.

Maybe this perfection doesn’t exist. Maybe death just means cessation of life. In that case, it means there’s no more pain or problems. That’s not a bad thing for the person who’s gone. It’s bad for the people who miss that person, left here on Earth, stuck in a cumbersome body that eventually fails for everyone. But eventually, everybody gets an invitation to the Heavenly Thanksgiving Party. Or so I’d like to believe. And I find it comforting to think of my relatives and friends enjoying their time at the Heavenly Party, waiting for the rest of us to join them in the fun.

As for our 2020 Thanksgiving celebration, it promises to be as quiet and peaceful as the last five have been. We’re just not going to cook. This year, we’re ordering a Thanksgiving takeout meal from a restaurant. It makes sense– less cleaning up and leftovers, and we do our part to keep the restaurants going until we can get a vaccine against the dreaded COVID-19 virus. I expect our 2020 Thanksgiving will be much like our anniversary was yesterday… kind of boring in some ways, but extraordinary in others. Bill’s daughter wished us a happy anniversary yesterday and even sent us a gift. Up until a few years ago, I never thought she would speak to Bill again, let alone acknowledge our anniversary. So even though our 2020 celebration had no naked dips at Irish Roman baths or palatial accommodations, it was remarkable just the same. We had originally planned to see Keb’ Mo’ in concert in Mainz. Naturally, that concert has now been rescheduled twice, thanks to COVID-19. I expect we’ll still be here when it finally does occur… at this point, in September 2021.

The featured photo is my dad and his mother… looks like maybe it was taken at my sister’s wedding, which was also a pretty epic celebration at Granny’s house. My dad died just seven years after he lost his mother, so they probably had a pretty awesome reunion in 2014.

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