I dreaded this Thanksgiving, in many ways. 2-3 days after I bought airplane tickets, I found out about my FWHs use of a private browser to view his porn, so I “wouldn’t be hurt.” Insert deafening silence, followed by an in-house separation that I fully intended would be ending in divorce. Among all of the other anguish that went along with this revelation, starting to divvy up possessions, detaching, and watching his struggles with as much compassion as I could summon, was the thought of those tickets in the back of my mind. Stay at home and spend Thanksgiving doing something else, probably never seeing my loved relatives on his side again, or go with him to try to say goodbye or make tactful farewells while trying to ignore my FWH. Not “telling” would have been impossible as me not showing up would be highly significant, and me maintaining a fiction with him there would have been equally impossible.
Thankfully, we found our way back to each other. And the question of me going or not, was answered. Thankfully in many ways because during all of these goings on, my SIL K, FWHs eldest sister who is the only person in his family that actually knows about his infidelity, was diagnosed with breast cancer, operated on, and received radiation treatment. Not knowing how K would feel, we divvied up the cooking chores, which meant that FWH and I were responsible for the entire Thanksgiving meal.
At home, we sat down, figured out our menu, made up our shopping list, and emailed it to the East Coast for purchase. Packed, got in the airplane, and flew out. Took the train from Boston inland and were picked up at a nearby town. Had a lovely day relaxing (K’s last radiation treatment was cancelled as she did so well) and visiting. And then, Thanksgiving.
In many ways, it was exactly like many, many meals that we’ve prepared together before. We both cook and we both like to cook for large groups of people. We’ve done this together for 21+ years, so we know the kitchen dance of what goes where, who does what, and how to fake it when a necessary ingredient is missing. And we had planned a rather ambitious feast since we wanted to go all out for THIS Thanksgiving. Minor annoyances, last minute rush, fretting over this dish and being reassured that it would all be OK. And dinner, IMO, was fantastic.
I looked around the table, so thankful to be there, so thankful to be included.
After dinner, my BIL (FHWs younger brother) brought out a CD that had the play that he wrote recorded on it. Bad recording, filmed from a video camera whose battery died a few times, so it was very hard to follow although those in the family who had read it, filled in the blanks. And then, there it came. The “obligatory” cheap laugh at the two candidates for mayor who had committed adultery with each other. OK, I thought wearily, I can sit … no, not while it’s going on and on and on (and yes, BIL is not a good playwright). So I quietly got up and left. Went upstairs to the bathroom, splashed water on me, and headed into the bedroom. Where I found FWH waiting for me anxiously. Are you OK, he said. No, I said.
We cuddled for a while, he rubbed my back, he apologized for being the reason for me triggering, he told me that he loved me, and held me. I finally told him that I thought I’d go to bed, and that he could go downstairs to visit with his relatives. He hugged me again, headed off, and I couldn’t sleep. Tossed and turned, listened to them play games and laugh, and just Could Not Summon Up enough courage, moxie, energy, whatever, to get up, get dressed, and join in. Many hours later he came in and got undressed for bed. He held me, rubbed my back, apologized again, assured me that if I had come downstairs I would have been welcomed, assured me that I was loved by everyone, and as he started to drift to sleep, told me to please wake him up if I needed to in the night. I was sleepless for most of the night, but all night long, I had his words in my head and his arms around me. The next day was much better.
The point of this story? Yes, the last few months have been rough. Yes, I didn’t get through this visit without triggering (and I still have a couple of days to go). It hasn’t been all sweetness and light. But we’re getting through it. We’re sitting down every day to have our time to talk about how we’re doing, what we feel, and center down with each other. We’re paying attentions to each other and being mindful of each other. And as long as we each keep reaching out to the other, keep being open with each other, and being honest with each other, we can get through this together.
It’s a Thanksgiving in which we are truly giving Thanks.