Tomorrow will be the first Thanksgiving I celebrate with my sister Melody in 18 years. In other words, the last time I was in the same house with her on this particular holiday I was 11 years old and blissfully ignorant of just how much life would change in the time between Thanksgiving 1995 and Thanksgiving 1996 and every Thanksgiving since then.
I get a tad verklempt when I think of spending Thanksgiving 2013 with my sister, her husband, and her hilarious children because I know our history and I know the innumerable acts of grace, forgiveness, determination, and love that have gone into creating the relationship we share today. It would be easy to look back at the times we lost track of each other, the bitter fights that left us not speaking, the misunderstandings and hurt feelings and apprehensions that clouded our first baby steps towards building a relationship as adults, and declare that it is a miracle that we have reached a beautiful place in our relationship where we respect, love, and support one another through the stuff of life. But it isn’t a miracle at all. Not really. We are happily celebrating Thanksgiving together tomorrow because our collective story didn’t end with the angry accusations, the abrupt hang-ups, and the cold silences. We chose not to let it end there. Another phone call was made, another conversation was had, and tears of frustration, anger, sorrow, and forgiveness were cried again and again until we worked it out. And that’s not just true of my relationship with Melody. I’ve been through this type of journey with nearly every member of my family.
I am immensely grateful for my family. Every single person in it. We have our own particular brand of dysfunction that has affected our lives in ways we are still trying to understand, but one thing we haven’t ever done is give up completely. We’ve made declarations of being done with each other, we’ve been through periods of not talking for weeks, months, and even years, we’ve fought bitterly and iced each other out, we’ve hurt each other and been hurt by each other countless times, and we’ve wanted to stop caring, stop trying, stop risking even more. But somehow we always find the will to give it one more try. And that weird, seemingly-genetic stubbornness is one of the things I am most grateful for this Thanksgiving. Without this stubborn love, I might have been alone this year, grieving the absence of those people that drive me the craziest and that I love the most.