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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Even Hitler Was Never Alone on Thanksgiving








Those of us who are alone-in-the-universe torment ourselves with this truth: even Hitler had a girlfriend. "Even Hitler had a girlfriend" went on to become a movie and song title.

Well, even Hitler was never alone on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday that writes in unambiguous, boldface type.

Americans circle up with anyone they care about. If you are alone on Thanksgiving, the message is loud and clear: no one cares about you.

I have encountered thousands of people. I have made eye contact. I have shaken hundreds of hands. I have kissed dozens of lips. I have had sex with a few men. I have been related to hundreds, many of them alive today and within a short car ride's distance.

And all, after sampling me, have spat me back out, rejected me, assessed me as not worthy to be friend, not worthy to be family, not worthy to matter.

Those of us who are alone must come to terms with that rejection, that assessment of us as unworthy, as best we can.

Given that life as a human, indeed life on the planet, is so much about human contact – since the bathysphere, even deep-sea peculiarities have been having eyeball-to-eyeball encounters with humans – those of us who are alone, on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthdays, ask ourselves, what the hell am I doing on planet earth?

My current theory. God is Louis B. Mayer, a Hollywood Golden Age movie mogul. He is directing an epic production. He needs lead characters, stars, the ones who were captain of the football team and cheerleaders, who went on to stay healthy, marry right, and reap large harvests.

And God needed extras. Slaves to build the pyramids and be crushed, maids, the soldiers who caught the enemy's hand grenade while Audie Murphy lived to fight another day.

I'm clearly not one of God's stars. I'm clearly a very expendable extra.

On Thanksgiving, I do feel some human connection. I feel connected to my fellow humans out there who are also alone on Thanksgiving. I don't know who they are or where they are, but some spiritual thread unites us.

I'm looking ahead to Christmas alone and New Year's alone, and then that sigh of relief on January 2nd.

***

When I receive an exceptionally funny, smart or telling email, I save it. During the holiday season, in the dark of the year, as others are off loving and being loved, I reread the past year's messages and understand them in a way that I could never have understood them in the heat and flux, the disappointments and politics of the moment.

Recent years have been challenging. I've been diagnosed with cancer twice, with a chronic illness that may blind me, and that has certainly ravaged my body, and my sister was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died. I've published a couple of books, and I and millions of others have been hit by two hurricanes, Irene and Sandy, that flooded the building I live in, forced me out at night with none of my belongings, and shut off power.

So I'm now going through years of saved emails.

I'm reacquainting myself with "Ursula." Ursula was smart as a lemon laced papercut, richly cultured, and laugh-out-loud funny. She was in my life, talking up a storm, praising me and cozying up to me, and then she dropped like a rock. I have not heard from her in three years.

Not only did she stop talking to me. She erased her entire Facebook presence. The messages she sent to me have disappeared from my inbox. I only have them because I saved them.

This has happened to me many times on the internet. Suddenly I am someone's best friend forever, and just as suddenly I am second-hand news.  

This is why one must balk when people equate Facebook with the L word.

When someone can use the L word with you and then disappear without a trace, that's not connection. I'm tempted to say it's "narcissism," but that's crueler, more judgmental and more negative than I want to be.

Perhaps a better word: Facebook is a library of humans. The Facebook user picks up a "book" and flips through the pages and moves on to the next.

Someday we'll have a full vocabulary for all of this. We don't yet.

Ursula sent me a private message on December 5, 2013. She told me that she had multiple health, social, and money woes, and that she was suicidal. "I'm blanking for myself," she wrote. The holiday season was making everything worse.

Even in her worst moment, her writing glittered. "I'm blanking for myself." I've never read a better brief description of what it's like to hit a dead-end. She looked at herself, her life, her future, and she came up blank.

She was thinking and talking about methodology. Gun? Blades?

Through snail mail, I sent her a small but heartfelt something that cost me money, something I rarely do, because I assume that anything I can afford to buy for someone else won't be as wonderful as something they can buy for themselves, because everyone has more money than I.

I also gave her my phone number, and asked for hers, and I phoned her. I rarely talk on the phone. This was a big investment for me.

In any case, she disappeared in August, 2014, nine months later.

Oh, she's still alive. I googled her. Just no longer on Facebook. Or talking to me. No idea why.

***

Thanksgiving was a relatively happy day in my childhood home. Aunt Phyllis and her kids would come. My mother would cook two full dinners: a full ham dinner accompanied by all the fixings you'd associate with a ham dinner, and a turkey, with all its fixings, and a panoply of American and Slovak and other Eastern European desserts. Of course I helped her cook. We'd be up till midnight in that tiny kitchen, fluorescent light overhead.

I like cooking so I rarely have to miss foods from my childhood. I helped my mother make them and I've made them ever since.

Except one dish.

Thanksgiving stuffing.

My mother used the classic recipe: celery, onion, bread crumbs, pork sausage, sage, and thyme.

When I tried to recreate it as an adult, I never could. I knew darn well why.

Bread crumbs, in and of themselves, are not all that enticing. What makes stuffing so good? Fat and salt.

I have always been too cautious to add enough fat and salt to make the stuffing my mother used to make. My attempts at stuffing have been so dry and unpalatable that I gave up. Until this year.

"You are alone in the universe and your expiration date approaches. Fat. Salt. What have you got to lose?"

This year I bought a bottom-of-the-barrel, cheap pork sausage. Mostly pork fat. I rendered that down, added the celery and onions to the fat, and made my stuffing.

Witchcraft. It was really good. As good as I remember. After having eaten one serving, I now feel like a lead balloon.

***

I just had a heart stopping moment in this business of looking at years-old emails.

Years ago a man on Facebook called me a "douchebag" because I posted a meditation on my Christian faith. He posted several follow-ups, deriding Christianity as a hoax and faith as a fool's errand.

He was so nasty and dark I had to look him up.

He's now dead. From what I was able to discover online, it looks like he may have committed suicide shortly after that dust-up with me.

And I just cried about this idiot stranger's death.

Look. As dark as things get, I cannot let go of my faith in God. Not "cannot" as "I don't want to." But "cannot" as in I see too much evidence for it.

There is a light in the darkness, and we are not telling the truth if we don't acknowledge that light.

Darkness, darkness, darkness, yes. The darkness of loneliness, poverty, disease, death.

But this.

I wish I could drag that rude, insulting, fat-faced troll back from death and tell him that I care about a man I never met, and that I wish that I had said the right thing to him that would rescue him from his pain and doubt and make him believe, and I know that people I have never met care about me – even if I'm not good enough to be invited for Thanksgiving.

It *is* better to light one candle – to join with the light – than to curse the darkness. To use the excuse of loneliness or whatever bad thing that has happened to you to join with the darkness.

Don't bemoan being alone. Make high fat, high salt stuffing.

That's a light shining in the darkness. No matter what, don't let go of it. Join it.



2 comments:

  1. oh you are so correct. I have often, to no avail, tried to explain to various acquaintances who ask why we're here. Most of them have little or no faith but I say that there is a plan and God is on His throne and in control. Naturally I am derided for that but I say that we have no idea what we do that may influence someone we're in contact with. For example (and unfortunately this is the one I always go to)here you are, riding on the subway. It's Monday, you're hungover and miserable and in addition to that you have the most terrible cold. Next to you is someone who is seriously contemplating - oh, who knows what? Suicide, homicide, destruction of something or someone and then! Bam! You sneeze or burp or do something so inane or innocuous that you don't give it a thought but! ta da - that person becomes so - I don't know- enraged or surprised or scared that they will get the flu or WHO KNOWS???? that the thought they were thinking disappears never to surface again and Oh My Dickens ---- that's what you are here for.

    I know. You think I'm as insane as everyone else does but you know what? God does work in mysterious ways and it's none of our business. He knows what He's doing.

    I love your stuff by the way. Happy Thanksgiving. This holiday has always been a nightmare. Norman Rockwell is the devil

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    Replies
    1. I don't think you are insane. I think we all think these thoughts.

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