I spent Thanksgiving dinner as usual with my father’s family, since they are within driving distance and my mother’s isn’t. Both of his parents are alive and well, and he has two older sisters with no children. They both had took the banned pain reliever in the late 70s, and as a result were afraid of having a child like me, or worse. One’s married, and he was at the dinner as well, so there were a total of eight when you include my mother and me. With no cousins on this side of the family, I was the only person there born after 1977. And except for my mother, everyone was different from me. This is probably how Paul feels every day at school.
Being the only young person is only one of the challenges of Thanksgiving. Since they never had a child like me, they sometimes forget how traditional things can stress me. I enter the door, and it’s a bunch of people saying hello, and more importantly expecting you to say hello so I comply, then asking lots of inane questions about how and what you’re doing, and they expect you to do that too but I have my limits. Then we eventually sit down to eat the meal. Usually, they’ve learned that I react badly to the textures of certain foods like celery or onions, and leave them out of my portions of the meal. However, occasionally they forget or there is an accident, which happened this year. I was eating my portion of the stuffing when I hit a piece of, well, something, and it immediately triggered a gag reflex since I was not expecting it. I managed to hold it down so nobody noticed, and left the stuffing at the end of the meal after saying I was full. I know that it is difficult to change your entire cooking method for two people out of eight, so I understand how it happened and I don’t blame them for it.
After dinner, the family breaks off and discusses issues that don’t concern me. My mother and my older aunt were discussing retirement plans with my grandparents. They’re worried about when they’ll be able to retire since Social Security benefits were pushed back so my grandfather won’t be eligible for another three years at 75, and my grandmother not for another five. And luckily they’re scheduled to get those benefits, since there are plans to gradually extend the age to 80 in the future. My father and my younger aunt and her husband talked about old friends from high school and college that I’ve never met. I was completely bored and unable to leave, but honestly, after all the small talk before and during dinner this was the best part of the trip for me. Eventually, the talk died down and we said our goodbyes, took our part of the leftovers, and went home. We’ll be seeing them all again at Christmas. Overall, it was pretty typical of any holiday gathering of my father’s family.