Two years ago for Thanksgiving, we drove to my home town to see my dad. He was a few months into a chemo regime that was ultimately not able to return him to health. But at the time, we didn't know how the story would end. We went to spend time with him and so I could be a part of this part of his life. I took him to his appointments so I could see where he spent his days, and so I could be a (very small) part of the care he was receiving from so many people who were driving him to appointments and sitting with him through transfusions and treatments, etc.
Last year was our first Thanksgiving without him. I thought a LOT about how different things could be from one year to the next. It wasn't even the "day" so much as we often didn't travel home or see him on actual holidays. But it was the principle. He was the only parent - the only close family - I had had since I was 19, and he was gone. I felt a lot of support from folks who remembered that it was our first holiday season without him, but I was still lonely.
This year I think I felt the emptiness as much if not more than last year. Maybe last year I was just expecting it. Maybe the other things going on in my life right before the holiday, and the fatigue of a long school year were contributing factors. This year, Thanksgiving was a reminder that we were moving into a very lonely season in the year without Dad. When the phone rang on Thanksgiving Day, before anyone even looked at the caller ID, it was obvious it wasn't going to be for me.
I don't say that to say, "Please call me so I don't feel lonely on the holidays," because, honestly, I think that would make me feel worse. But there's something about losing both of your parents that can make you feel adrift. I felt it this summer as I was anticipating the family reunion, and I felt it from Thanksgiving to New Year's last year. I imagine this year will be much of the same.
I know the ache will lessen as the years go on. I remember how bitter I was about Mother's Day when I was in my 20s - without a mother to celebrate in person, with plenty of conflicted feelings about the mother I had, and without a child of my own to shift the focus. But those feelings resolved in time. And I'm sure these will, too. But they will weigh heavy this year, for at least a few more weeks.