We were in the hospital for Daddy's last Thanksgiving with us. It had been a rough week, with him being admitted to the hospital with infected abscesses in his back from the chemotherapy and radiation. The doctors performed two surgeries, one to clean out the infections and the other for his colostomy. Hannah and I spent the first few days of Thanksgiving break bouncing to and from the hospital and football field, because CJ had some games to play in a city-wide league. He'd been handpicked for the team.
Like today, Tulsa was covered in rain. The games were cold and wet, and I'm pretty sure there were a few games that only Hannah and I sat out in the slush to watch. I don't really remember the games CJ played, whether they won or lost, because my mind was elsewhere most of that week.
After the games were over, CJ went to spend Thanksgiving with Daddy's parents. I didn't have to work, because Chick-fil-a was closed for Thanksgiving. Hannah and I went up to St. Francis Hospital as soon as it was open to visitors, because we wanted to spend the holiday with Mom and Daddy.
I had a special surprise for them in 2015 that came in the form of three college acceptance letters: Oral Roberts University, Rogers State University, and Oklahoma Baptist University. They were so proud of me, because I was accepted into every university I applied to. It was a really big moment for me, and I didn't even care that the moment happened in the hospital.
When it came time for a Thanksgiving meal, we weren't quite sure what to do. We all agreed - no hospital food, but that didn't leave very many options. Mom decided to order Cracker Barrel, but only on the condition that Hannah and I went to pick it up. We waited about 15 minutes longer at the hospital, then went to pick up the order on the other side of town.
Hannah and I got to the restaurant, which was packed - duh, it was Thanksgiving. We checked in with the server at the front, gave her Mom's name, and paid for the food. That was when the waiting game began. We waited about 30 minutes before I asked about our food. The server went to check and came back, letting us know that the kitchen lost our food and would be remaking it.
Another 15-30 minutes went by. I talk to the server again, getting frustrated, while Hannah is urging me to tell them about Daddy being in the hospital. Her reasoning? At the very least, it'll make the server feel bad enough to figure out what's going on. I did not tell the server.
Eventually, the server does bring us a bag of food and assures us that everything has been remade. I don't question it, because we've been at Cracker Barrel for over an hour at this point while our dad is in the hospital. We leave, we bicker in the car about the wait, and we get back to the hospital.
(Here's where the story gets REALLY good.)
Hannah and I carry all the food up to Daddy's hospital room. Together, we sort out the food to make sure everything is there. Thankfully, as I am recounting the whole story to my parents - who honestly cannot stop laughing about the whole incident, all the food is there.
The issue was, when we each went to take a bite, the food was ice cold. When the Cracker Barrel server told me that they lost our food and later told me they remade it, what she should've said was something like this. "I'm sorry you've been here over an hour. We lost your food for an hour, found the to-go bag, and decided to give it to you without checking to make sure that it was actually remade."
I can't remember what we did next, if we ate the cold meals we ordered or if Mom called some pizza place, but I do remember us laughing about it. Of course, after everything that went wrong the entire week, our food was ice cold too. It didn't matter, because we were with our parents. Daddy was healing and, honestly, that was all that mattered.
The last Thanksgiving we celebrated with Daddy was when he was in the hospital and it was not a great experience. Every year, about this time, I find myself thinking about that. We had what most people would consider a terrible Thanksgiving, but I never find myself dwelling on that.
What I remember is being grateful that the surgeries were successful, that Daddy was getting better. I remember us laughing about the whole thing and being happy, despite our circumstances. I remember the pride I felt when I shared my acceptance letters with my parents. Most importantly, I remember feeling is love. Unconditional love that could only come from a family, whose hearts are tied together so tight that it didn't matter where we were.
We had a lot of 'lasts' with Daddy between October 2015 and April 2016, even if we didn't know it, and most of those memories bring tears to my eyes even now because it hurts so much. Thanksgiving might be one of those memories, but I am grateful for the memories.
21 years young. Should be writing.