When We Stuggle to Give Thanks

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Thanksgiving has come and gone, but even though I was looking forward to the holiday there were a few things I was struggling with then and still now. With my husband’s food allergies there’s always a concern with a large group that he’ll be safe, that he’ll get enough to eat, and that he’ll enjoy the day. It’s the same for all of us who have a loved one with food allergies this time of year so you all know what I’m talking about. Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks, even my seven year old son asked me what I was thankful for as we sat down to eat. I told him I was thankful for him, and he gave me that big toothless grin. His little thoughtful reminders can make my day, but I was struggling with more than concern this Thanksgiving:

  • When loss makes it difficult to be thankful. Just two years ago my grandfather passed away right before Thanksgiving. He meant a lot to me and even though he had been sick it was a difficult loss. That same week my husband’s cousin passed away in an accident. He was young and had so much ahead of him. These losses made for a trying holiday filled with tears. This year my husband’s grandmother passed away the week before Thanksgiving. She had this amazing laugh and piercing blue eyes. She always told stories of growing up in the sandhills of Nebraska and teaching at several country schools. Her death right before Thanksgiving made me think of all the families in the food allergy community who have lost loved ones recently to allergic reactions and how we were not the only family going through a difficult loss during the holidays.
  • Too many people not able to spend Thanksgiving with their families. Thankfully I was able to spend the entire day with my family, but I work in marketing for a large ecommerce site that also has several retail stores. So I was up early on Friday morning, at my desk, as the retail stores opened to handle any issues that came up. I appreciate that our stores are closed on Thanksgiving and that management understands that it’s more important for employees to have this day to spend with their families than to let customers shop in the store a few hours earlier. As a marketer I understand why stores think they need to be open, but hate that they treat their employees like this. I think it says more to consumers when you stay closed on Holidays. This also brought me back to my husbands many years as a law enforcement officer having to work these holidays. A quick meal and a hug before you head out again. Sometimes working on a holiday can’t be avoided. If you didn’t get to spend Thanksgiving with your family or those you care about my heart goes out to you. .
  • Family that won’t make the effort to serve a meal that’s safe. I love my family and for the most part they have been understanding about my husband’s food allergies. I sent my mom a great newsletter I had received that talked about what ingredients to avoid when picking out your turkey. Unfortunately not only was I too late, but the turkey she had already purchased was not safe. My grandmother was bringing a bone-in-ham so I was hopeful that this would be safe for him to eat. Early Thanksgiving morning I received a phone call about the ingredients of the ham, also not safe. Frustrated I blurted out to my mother; “It’s meat! Why do they put all this extra junk in it?” I thankfully had a small ham I knew was safe in the freezer.  I let my husband know of the change in plans, he was just as frustrated and voiced his concerns. He was really looking forward to turkey and now he couldn’t even have the nicer ham. We are able to find meat that is safe every day, it’s become habit for us. We know what to look for and what to avoid. If you’re not concerned about harmful ingredients your focus is most likely on size (will this turkey feed everyone) and is it on sale. We packed up the side dishes we were bringing; candied sweet potatoes, sweet corn from our garden, a gluten-free apple crisp, and our ham and headed out for the day. I don’t know what I expected, but was shocked when there was not even an apology directed towards my husband. We had a good day still visiting with family we don’t see often, a few games of Pitch (my grandfathers favorite card game), and good food.

Maybe my expectations are too high, but I couldn’t help think of my husband’s family and how accommodating they have always been since we shared his food allergy diagnosis with them. Even down to his cousins making allergy friendly rice krispie bars for him at family gatherings. I wish we as a community were more aware of food allergies instead of treating them as just another fad diet. My only conclusion to this Thanksgiving is that the next big family gathering with my family I will be bringing a main dish and not as many sides.

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