My family is having Thanksgiving dinner without me today.
My mom and my brothers, along with the rest of their families, will gather around a table and turkey, 1400 miles to the north of me in a small ranch house in Iowa. They’ll laugh and they’ll eat and they’ll make fun of one another. They’ll take pictures and talk about what they’re thankful for.
And they’ll be just fine without me and mine.
That’s the part no one tells you about when you think about moving away from your family. Everyone assures you that you’ll be OK. They promise you’ll meet new people and make new friends. They remind you that adult children have been moving away from their parents for centuries and that you’ll make new traditions of your own and be no worse for wear.
You’ll be fine, they all say.
And you are.
But what no one talks about is how everyone else will be fine, too. Your family will carry on with their traditions just the same as they would have if you had stayed put. They’ll meet new people and make new friends, and you won’t ever be able to fully understand the bonds they’ve formed with people who are strangers to you. They’ll keep laughing and sharing old jokes, and they’ll make new ones that you don’t get. They’ll eat the same foods they’ve always eaten, and no one will think twice when a place isn’t set for you at the table.
They’ll say that they miss you, and they do, but life goes on without you.
It’s humbling to realize how quickly the gap left by our absence is closed. Even hosting your own dinner with your own family and friends doesn’t erase the feeling of being inconsequential.
And it’s not that you blame them. Or fault them. Or can possibly imagine life going any other way. But still.
Life goes on without me today, and it makes me ache for the hole that’s no longer there.