Holidays are well intended.

A day set aside to celebrate our good fortune at belonging–to humanity and on a smaller scale, to a group of friends or better yet, a family.

However, if you’re estranged from family, have lost someone you love, or are just plain alone–holidays are a very different thing.

Salt to the wound.

Take Thanksgiving. I was born on Thanksgiving and for most of my life, it was my favorite holiday. Four months after my own diagnosis with lung cancer, my father Ollie was told he had pancreatic cancer. Almost four months to the day later he died, on Thanksgiving Day.

For years my family celebrated Thanksgiving in Marfa, Texas, where we owned a second home. Ten years ago I turned 50 there–on Thanksgiving. It was a flipping big deal because the summer before I had been told I had three to five months left to live. And here I was, the big Five Oh.

But the past six years have been entirely different. Mere months after I left my marriage, I lost my mother Evalynn as well. I became a de facto orphan and my own family unit–the one I helped create–had also been torn asunder.

When it comes to holidays, my children are more likely to spend time with my ex-husband. He lives closer to Boston, in a real house, and he prepares both a formidable Thanksgiving Turkey and a killer Christmas Ham. I get it.

And yet I don’t. I was the mom who went all out at Holidays. Not decorations (I am the anti-Martha Stewart) but rather details. My son August believed in not just Santa Claus, but also the Easter bunny, leprechaun, and tooth fairy. Fervently.

This year I was fortunate to spend Thanksgiving (and my birthday) with good friends. It was wonderful. My friends always come through.

But I missed my family. Terribly. And yesterday was a reminder not only of what I should be thankful for, but of what I have lost.

Bitter sweet.


12 responses to “Hollowdays

  1. Happy birthday and happy Thanksgiving Linnea. You’re an inspiration, I hope you realize it! Thanks for being real.

  2. Bittersweet for you, but deliciously and unequivocally sweet for your friends.

  3. Karla Castro-Frenzel

    Gut-wrenching, Linnea. My own parents divorced when my daughter was born. To this day it is difficult to juggle time between the two. Moms make everything possible for their kids. They make the world go ‘round. I’m grateful that we met. Hugs!

  4. Dear Linnea
    I have been following you for many years, since just before ceritinib was approved. I was on the drug development team from the beginning to registration. You were incredibly strong for making the decision to divorce when you did. Life is short for all of us; with this example you can teach many people how to live in the now. Just like our precious dogs. Live for the moment.

  5. Thank you for talking from your heart. So many points hit home……yes bittersweet. ❤️

  6. Thank you for talking from your heart. So many points hit home……yes bittersweet. ❤️

  7. I get it Linnea. For 5 years we hosted thanksgiving, because peter was sick; and more than likely we were going to or coming from Boston right before or right after thanksgiving day. Those were some of my favorite thanksgivings. First of all, at our own home, vs. traveling somewhere. Secondly, never having to defend our demands: Peter was not well and he wanted to stay close to home: done! Third: peter’s boys were nearby, so we would at least see them at some point during the day. . But now that Peter’s no longer here, it’s back to normal. I go to my family’s in PA and everyone else is scattered. It’s back to feeling like a college student going home for the holidays, except that I’m 60.
    So like you say, yesterday was a reminder of what I am ‘thankful’ for, “Sure!” but much more, mostly, thankful for what I had. The love of my life.

  8. A belated happy birthday to you. You are an inspiration to all.
    Patti Helfand

  9. This year, I left my family, and went to Oakland, CA for Thanksgiving. It was bittersweet. I missed my family as well, but I did not miss the frat party aspect of it, which is the drinking. The guilt from family members for not going is huge. They even make catty comments on Facebook!! I just wanted to be alone with my daughter. 6 years ago, I didn’t think I’d see this Thanksgiving. I want to make my own traditions, away from their toxic version of Thanksgiving. It was hard, but I took a first step. Happy Birthday, and I’m glad you had a great Thanksgiving with friend. Sometime we have to settle for the next best thing? In order to take a step in the right direction? I just got married, and divorced, all in a matter of 6 months. Definitely not what I was expecting. Next Thanksgiving is going to be different. Next Thanksgiving, I’m cooking the turkey, and you’re invited. It probably won’t be Maria, could be Alpine. Most definitely in Texas. You are most welcome.

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