The Thanksgiving Decision

Written by Diane Tolliver

Carrie pulled her suitcase from the closet. She opened it and carefully started putting her clothes inside it. As she gathered the things, she thought she would need for her visit, her eyes filled with tears. Determined not to cry again, she angrily wiped the tears away and swore out loud.

Anger swept over her like a wave. How the hell did this happen? For the life of her she couldn’t understand why she was the one who had to leave. She really didn’t need to leave but Carrie couldn’t stand the thought of being alone on Thanksgiving when she had spent the last eight holidays with Jason.

Living with someone with severe PTSD was taking a toll on her physical and mental health, and no one seemed to notice or care. The problem wasn’t her; the problem was Jason’s reluctance to deal with issues. He avoided conflict of any kind because of his PTSD. But conflict is part of life no matter how much you want to avoid it. Ignoring a problem does not solve a problem, and Carrie had discovered that was Jason’s go-to method whenever a problem showed up at his door.

Problem-solving was not how Carrie wanted to spend her days and nights, but someone had to handle the issues in their lives. So, Carrie did just that; handling the big and the small things that came their way; involving Jason whenever it was necessary. It was tough when Jason would lash out at her that he didn’t want to know or worse when he would completely shut down and ignore her. Many nights Carrie lay awake worrying about how to handle a problem.

Carrie zipped the suitcase closed and put it in the corner, awaiting the few last-minute necessities she would add once she was ready to leave. Her flight to Chicago was the first leg of her trip to her son’s house in Philadelphia. Because this trip was not planned until two days ago, she had to scramble to get a flight and there were no non-stop flights available. While she was fighting the crowds of holiday travelers, Jason would be celebrating Thanksgiving with his family.

Jason’s son Peter would be picking up Jason so he wouldn’t have to drive the three-hour journey on his own. Peter was very concerned about Jason’s health, or so he professed to his father. Jason often commented on what a good person his oldest son had become. Peter and his wife would make sure that Jason had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, wrapped in their loving embrace. Carrie was certain that Jason would be pampered and fawned over, all to reinforce Jason’s belief that he had made the right decision. No thought would be given to Carrie. She had forfeited their awareness with what they deemed to be an unconscionable act of aggression. The Thanksgiving prayer given by Peter, would likely make some vague reference about absent family and finding forgiveness.

Carrie had no doubt of their love for Jason, but that love came with a price. Jason’s relationship with his son as well as his relationship with his other two adult children was based on Jason’s never-ending apologies for being an absentee father when his children were growing up. A career in the Marines had taken a toll on his marriage and his family. As Jason successfully rose through the ranks of his military job, his children became less and less a part of his life. His former wife had made sure that they had been isolated from Jason and true to his nature, Jason ignored the yawning void in his children’s lives.

Now adults, his three children played on Jason’s guilt to get what they wanted from him. Carrie had been shocked to see how Jason’s children treated their father but what was more upsetting was how willing Jason was to overlook their judgmental attitude, and their demeaning and selfish behavior towards him. Jason’s solution for problem-solving and showing his love was to throw money at it. And his children took full advantage of Jason’s weakness. Consequently, Jason’s children were obsessed with money and material possessions, and they delighted in calling Jason to brag about their latest purchase, raise or vacation. Carrie never heard any of them ask Jason about what was new in his life, celebrate his achievements or encourage his efforts.

Carrie felt sorry for Jason but her efforts to protect him from his children’s subtle cruelty did not have the desired effect she hoped. Instead, she found herself at odds with Jason and his PTSD. He would shout at her and shut her out when she tried to talk to Jason about her concerns. Carrie had tried very hard to keep her feelings and opinions to herself, but when Jason fell victim to his children’s selfishness again, she spoke up and acted. And it was her action that resulted in her packing her suitcase to leave.

Humiliated, hurt, and angry, Carrie learned that Jason’s loyalties were with his adult children and not with her. Her explanation for her actions fell on deaf ears. Her apology was labeled insincere. Her efforts to make things right were rejected. Her offer to not attend Thanksgiving with Jason at his son’s home was not refused. Jason’s PTSD determined it was much easier to reject his wife rather than defend and support her and ultimately have to reject his son and condemn the hurtful things he had said about Carrie.

Carrie sat across from Jason and looked at the man she loved so much. She could feel tears stinging her eyes. She longed for Jason to take her into his arms and tell her that he loved her and that he wanted to spend Thanksgiving with her. She wanted to know that Jason cared more for her than anyone else in the world. She wanted him to choose her.

As a tear snaked down her cheek, she swallowed the lump in her throat. Jason turned on the television. He retrieved a soda from the refrigerator and sat down and started flipping through the channels. His cell phone rang, and he answered his son’s phone call. Carrie could hear bits and pieces of the conversation. Jason and his son were blissfully making plans for their Thanksgiving visit. Jason was excited and couldn’t wait to see his son and daughter-in-law. It was going to be a great time!

Anxious to leave before the tears started flowing, Carrie hurried from the room. She knew now what she had to do to fix things. Going into the bedroom she shared with Jason, with shaking hands, Carrie opened the dresser drawer.

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