The myth and reality of Thanksgiving and Betty Joe
Thanksgiving is not as commercialized as Christmas, or even as commercialized as the recent Halloween. This is a gluttony festival, hang out with someone you like, maybe playing football or avoiding football fans, usually an idle person. Most Thanksgiving dishes can be made in advance, so organized chefs don’t have to be slaves to the kitchen on holiday day.
But this is the idealized Thanksgiving. If you use any media, you will find that it is actively reinforced in commercials and TV shows with moaning sideboards, holiday tables, and many smiling faces. If you were fortunate enough to have such Thanksgiving occasionally in your childhood, then you also have memories that you live up to.
I think I am fortunate not to have too much emotional attachment to Thanksgiving. Except for my maternal grandmother, she lives with us for about nine months each year. During major holidays, we moved a large group of people without contact with my parents’ small family.My father did impose some menu items that reflected his Yankee roots, such as boiled small onions in butter, mashed kohlrabi, and meat pies (I never understood, even if he did later Add venison with appropriate minced meat). But we also always eat the great apple pie and pumpkin pie made by my mother.
But my father sometimes abandons us because Thanksgiving (and my mother’s birthday) coincides with the hunting season in West Virginia, and he is very interested in this season. After my parents moved to Alabama (after I went to college) and my brothers graduated from high school, he started doing this regularly. By then, my parents have integrated into a good social circle, so my mother will always have someone take her to celebrate Thanksgiving and her birthday. I still can’t understand how my father, who usually pays attention to appearance, doesn’t care how his friends look.
Needless to say, after receiving the news, I did not go home on Thanksgiving when I was in college. It will not be very pleasant, and my father will be disgusted with paying for the ticket.
So no sad Thanksgiving baggage can be liberated; it gives you more freedom, treat it as a rest day, and make it your own day.
But it can also serve as a window for us to understand how those who have or have had close family ties feel real pain during major festivals. A friend is experiencing an ugly and protracted divorce. Her daughter, a doctor of medicine who is married to a doctor of medicine, refused to let her mother into her house because she was not vaccinated… and her mother was not vaccinated because she was infected with Covid in late March and was pretty sure She still has immunity.1
Our assistant Betty Joe is another Thanksgiving orphan. Although the name seems to be southern, she is mainly black-footed, and there are some French explanations of her French surname from Connecticut. She became our assistant through the Birmingham taxi mafia. I was frustrated that the assistants often provided by home health care institutions were not good enough and failed to provide insurance, and chatted about it endlessly during the short drive to the airport. The driver asked a lot of questions. We received a call from Betty-Jo. His documents included a former taxi driver, mother and grandmother in New York City. He recently took care of a 300-pound diabetic patient during the last 9 months of his life.
Betty-Joe is in her early 50s and is a little shorter than the average height of women, so her personality is very large, energetic, and occasionally overly dramatic. She also has a tendency to be responsible, which is good for me because she is capable of various activities. She is a good cook (but my mother has ruined it all by complaining about a dish that I think is very good; my mother often criticizes what she eats, including saying that she hates the dishes she eats passionately), a picky A cleaner (she grew up to work in her mother’s home cleaning business) and skilled mechanics (she and her now-dead husband run a lawn care business and three auto repair shops). She also proactively told us what we need to do in the house and yard. Yes, we paid her more money than other assistants because she did more than them.
Betty Joe had a hard time. She said that she was sexually abused by her uncle and was paralyzed from the waist down for three years after a car accident, until she had back surgery (she had an impressive scar and her walking was consistent with a stick on her waist) and cancer (she couldn’t buy it) Started with anti-cancer drugs, and recently had to go for a liver biopsy; she sometimes has headaches, and she is worried that the cancer will come back). I guess she came to the South with a medical debt that was difficult to pay off. Most importantly, her beloved convertible, a huge unemployment benefit during her stay at Dollar General, was collected by a drunk man with an expired uninsured license.
This year is the second year that Betty-Jo will work in a double shift at our house, partly because she really needs dough, and we paid a high fee for the holiday, and because she has nowhere to go. Although she moved to the south to be closer to her two sons, she was alienated from them (one is a drug addict, and she refused to support it anymore; I am not sure what is wrong with the other son; I suspect that he does not like her and a black man living together).
Betty-Jo’s five-year partner abandoned her again in January this year and was in Atlanta with his diabetic mother. One of her feet was lost due to gangrene and part of her brother, including asking Betty-Jo to pay all rent and bills. His reason was that he supported her for a while when she was sick, when she gave him a large sum of cash to calm things down, and since then she has often carried more than her share.
To make matters worse, she discovered that after her partner was fully vaccinated, he began to deceive her. Then he took her to ride a horse (she likes to ride a horse; she bought a horse with cleaning money when she was a child, and then broke it herself), which she mistakenly believed was to make her do better. Then he arranged another horse-riding outing as a picnic… and when they arrived at the stable, he announced that he had invited his two girlfriends, hoping that they would all get along.
Betty Joe drove away with food.
Betty-Jo said that her work here makes her feel valued, which is why I am upset about my mother’s excessive emotional abuse. My mother only vented her powerless anger towards Betty Joe and me, maybe because Betty Joe and I are very confident, or maybe because we are all white. She even made Betty-Jo cry more than once, and she didn’t always apologize.2
So, for the sake of Betty-Jo, I hope we have a happy Thanksgiving. And on this basis, I wish you all the best!
1 Based on what I know about my daughter, she will not be persuaded by blood tests that show high antibody levels.
2 This is because dementia is just because dementia reduces executive function, so people become more ego, which is usually a bad way. My mother has never had much sympathy, but even now, she can do well.