That dreadful Thanksgiving Day phone call


I can’t wait to sit down Thursday to a full Thanksgiving Day spread at my sister’s house, pour thick gravy over a mound of mashed potatoes, mix it with a piece of juicy turkey, dip it in Karen’s signature cranberry sauce, and savor the sweet memories we are building for Celeste and Gavin.

That phone call every Thanksgiving only served to remind me of one thing: Fatherlessness. (Photo courtesy MarkGregory007 via Flickr.)

I’m sleepy just thinking about all the tryptophan I’m going to eat.

I love Thanksgiving, and not just because of the food. I love it because it’s the one day out of the year we set aside to remember all we have to be thankful for.

No matter what religion you follow or the loss you might have experienced in the previous 12 months, we all can find a reason to give thanks for something in our lives.

A warm meal. A friendly smile. Good friends. A child’s giggle.

Me? I’m thankful I have a supportive wife and loving children who stand with me no matter what I do. The last 12 months proved it, as they brought much change to the Allanach household when I accepted a buyout from a 19-year career in the newspaper business to become unemployed.

After 10 weeks without a job, I found one at the Netherlands Embassy in Washington, D.C., and remain gainfully employed.

The biggest difference in my children’s life every day is my absence during the morning as they head out to school. Given commuting patterns to Washington, I leave the house by 6 a.m. so I can put in a full day and leave work at 4:30 p.m. to be home for dinner. It’s a small sacrifice to pay for gainful employment in today’s tough economy.

I don’t like being absent for their mornings, but I’m around in the evenings and weekends, which unfortunately is more than many fathers can say given the state of fatherlessness in America.

I’m also thankful Celeste and Gavin do not have to split their time on the holidays between two homes or pass the phone to each other to talk with their absent father.

Fatherlessness plays no role in my children’s lives, contrary to my childhood. My father left our family when I was 7, so that phone call was a staple of my childhood on the holidays, and I hated every second of it. I never knew what to say to my father, and usually kept the conversation light because it was the easy thing to do.

The weather? We covered that every call. Movies? We usually covered that too. Books? Music? Yup, yup.

Girls? Never. Peer pressure? Yeah, right. Puberty? No way. Drugs? Alcohol? Didn’t exist.

These are the conversations boys need to have with their dads while they go fishing or camping, maybe while they’re fixing the car or painting the hallway. I sure wasn’t going to have them with a man I barely knew who lived thousands of miles away.

Fatherhood happens on the most mundane of days while doing the most boring tasks, not on the holidays. I felt like he didn’t deserve the joy of talking to me on the holidays because he wasn’t there to put in the work every other day.

Why should I treat him as special on the holidays when he didn’t treat me as special every other day? That’s how fathers are supposed to make their children feel: Special.

Still, I would pick up the phone every Thanksgiving and have a conversation I didn’t want to have because that’s what children of divorce have to do.

The best I can say about it is that my mother never interfered and never asked us what we said to each other. To do so would have put us in the middle, and my mother never did that. Not once.

She ignored the phone call, and we did our best to enjoy the rest of the holiday. I’m sure her tongue is thoroughly scarred by years of her own bite marks.

Only through the lens of adulthood and fatherhood can I put these feelings into words. I don’t dwell on them, and they don’t control my life. I only think of them when I struggle to remember my fatherless childhood, and when I do, I am thankful my children don’t have to have such a phone call with me.

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