One Fine Day
A Thanksgiving Story
by Michelle Palmer
Lucas shivered as he walked back into the house. It sure was cold out there! The snow was softly falling again. The moment he walked into the McCain house, he felt the warmth, smelled coffee, and smiled. Walking over to the stove, he wrapped his arms around the woman hard at work and kissed her neck. “Mmmmm,” she smiled out loud as she leaned her head back against her husband’s firm chest.
Lucas smiled. “Where’s the boy?” he asked.
“Still in bed,” his wife answered. “I thought I’d let him sleep. He won’t be underfoot that way.”
As if he had heard his name, Lucas turned as he heard the door knob wiggle. Margaret put down the spatula and started to go to him. “Oh no honey,” Lucas stopped her. “I’ll take care of him.” He started toward the bedroom door then turned and pointed at her. “You don’t let my omelet burn!”
Margaret smiled a contented smile and turned back to the stove. Lucas hurried over to Mark’s bedroom door and opened it. At the age of three, Mark was still unable to reach high enough to open the door. Lucas had purposely made his door that way to keep him out of mischief. Lucas knocked on the door.
“Who it?” a muffled voice came from the other side.
“It’s Pa,” Lucas answered as he turned and looked at his beautiful, smiling wife.
“Pa who?” the muffled voice came again.
“How many Pa’s are there?” Lucas asked as he opened the door.
“Many?” Mark repeated. “Pa!” He stretched his arms up into the air, wiggling his fingers, and grunted. Lucas put his hands on his hips. “Up…up!” Mark begged.
Lucas shook his head and smiled. “Oh now, how can I resist a cute smile like that!” He reached down and scooped his feisty three year old in his arms. “Morning, son.”
Mark rubbed Lucas’s chin. “’orn-g, Pa,” Mark answered. “Can I milk cow?”
Lucas wrinkled his brow and thought seriously on this. “Well…” he started.
Margaret turned from the stove. “Oh Lucas, it’s so cold out there! Please don’t take him out – he was sniffing some yesterday. I just don’t-“ she stopped as Lucas grinned at her
Lucas put Mark down and walked over to his wife. He laid a gentle hand on her cheek and looked deeply into her eyes. “Now don’t fret, my sweet. I’ll bundle him up.”
“Oh, but Luke, I-“ she stated, but Lucas put a finger to her lips.
“Trust me?” he questioned. Margaret smiled and nodded. Lucas bent down and kissed the tip of her nose, then turned to look at their son.
It wasn’t long before both men were all bundled up and ready to go to the barn. Lucas couldn’t help but notice the worry lines that wrinkled his wife’s forehead. He promised her they wouldn’t be long, then disappeared into the snowy morning. Lucas hurried Mark into the barn and closed the door behind them. “Ma happy,” Mark declared as he sat down on the milking stool.
“Yes. She is,” Lucas answered with a smile.
“Why?” Mark asked then.
Lucas laughed as he lifted Mark up and sat him on his knee. He took Mark’s hands in his as they together began milking the cow. “She’s excited about her first Thanksgiving party.”
“Thanks-“ Mark stopped and turned his head to look at his father. “Huh?”
Lucas laughed. “This afternoon, there will be a lot of people here.” Lucas began squeezing his son’s hands as they continued with the milking. “All your aunts and uncles…cousins…”
Mark suddenly gasped and turned to look at his Pa. “And Jessie?”
Lucas looked down at Mark. “Jes-“ He smiled. He had almost forgotten about Jessie. “Well…wouldn’t Jessie want to stay at his own house today, son? Thanksgiving is a special day, you know. Besides, all your cousins will be here. There won’t be much room for-“ Lucas suddenly stopped when he saw Mark’s bottom lip tremble. “Yes, Jessie can come.”
That made Mark happy. Lucas stood and handed Mark a small bucket to carry himself. Then they made their way back into the house.
After breakfast, Margaret sat Mark down to play with his wooden animals. Lucas came inside from doing his chores and hurried over to the fire to warm his hands. He looked up to see Margaret wipe her brow and hurried over to her. “Honey, you sure you aren’t taking on too much?” He asked.
“Quite sure,” Margaret answered. She sighed as she turned the bread over and gave it a few hard punches. “You best get the tables set up in here, Luke.” Lucas didn’t move, but only continued looking at her. Margaret smiled. “Honey, it’s been five months since the miscarriage. I wish you would stop worrying so much.”
Lucas put his hands on her shoulders and looked deep into her eyes. He studied her for a long time. He knew that she had bad days. She tired more easily now then she used to, but she never complained. He could see she was tired now. His mouth straightened into a thin line and he nodded his head. “I do worry, honey. Because I love you so…so much…I just…” Lucas lifted a hand to her flushed cheek and gently rubbed the back of his fingers against it. “I just don’t want anything to ever happen to you. I…I love you so much.”
Margaret smiled that sweet smile and placed a hand over his. “Well, I’m here. And unless you want to explain to our families why there is no Thanksgiving feast prepared for them, you best let me get back to my baking!”
Lucas narrowed his eyes and gave her a small nod. Then he lowered his face to her and kissed her gently, allowing his lips to linger on hers for several moments. Her kiss was sweet and inviting. He smiled as she responded to his kiss. Finally, she planted her hands firmly on his chest and pushed him back. “You best go,” she said softly. “Before I forget where I’m at and what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Lucas slowly walked over to the door and grabbed his hat. “Yes ma’am.” And grinned.
The whole family would be over today – Margaret’s and his. Lucas tried to count off the people in his head so he’d know how to best set up the seating arrangements. They’d put a small table in Mark’s room for the children – that was no problem. But since Margaret and he both came from rather large families, he wasn’t sure where everyone would fit. Margaret’s mother had died a few months back. Life had been hard on her, and losing her 86 year old mother had been the last straw. That’s why Margaret had talked everyone into a big family celebration at the McCain Ranch this year.
The only living parent was Margaret’s father, Samuel Gibbs. Lucas closed his eyes as he thought on the prospect of her father showing up. He was usually half-drunk and could easily ruin any special occasion. He rarely kept his word about showing up at a place. Lucas could still remember the last Thanksgiving. He remembered holding his wife in his arms as she cried after a disastrous evening when Samuel Gibbs showed up drunk and mad.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the barn door. Lucas had been so deep in his thoughts that he jumped at the sound. He turned and saw the very subject of his thoughts standing there. He turned back around and continued saddling his horse. “I’m really, busy, Sam. What do you need?” Lucas grunted. The last time they had seen him was two weeks ago. Samuel had promised Lucas he’d help him with the harvest. He never showed up.
Sam toyed with the hat in his hands. “Well…” he cleared his throat as he walked inside. Lucas could smell the liquor on his breath. “It’s Thanksgiving and I…That is…Johnny just told me the family was having dinner here this year and…” Sam couldn’t quite get the words out.
Lucas turned and glared at him. “Been drinking today already, huh? As long as you’re drunk, I don’t want you around my wife or our son.” Lucas pulled himself up onto the horse. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go check my cattle.”
Lucas started to ride out of the barn. But he stopped and turned. He bent down and pointed at Samuel. “I don’t want you near my family today. You hear? You go on and get sobered up.”
Suddenly, the barn door opened and Mark toddled in. “Papa!” Mark cried.
Lucas jumped off his horse and grabbed Mark protectively. He picked him up and held him. “What are you doing out here, boy?” Lucas asked his son gruffly.
“Wanta help Pa,” Mark answered as tears filled his eyes. He didn’t like the sound of his Pa’s voice.
Lucas sighed and closed his eyes. “Your Ma know you’re gone?”
Mark hung his head. He knew he had broken the rule. Lucas sighed. “Well, you know what the punishment is, don’t you?” Mark nodded his head slowly. “Let’s go.”
“Papa come too?” Mark asked.
Lucas turned and looked at Samuel. He gave his father-in-law a hard, cold stare. “No, he’s leaving.”
“Pa, Papa come to party?” Mark asked.
Lucas heard the pleading in his young son’s voice. He turned and stared at Mark. “I…” Lucas stopped. He leaned his forehead against Mark. He knew Margaret would know her father was here and would chastise him if he didn’t invite him. She didn’t understand why Lucas had such a problem with her father. He turned and looked at Samuel. “He’s not feeling too well right now, son. But if he gets to feeling better by this afternoon, I reckon he’ll come.” Lucas sat his son down and patted his bottom. “Now, you get in there and tell your Ma to put you in the naughty chair.” He watched Mark slowly walk in. “You better be there when I get in there, boy!”
He waited until Mark had firmly closed the door before turning back to Samuel. “Thank you, Lucas.”
Lucas planted his hands on his hips and glared at his father-in-law. “I didn’t do it for you!” He pointed a finger at Samuel. “You best be on your best behavior. You upset Margaret this year like you did last year and so help me, I’ll-“
“Papa!” Margaret came running out of the house. She threw her arms around him and hugged him. But when the embrace broke, Lucas studied his wife. She had smelled the familiar scent. She backed away, knowing Lucas wouldn’t approve of her embracing her father in such a state. “Uh…We haven’t seen you in two weeks.” She felt Lucas’s protective arm go around her. She looked up at him. “You coming this afternoon?”
“I would like to,” Samuel answered as he laid a hand on Margaret’s shoulder and smiled at her. “How you been, sweet pea?”
“Fine, Papa.” He didn’t know about the miscarriage. He didn’t know about a lot of things that had happened in her life. Throughout her mother’s sickness and death, he hadn’t known much of anything except where to find a bottle. “You’ll stay and keep us company? Lucas has to check on the cattle then you can help him get the tables ready.”
“No,” Lucas said in a gruff voice. “Not until he sobers up.”
“Lucas!” Margaret said his name just a little too loudly. “Lucas, I-“ She whirled around to stand right in front of him.
“You know I don’t want him around you and Mark when he’s like this!” Lucas said in a stern voice.
“Lucas, he’s my father!” Margaret stated.
“And he can come back when he’s sober,” Lucas answered. “And as long as you’re here, you will stay sober.”
Lucas watched Margaret hurry back into the house. He closed his eyes and sighed. “Why do you always ruin the special occasions?” he asked.
“I didn’t mean to. Besides, you’re the one who upset her, sending her away like that.” Samuel turned to mount up.
“Wait-“ Lucas closed his eyes and looked toward the house. “You can help me check on the cattle. If you’re sober by the time we get back, you may stay.” Lucas turned toward the house. “Wait here.” He turned. “And you better be here when I get back.”
Lucas made his way to the house. He opened the door and saw his wife busy at the stove where she had no doubt been all morning. He walked into Mark’s bedroom and saw Mark sulking in the naughty chair in the corner. “How long has he been there?” Lucas asked.
“About five minutes,” Margaret answered. Lucas could hear the tears in her voice. He hated hearing her cry. It broke his heart.
“I’ll let him up in five minutes then.” Lucas closed the door to Mark’s bedroom firmly then walked over to the table and sat down. “Honey?” Margaret didn’t turn around. “Honey, I want you to come sit down at the table.”
She turned and nodded her head. Wiping her face on her apron, she walked over to the table and sat down next to him. She put her hands on the table and studied them. “Margaret,” Lucas started. He cleared his throat and waited for her eyes to meet his. “Honey, listen to me. As your husband, it’s my job to protect my family – that’s you and Mark.”
“I know. I don’t need protection from my…my own father.” Margaret stated.
“Do you remember…remember last Thanksgiving?” Lucas asked.
Margaret lowered her head and slowly nodded. “I do.”
“Well?” Lucas asked this one worded question.
Margaret looked back up into her husband’s eyes. “He didn’t used to be like this, you know. My father was so gentle and loving when I was growing up.” She smiled then as she looked at Lucas. “Of course you know. You were right there with us. Something changed him…the war maybe. But Luke, he’s my…my father.” She laid a gentle hand on his. “I love him very much. He’s all I have left of my childhood. I…I want him here.”
“And he’ll be here as long as he’s sober.” Margaret gave a slight nod. Lucas scooted out his chair and lifted her hand. “Come here, honey.”
Margaret stood and moved over next to her husband. He pulled her down onto his lap. Lucas wrapped his arms around her as he pulled her close to him. He closed his eyes as she laid her head against his shoulder. “I don’t want him around Mark when he’s like this either. It’s not just you.”
Margaret sighed. “I know. It’s just so hard…seeing him like this.”
“He’s going to help me check the cattle. Then if he’s sober enough, he can help me get ready for the party.” Lucas put a hand under his wife’s chin and lifted it so she could see his eyes. “Agreed?”
Margaret smiled. “Agreed,” she answered. In her heart, she knew Lucas was right. No matter, though, she still loved her father – faults and all.
“Now, commere,” Lucas said with a grin as he drew her lips to his and gave her a long, lingering kiss that left them both dizzy.
Margaret moaned as their lips parted. “I think it’s time to let the calf out, Sweetheart,” Margaret whispered with just a slight touch of regret in her voice.
“Oh already?” Lucas gave a mock groan.
Margaret stood and started back toward the stove. “Lucas?” she called.
Lucas paused with his hand on the door to go talk to Mark. They looked at each other. She smiled. “Thank you.”
Lucas walked over to his wife and drew his arms around her neck one last time. He kissed her forehead. “You…” He kissed her cheek. “are…” He kissed her other cheek. “welcome…” Then he kissed her lips one last time.
“Pa! Pa!” Mark’s voice suddenly rang out.
“I think our boy’s impatient,” Margaret laughed. “And your Thanksgiving Dinner’s going to burn if you don’t leave me be.”
Lucas rolled his eyes and pulled away from her. “It’s hard!” he groaned. Then he went to let their son out of his room.
“No, no, no…” Margaret put a hand to her lips. “That’s not right. “ She shook her head as she thought. “How about moving the tables the other way? I have to serve from the kitchen!”
Lucas and Samuel looked at each other and rolled their eyes. They had them that way, but she had told them to change. “Now daughter, you listen here…” Samuel wagged a finger at her. “You make up your mind right now because the next move is my last!”
“That goes for me too!” Lucas declared.
Margaret put her hands on her hips and gave them a look. “Now you both just stop that, because you know it has to be perfect!” She stuck out her chin in that little stubborn way of hers. “After all, it’s not every day we have both the McCain family and the Gibbs family under one roof!”
“Okay,” Lucas said as he winked at Margaret. “Let’s go!” Margaret watched carefully as the men started moving the tables around in the other direction.
She shouted out orders as they went. “Now, don’t you hit the lamp, Lucas!”
“Oh, now you must leave enough room for folks to get through.”
“Not too close to the fire, now. I don’t want anyone getting too hot!”
“Okay, just a little further that way…a little more…There…Perfect!”
“Really?” Lucas asked as he gave Margaret a playful poke. “Can I go outside and play now?”
Just then, Mark came running through with a paper bird. He was weaving it up and down pretending he was flying wildly through the sky. “Tweet…tweet…tweet…” Mark called as he flew through.
Lucas suddenly grabbed him and picked him up. “The bird has landed!” he declared.
“Oh, Pa!” Mark started. Lucas raised an eyebrow. “Yes, Pa.”
“Papa, tell me story!” Mark begged then.
Samuel laughed as he sat down in a chair and Lucas planted Mark firmly on his knee. “A story? Hmmmm…Now let’s see here…” Samuel looked up toward the story as he thought. “Oh yes…There was this little girl I once knew. Her name was Margaret, and-“
“That’s Ma!” Mark declared.
“Ma?” Samuel put a hand to his chin and scratched his beard. “Well, by thunder that IS her name, ain’t it!”
Mark giggled as Samuel tickled him. “And there was this little boy named Luke.”
“That’s Pa!” Mark declared then. He once again broke out in giggles as Samuel tickled him.
“That IS your Pa!” Samuel put an arm around Mark and sighed. “Well now, your Ma and your Pa were playing outside one cold day…something like this…along with a lot of the other kids. I remember clearly Lucas’s Ma saying ‘Now, don’t you get dirty! We got company a coming!”
“He got dirty!” Mark declared with a grin.
Lucas and Margaret listened as they worked at setting the tables. “Well, are you sorry now?” Margaret asked.
Lucas looked down at Margaret and gave her a quick hug. “No, honey. I’m glad I invited him. I wish he was this way all the time.”
“Well,” Margaret said as she took the turnkey out of the oven. “I’ll take today. I’ll cherish it in my heart for a long time!”
Lucas opened the door and let Mark outside to play with his cousins. “Now you boys watch him and make sure he stays near. He gives you any trouble, come find me!” Lucas shouted. Then he pointed a finger at Mark. “And Mark, I know how much you hate wearing those mittens and cap, but you keep them on. I had to talk your Ma into letting you come out here so don’t get me into trouble or you’ll get into trouble!”
Mark didn’t understand all that was said, but he understood the important parts. He smiled at Lucas then ran off to play. Some of the older boys had brought a sled. “Mark, we’ll let you ride with Charlie,” one of the boys declared.
Lucas shook his head as he watched and closed the door. “Well, the food certainly smells good!” Emily, Lucas’s little sister declared. “I hope you made plenty! I’m eating for two you know.”
“Looks more like three to me,” Lucas chided his sister.
“Now Lucas McCain, I-“
“Oh now Lucas, you leave your sister be!” Lucas’ older brother, Jeremiah declared. “I can still wollop you if need be!”
Laughter filled the house. Margaret smiled tiredly as she worked at getting all the food on the serving tables. Then she motioned for Lucas to come over. “Quiet everyone down and let’s get started.”
Lucas disappeared outside and soon the room was filled with excitable children. Margaret smiled as her own son moved over to her. She lifted him up and nuzzled her nose in his neck. “McCain family on that side and Gibbs on the other,” Lucas announced loudly.
Margaret watched as the family members lined up for their traditional pre-feast activity. Lucas smiled as he put an arm around Margaret. Okay, since the Gibbs’ has the oldest family member here, we’ll-“ Lucas stopped. “Where is he?” Margaret heard a slight edge in his voice.
Johnny and Scott quickly disappeared out the back door. Lucas started to walk towards the door. “Let’s start with the McCain family first,” she begged.
Lucas looked towards the door then sighed. “Alright. Go ahead.”
Abraham stepped forward. He was the oldest of the McCain brothers. “I’m thankful for my wife, Julie and for my three sons and two daughters.” He smiled as the children chuckled as they sat in front of the fire place. His youngest son, Zach, was laying snuggly in his mother’s arms.
Abraham stepped back. Jeremiah stepped forward. “I’m thankful for my wife, Emily and my daughter, Elizabeth. We also have an announcement to make. Next Thanksgiving, we’ll have another member of the family.” Everyone broke out in applause.
Jeremiah stepped back and Lucas’s third brother stepped forward, “I’m thankful for my brothers and sisters. I’m also thankful for a gal by the name of Nancy who will be here as a new member of the family next year.” Everyone cheered at the news.
“It’s about time, big brother!” Lucas declared as he snuggly put an arm around his wife’s shoulders and squeezed her to him.
Jeremiah stepped back. Lucas’s brother-in-law, Jason stepped forward. “Well, I’m sure you are all aware that we will be welcoming a new member of the family.” He patted his wife’s big belly. “There’s a baby in there that should be entering the world in another month or so to join his…or her…big brother, Matt.”
“Maybe two!” Lucas declared. He always enjoyed teasing his younger sister.
Emily shook her finger at her big brother and warned him not to tease her anymore. Lucas smiled.
Jason stepped back. Finally, Lucas’s 19 year old sister, Laura, stepped forward and announced she would be the new teacher in Enid beginning in January. She blushed as everyone cheered for her.
Lucas cleared his throat. “Well, I guess it’s my turn, huh?” He stood behind Margaret and put his hands on her shoulders. Mark grunted to get down, but Margaret kept a firm hold on their boy as Lucas began speaking. “Well, you know how proud I am of my family. I have a wonderful wife.” He smiled as Margaret looked up at him and smiled into his eyes. “And I have a wonderful son.” He lifted a hand and patted Mark’s head. “But I’m thankful that for another year, we can all get together and enjoy each other’s company.”
Lucas stepped forward and studied a white candle in the middle of the table. “I’m sure all the Gibbs family knows this by now, but maybe some of the children don’t. My mother always lit a candle on special occasions. It was always a white candle. When my father was out of the house at night, she’d put a white candle in the window so he could find his way home. When one of us had a bad dream or a problem, Ma would bring in the white candle and set it in the window. We knew as long as that candle was lit, everything was okay. There was always something so…soothing and calming…about the candle. Growing up, we never really understood what it was.
“I remember asking Ma about it once – right before I left for the war. It was the last…” Lucas’s voice broke. Margaret sat Mark down and walked over to Lucas. She put a hand on his shoulder. Lucas smiled at her. “The last time I ever saw my mother…I asked her why she always lit a white candle when one of us were upset or scared…or when Pa was away..on special occasions…You know what she said?” Lucas looked around at the silent faces. The McCain family had their heads bowed as they remembered their sweet mother. “She said that God is light. And in our trials, the light would shine threw and help us see the way clearly. The times she put the light in the window for Pa…it wasn’t for him, but for her. That’s when she needed God’s strength.”
Lucas took the match from his pocket and held it up. “As you all know, Ma and Pa both passed on while I was fighting that bloody war. So every Thanksgiving, the McCain family takes a moment of silence to remember our dear, sweet parents. Well Ma, tonight as we all gather together, we’ll remember you and Pa being that candle in the dark. You are up there with God. Thank you for helping us see things clearly.” Lucas struck the match and lit the candle.
The room was quiet as they bowed their heads and remembered Lucas’s sweet mother, Ruth and his father, Marcus.
The back door to the McCain house opened quietly. Scott and Johnny walked back in and took their places in line. Lucas turned his head and raised his eyebrows at his brothers-in-law. They shook their heads. He looked toward Margaret and saw a look of sadness enter her eyes. “Okay, it’s the Gibbs turn!” Lucas announced. “Who’s first?”
Scott stepped forward with a forced smile. “Amanda and I are blessed with our two boys.” A crash sounded at that moment. The adults turned to see Mark and Scott’s twin boys, Andy and Able, fighting over a toy. The fathers hurried and separated them. Lucas held Mark firmly in his arms while Scott held his sons – one on each arm – in his. “What was I saying?”
Amanda cleared her throat. “I believe it was something about the boys being a blessing.”
Scott looked from one to the other. “Oh yes…A blessing.” Everyone laughed as Scott stepped back into line.
Margaret’s brother-in-law, Philip stepped forward. He smiled. “My wife and I,” he put his arm around Margaret’s sister, Beth, “My wife and I are expecting our first baby as well. He’ll be here around late spring, we expect.”
“Oh Beth!” Margaret threw her hands to her mouth and ran to hug her sister. “That’s wonderful!”
Margaret hurried and returned to her place as she wiped at her tears of joy. Beth had been hoping for a baby now for over two years. This was an answered prayer.
Johnny stepped forward. “I guess I should make my announcement. I won’t be here for Christmas.”
Margaret turned and looked at Lucas. Johnny had been back for only a short time. Margaret often fretted about her younger, footloose and fancy-free brother. He didn’t have a penny to his name and nothing to call his own except an old horse. “I’m keeping pretty busy these days in the Rodeo. Don’t know when I’ll be back.”
Margaret cleared her throat as she tried to regain her composure. She turned at her husband. Then she turned back to the group. “Well…Last year we had Thanksgiving at Mama’s house and I-“
Suddenly, the front door opened. And icy-cold wind blew at the guests. Samuel Gibbs stood in the doorway. His face was filled with remorse and anger. Lucas hurried forward, but Margaret reached out to put a restraining hand on him. “Don’t,” she whispered softly.
Samuel came inside and closed the door. “Started without me, huh? Don’t you respect your elders now days?” Samuel swaggered into the room and stood in the middle. “Don’t I get to say what I’m thankful for?” The room was silent. Smiles disappeared off of the McCain and Gibbs faces. Everyone knew what was coming next – they’d seen it before.
Margaret folded her hands in nervousness. She turned and looked at her husband’s face. He was angry. She turned back to her father then. “Of course, Papa. What are you thankful for?”
Samuel looked around. “Well, I have two fine daughters and two fine sons, don’t I? But…” Samuel turned and swaggered further into the room as everyone stared. “Anybody know what else?”
The room remained quiet. Heads bowed in disapproval and shame. Lucas started to hurry forward, but again was stopped by his wife. He looked down at her and shook his head. Her eyes pleaded with him. Samuel pulled a bottle from his pocket and walked around at the group. Lucas motioned for Charlie to come over. “Take the kids and go in Mark’s room.” Charlie nodded and did as told.
“Sam, why don’t you leave and-“ Lucas started.
“No!” Samuel slurred out angrily as he waved the whisky bottle around in the air. “I have something to say! You know why I drink?” He looked around at all the nervous faces. “I drink because I killed my boy! I did!”
Margaret started forward. “No,” Lucas said in a firm, angry voice. Margaret tried to ignore him, but he held her arm firmly. “I said stay back.”
“Papa,” Margaret called out. “Papa, you didn’t kill Andrew! He was fighting in the war.”
“Oh, but I killed him! I did!” Samuel declared as he waved the whisky bottle around. “I killed him as sure as I stand here with this bottle. You know why he went to war? I told him to. Yes sir, I told him that any man who’s a man should be going to fight in that war. I killed him!”
“Oh Pa, just get out of here!” Johnny said in a disgusted voice. “Just go do your complaining somewhere else!”
Margaret broke her grip from Lucas and ran to stand in front of her father as if to protect him. “Don’t you see?” she asked as she looked around. “That’s why he drinks. He has a terrible…terrible…pain.”
Samuel reached out and stroked Margaret’s long, brown hair. Margaret glanced toward Lucas and saw the boiling anger raging in him. She knew he greatly disapproved of her being near her Pa, but she had to be near him. She loved him. “Yes, my daughter. A pain that…that won’t go away. It killed your Ma.”
Margaret twirled around at that and stared into her father’s eyes. “Papa, you didn’t kill Andrew…and you didn’t kill Mama!”
“I did! I killed her!” Samuel declared. He waved the whisky bottle in the air again. Lucas hurried forward and grabbed his wife by the shoulders. He firmly pulled her back. “Get him out of here before I throw him out!” Lucas bellowed angrily.
Johnny and Scott hurried forward and grabbed their father by the arms. They dragged him outside kicking and screaming. “I killed ‘em! I killed ‘em!” His voice was angry and mournful.
Margaret stood in silence as she watched the door close. They listened in silence as the screaming voice died away. She turned and looked around at her family. “I…I’m sorry,” she said quietly. “They brought the news of my brother’s death on…on Thanksgiving.”
It had been a deep family secret. Lucas gasped when he heard the news his wife had just announced. He had known Margaret’s oldest brother had died in the war, but he had no idea they found out on this day.
Lucas stood frozen in his spot as he watched Margaret and Beth embrace as they remembered back. Margaret walked back toward her husband. “Pa died that day.”
She turned and smiled at Lucas then. “Shall we sing? I’m hungry!”
She cleared her throat. Her beautiful voice started the song and everyone gathered in:
We gather together
to ask the Lord’s blessing;
he chastens and hastens
his will to make known.
The wicked oppressing
now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to his name,
he forgets not his own.
As they sang, the two families gathered in a circle and took hands. The children were all expected to be joined in the circle as well. After the last of the song died, Lucas bowed his head. There was silence in this room as he prayed. “Dear God…There is so much for us to be thankful for on this special day. We have a room full of family here, God. Bless each person in this room. On this day, we can’t forget all the blessing you’ve given us. You gave us a home, family, love…You’ve given me a wonderful wife that I don’t deserve. Each morning when I wake up and find here lying next to me I…Well…I wonder what I ever did to deserve her. Thank you, God.
“And now as we sit down to eat, may the fellowship be pleasant as we remain thankful for all we have.” Lucas lifted his head and looked around. Then he closed his eyes and added one more thing. “For those who aren’t in this room today God, I pray…that you’ll bring healing and understanding. Amen.”
Noise erupted as parents went to fill their children’s plates. Margaret went to fix Mark something to eat when he suddenly tugged on her skirt. Margaret bent down so she could hear his tiny voice speak. He was practically in tears as he spoke. “Seat for Jessie.”
Margaret nodded her head in understanding. She looked around the room for her husband. She caught his eye and he quickly made his way over to her. “You forgot to leave a seat for Jessie!”
“Oh.” Lucas bent down and picked Mark up. “Let’s take care of that right now!” Then he disappeared into the room with his son.
Margaret stood at the table and looked around. She smiled, knowing she had a lot to write about in her diary that night. After giving Mark his food, she made her way over to her brothers who were talking quietly. “Where’s Pa?” she asked.
“Now don’t you worry, sis. He’s safe,” Scott assured her.
“Where?” Margaret asked again. There was a note of determination in her voice as she looked from one brother to the other. “Where?”
“We put him in the barn. He’s okay.”
Margaret made her way to the door. After putting her coat on, she hurried to the barn.
The door squeaked as she opened it. She saw her father sitting on a crate in a corner. He had a coat on and was wrapped snuggly in blankets. “Margie,” Samuel greeted her warmly.
Margaret came to him and crossed her arms. “Why, Papa? You promised you’d stay sober today. You promised.”
Samuel turned from her. He couldn’t’ stand to look into her eyes. “I’m…sorry,” he answered. “I…I tried.”
Margaret walked up to her father and bent down in front of him. She took his hands in her and stared into his eyes. “But why, Papa? Why couldn’t you?”
“I…I don’t know, daughter. I…I just NEED it.” Samuel looked down at the bottle. “The pain is too much.”
“Oh Papa, I lost him too! And I lost Mama! I cared for Grandma in our home until she died! Don’t you think I lost something too?”
Samuel sighed deeply as he bent his head against the wall. “The pain is too much…too much…” He fell asleep.
“Margaret!” She heard Lucas’s voice behind her. She turned to see Lucas standing in an angry stance in the doorway. His arms were crossed in front of him.
“I…I’m not sorry,” she said as she stood up and walked away from her father. “He’s my father, Lucas. Can’t you understand?”
Lucas looked toward the sleeping drunk. “No. I’m afraid I can’t.” He gently took her arm. “Come on, let’s go inside.”
Margaret turned and smiled at her husband as he quietly closed the door to Mark’s bedroom. “He’s asleep?” she asked with a smile.
Lucas nodded. “Finally! He sure did enjoy today…seeing all his cousins together in one place.”
Lucas went to grab a cigar. Margaret watched him walk out onto the porch and begin his nightly ritual of smoking while reflecting quietly on the day. “You gonna join me?” Lucas called to her.
Margaret turned to the bookshelf along the wall and grabbed her diary. “In a little bit,” she answered.
She sat down at the table and began writing.
Thanksgiving is always a nice time to reflect on those things we have. I feel I’ve lost so much this year – my grandmother, my mother, a baby, and the hope of ever having another. I sometimes feel as if my Pa’s dead also.
But I have so much to be thankful for. I have my little boy whom I love so much. He’s so beautiful, and I hope he grows up to be a gentleman like his father. I have a wonderful husband who takes such good care of me and Mark. I couldn’t ask for anything else…
Except for one thing. God, I pray that someday Lucas will be able to put aside the anger he feels for Papa. Help him to see the good in him. Papa’s a wonderful man with a deep hurt, and I hope that someday the two of them will get together and become close. They need each other, I think….Please help Lucas to understand Papa. Bring them together as father-in-law and son-in-law one Thanksgiving soon.
Mark sat down at the kitchen table and opened his mother’s diary. He turned to the entry his mother had written twelve thanksgivings ago. He smiled as he saw the beautiful writing. The pages were wrinkled and the ink had run from tears that had been shed over the pages. Not only were they tears from his own eyes, but also those from his father’s. He ran a hand over the words as he closed his eyes and smiled.
He had read the entry so many times before and never tired of it. Today, in particular, he was proud to read the words. His mother had written those words 12 years ago. And today was the day her words would come true.
He felt a hand on his shoulder as his father bent over to look. “I’m glad Grandpa’s coming for Thanksgiving Dinner, Pa.”
Mark looked up into his father’s eyes like he had his whole life. Lucas sat down next to Mark and put an arm around his son’s shoulders. “You were three years old that year. I bet you don’t remember.”
“No,” Mark answered as he studied the entry again. “But I know Ma would be proud of this day.” Mark suddenly turned to look at his father again. “You reckon she knows?”
Lucas looked up toward the heavens and smiled. He rubbed a finger under his nose. “She knows.” Then he patted his son’s back. “And she’s proud.”
Father and son looked back down at Margaret’s diary and smiled as they once again read her words.