KEEPING PAIN HIDDEN BEHIND A SMILE

I realized a couple or so weeks ago that I am a damn good actress.  I am very good at laughing along with the crowd, making jokes, and merely going along with the flow.  By looking at me, you would not know that I have been maneuvering my life through darkness and pain.

Our home was filled with the celebration of Thanksgiving.  People started to arrive for dinner and the noise level continued to grow.  Pretty soon, we were elbow to elbow, laughing, filling up our plates and catching up on our lives.   There was no talk of sadness, drama yes, but sadness was no where to be seen or heard unless you crawled into my head.  My heart ached.  My head felt heavy.  Thanksgiving is …was…my son Joey’s  favorite holiday.  He was always the first one to arrive and the first one to start packing up leftovers.  I can still see him packing his plate to the rim as I laughingly yelled out to him “Joey, there is plenty of food!” He would give me that mischievous crooked smile of his,  squint his eyes sideways and say “I’ve been waiting for this all week, mother!”  He would pat his sculpted stomach and say how he had room in there for his plate plus second helpings.  Half way through the first meal, though, he would push himself away from the table, balancing the chair on the back to legs and start to moan.  He would get up, walk to the restroom as he announced to the family, he was “going to make room.”  A combined sound of EEWWW’s came from the crowd followed by laughter.  That was my Joey.  His personality exonerated through the room.

This year, our second Thanksgiving without him, was more manageable than last year.  Notice I didn’t say easier.  Life continues, and we have had 364 days of life’s events to maneuver through.  I know he was on peoples minds.  How could he not be?  He was the oldest of all the cousins, the nieces and nephews, the grandchildren.  He set the legacy that was to be carried out throughout future Thanksgiving. …eat till you feel as if you’re going to explode then eat some more!  But, most importantly, start packing up your left overs before the guests go back for seconds!  I always had to forewarn my other kids that Joey was going for the containers!  His sister would jump up of her chair, followed by his brother.  The elbow fought as they packed up food.  I miss that more than I can say.

Even as our house began filling up with the sounds of the start of the holiday season, it was still not loud enough. As full as it was, there was still a spot of emptiness.  There was a voice missing, a chair was empty, a Tupperware container unused.  I swallowed hard every time I thought of him trying to hold it together.  I held back tears when I looked at my children.  Never once, though, did I show any sign of grief.  As usual, I smiled, laughed, engaged in conversation, all the while feeling the ache in my heart.

Apparently, I didn’t know how well people thought I was holding up.  At the end of the evening, as a guest was departing, she hugged me and said to me “I am so happy you are getting better…or at least pretending to.”  I gently pulled away and replied, “Yes,…The Emmy goes to..!”

I have come to understand that there will always be days, events, moments, in my life that will make me feel as if I am drowning.  Times when I can’t breath. There will be the occasion when my heart re shatters all over again and I feel as if the rug has been pulled away from under my feet.  And during those times, when someone asks me how I am holding up, I will answer them “ As good as any Emmy Award winning actress can!”

I WILL NEVER FORGET BUT I CAN ALWAYS PRETEND….