Saturday, September 3, 2016

Labor Day Traditions

On September 4,1999, Hurricane Dennis turned northwestward and made landfall in Cape Lookout, North Carolina, as a strong tropical storm.

On September 5, I woke to torrential downpours after an evening forecast predicting Dennis would finish his life in the Atlantic. I ate eggs, made by my Dad, and sat in the living room in nervous anticipation for the day. The phone rang, and the voice on the other end asked if the event was still happening. I vaguely recall repeating yes, yes it is, then asking my dad to please talk to these people after asking such an absurd question.

I left the house with a Hefty trash bag over my head and rainwater ankle deep. I cancelled my afternoon ride arrangements and had to go to Plan B.

Roughly 7 hours later, I was Mrs. Ghon Eckley, riding to my wedding reception in a limo rather than a horse and buggy. 

Grandma Grace, me, Ghon, Grandma Genevieve
For the greater part of the last 17 years, Ghon and I have spent our anniversary weekend with our extended family cooking chili. I used to grumble about it some, but there was no point. We'd cooked this weekend before we were married, no reason to stop now. A few years ago, we switched from cooking to being the Chief Judge and Scorekeeper of one, and more recently, two events over the weekend. Ghon had suggested a few months ago that perhaps we chair and judge a third in Winchester. After all, it is a 3 day weekend...

As with any other weekend, there is a lot to do around the farm. I'm still trying to move furniture and stuff out of my dad's house and to the farm. The last round of oil should be going down in the living room so I can start moving a sofa in. I see what has to move and get a little overwhelmed. Evenings don't leave a lot of time to do much, and my kitchen counter has been overcome with boxes and such, waiting for me to assemble pantry shelves or a cat scratching post when we can finally bring our cats to live with us. A three day weekend would give me a lot of time to do something.

I knew after Ghon died that there were three cookoffs that we had agreed to judge at and would be scrambling. The first was just a week after, and fortunately, our friends the Violettes jumped right in and handled the event. Then, I knew I had to make some decisions about my double header anniversary weekend.

I opted to bow out of the Saturday event. And if I took on Sunday, I knew I'd need a Chief Judge. No one of course will be Ghon, but I can't wear both hats here. I sent my request, and once our friend Dave agreed, it was a done deal, I was going to Hanover. This event has often fell on our anniversary, and was on our wedding day. This year, it's the day before.

So tomorrow, I will spend would should have been my 16 year and 364 days of being married to Ghon at the PA State Chili Cookoff. I'll be scorekeeping, Jonathan is competing in a new event, the Ghon Eckley Memorial Youth Division, and Genevieve will be terrorizing, I mean helping, a few friends in their chili booths. 

I'm sure some people wonder how in the world I could do this. How can I attend the cookoff without Ghon? How can I still scorekeep without him? Why am I out having fun when my husband died just over 2 months ago? Why am I not sitting around in complete sorrow on my anniversary? 

My grief is my own. The stupid things make me cry. The big things make me cry. And while it may sound hokey to some, I know that Ghon does not want me sitting around doing nothing. He would want me out doing something. Chili cooking became his competitive outlet, but I introduced him to this world. And I've said it a million times, but my chili friends are more than friends, but are family. The emotions I felt at Ghon's celebration of life when I saw members of my chili family attend that were at our wedding. Amazing. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Not being at in Hanover on Labor Day weekend would make me think more about the void in my life by making that void even bigger. 

Attending this event - it gives me the opportunity to continue Ghon's passion and keep his memory alive. As we drove to Hanover, the kids and I listened to some of dad's favorite music, told stories, and ate dinner where we always ate the Saturday night before the cookoff. Genevieve remembered that 3 years ago, she had a fish in this room. If I was home, working on the house or building shelving, we would not be remembering Ghon the same way.

And I know, that if emotions run high tomorrow at the chili cookoff, I will have a sea of support. I won't be home alone, or alone with the kids. I have framily that know him, understand him and whether they loved him, hated him, or loved to hate him, appreciate who he was. Turning my back on my friends, when they have been there for me, is not something I can do. And I know, that they won't turn their back on me tomorrow if I need them.

Celebrating anniversary 16 in 2015 by visiting the chapel we were married in - after the chili cookoff.

So for tomorrow, I'll keep  our tradition going. Spending the day in Hanover PA, counting the hours till the rain comes, because it always does, and remembering Ghon. Especially that one cookoff where he went swimming in the flash flood. Or the one he dressed up like a viking. Or the one where.....

On our anniversary, Monday, I'll remember him. I'll probably cry. I'll feel overwhelmed with how much there is to do. I'll be angry that he isn't here to help. And I'll probably look at my wedding album and tell a story or two to the kids. Most of all, I'll reflect on a love that was never ending. Our relationship wasn't always perfect, but it was damn near. One thing I can never deny is the amount of love he had for me. I just pray, and remind him daily, how much I have always loved him, and always will.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful ๐Ÿ˜. Here is to a wonderful, friend filled cook off๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป