The aroma of roast turkey with stuffing, green bean casserole, homemade cranberry sauce, apple stuffing and, most importantly, the hearty laughter of Thanksgiving gatherings, were some of the things Victor despised.
So as he walked the aisles of the grocery store that night, shopping for groceries, he cursed himself for not doing it sooner. Because everywhere he looked, he saw people buying supplies for the special dinner.
The smiles on the faces of those people and the happiness in their eyes looking forward to a Thanksgiving gathering with their loved ones irritated Victor, but more than that, they depressed him.
The 73-year-old had lost his family in a terrible car accident on Thanksgiving eve years before. He had no one to love and no one to love him.
So it had been just him, his peace and quiet, for years after losing his family. He never talked to his neighbors or spent time with them. He was always at home. Inside, feeling terrible and alone.
But that year, something strange happened. Victor received an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner from Pamela, the crotchety old lady who lived next door and hated him….
«And there you go again!» complained Pamela when Victor accidentally bumped into her at the grocery store. «Old man! Those eyes of yours… they don’t work anymore, do they?».
«I’m sorry, Pamela!» the older man said forcefully. «Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need those beans off the shelf!».
«Ah, I’m not moving from here until I’m done! And don’t even think about fighting me!».
«You’re horrible!» he sighed.
«Look who’s talking!» the older woman replied with a smile. «You’re the one who never leaves his house and hates people! They call you a recluse, Victor, and I can see why!».
«Well, that’s all thanks to you, Pamela!» the man said, irritated. «No one would have called me that if you hadn’t spread those rumors! What else did you tell all the neighbors — that I killed my wife and daughter?»
Pamela cleared her throat, knowing she was to blame.
«Yeah, whatever, it’s not like we’re wrong! You don’t have a family!».
«You’ve been hiding inside your house ever since you moved in here, watching people walk by through your living room curtains. How do you explain that? You need to get a life, Victor! You’re not the only one who’s lost his family!».
The older man could no longer stand Pamela.
«I hate you!» he complained. «I wish you had died instead of my family! I hate you so much!» he said as he walked away.
Pamela, who usually argued until she had the upper hand in the argument, stood like a corpse, watching Victor leave. For the first time, she didn’t go after him, yelling and proving her point.
Victor, on the other hand, finished his shopping quickly and left the supermarket without even looking at her. But as he sat alone that night, he couldn’t get Pamela’s words out of his head, «You’re not the only one who has lost his family.»
The next morning, as he ate breakfast, Victor noticed that his neighbors were already welcoming their families, which made him feel terrible.
He had moved to a new town, to a new neighborhood, after losing his wife and daughter, hoping that his life would change. But that didn’t happen. He never fell in love again and was never able to leave his seclusion.
So, like any other Thanksgiving, the older man decided to visit the cemetery to spend time with his family.
He would buy flowers at the store near the cemetery and sit by the graves of his wife and daughter, telling them how much he missed them.
But that night, as he was about to leave for the cemetery, Victor heard a knock at the door. He looked at the time and wondered who had come to see him. He never had visitors, and it was particularly strange for him because it was Thanksgiving.
He looked through the living room curtains and was surprised to see Pamela on the front porch.
«What is she doing here?» he complained. «I’m not opening that door!».
But Pamela caught him looking at her and started yelling.
«I know you’re in there somewhere, man! Open the damn door!».
«Get lost!» said Victor. «Aren’t you tired of bugging me all these years, I’ve got to go visit my late wife and daughter!».
«I’m not leaving until you open the door!» she said. «I have something important to say! It won’t take long!».
At last, Victor opened the door.
«What’s your problem?» he asked. «Why can’t you just leave me alone?».
«Come to my house when you get back from visiting your family,» she said shyly. «I’d… I’d like to invite you to Thanksgiving dinner.»
«You what?» asked Victor, surprised.
«This is precisely what bothers me about you. For God’s sake, didn’t you hear me? I’d appreciate it if you’d join me for Thanksgiving! An hour would be fine!». After saying this, Pamela turned and went home.
Victor didn’t know what to say. The woman who couldn’t stand him and despised him so much that she spread rumors about him had invited him to Thanksgiving dinner.
«Should I go?» the older man wondered, not knowing what to do.
But somewhere in his heart, there was a voice telling him that maybe he should.
«I’m sorry, my loved ones,» he whispered to his late wife and daughter. «I’m afraid I won’t be able to visit you today.»
And an hour later, Victor was standing on Pamela’s front porch, about to have his first Thanksgiving dinner since he had lost his family.
But he hesitated to knock. Suddenly he thought of turning to leave, but before he could do so, the older woman appeared in the doorway.
«Come in,» she said quietly. «Do you think you’re the only one who can see people through the living room window?»
«Ah… well…thank you.»
When Victor walked in, he saw a huge table with the most delicious Thanksgiving dishes: roast turkey with all the stuffing, mashed potatoes, apple pie and much more, but there wasn’t a single person there except him and Pamela.
«Your family’s not here?» he asked, «I thought they’d be here.»
«They didn’t have time,» the older woman said sadly. «They don’t care about me anymore-is this what it’s like to be alone? Aren’t we in the same boat, Victor?»
«I guess not,» he said. «My family is dead. You can still invite yours for next year.»
«This is the third,» she said through tears. «This is the third year in a row they haven’t shown up. My kids and grandkids said they just don’t have time. I spent hours putting this together, you know. I also made the apple pie. My grandson, he loves it.»
Victor felt bad for Pamela. Seeing her sad, he realized that she wasn’t really a moody woman; instead, she was a lot like him, someone who longed for the love of a family.
«Well,» the older man said after a pause. «I love apple pie too! Is that why you invited this old man?».
«I felt bad for you,» she said. «You didn’t buy anything for Thanksgiving yesterday. You never do… I haven’t seen you celebrate a single occasion since you moved into this neighborhood, nor have we neighbors tried to invite you…».
Victor sat down at the table and said:
«Well, that’s because of your rumors, isn’t it? Listen, Pamela, how about you put everything aside and we enjoy all this food? I’m a little hungry, to be honest.»
«Thank you,» she said. Tears streamed down her cheeks. «Thank you for accepting my invitation. I felt terrible when my family turned me down once again I miss my children so much! And I feel bad about those rumors…I’m sorry. But I did it because…»
Victor smiled, «Okay. How about you sit down and continue with the story?»
Pamela wiped away her tears, sat down and served the food.
«I noticed you as soon as you moved into this neighborhood,» she began. «I was thrilled that someone was moving in next door. You see, your house had been empty for a long time.»
«I was so glad to see you that I baked a cake and decided to visit. But man! You slammed the door in my face! ‘I don’t accept things from strangers!’ That’s what you said to me with your grumpy tone!».
Victor couldn’t help but laugh. It had been a long time since he had laughed so hard. «Did I do that?» he asked.
Pamela smiled. «Yes you did!» she said. «You did!»
«God, no wonder you’ve hated me all this time!».
«Who said I hated you?».
«You never hated me?» asked Victor.
«I HATE YOU!» she corrected him with a goofy grin. «I STILL HATE YOU, man! I’ll never forgive you for avoiding everything! You could have moved on, Victor, I invited you because I felt bad for you! Look at you now, happily eating all this food.»
«The turkey is amazing!» the older man replied, his mouth full. «Do you have ice cream? Let’s have apple pie with it!».
Pamela laughed. «You’re worse than my eight-year-old grandson! I have vanilla ice cream — will it work?».
«Perfect!» he said. «That’s my favorite!».
«Mine too,» she said quietly. «If you don’t mind me asking, what happened to your family? It’s okay if you don’t want to tell me…».
The smile on Victor’s face faded and he took a moment before he could respond.
«They had an accident,» he finally said. «My wife was driving my daughter to school when their car crashed. It’s been years, but I still feel like it was yesterday when I lost them.»
«I held their funeral and burial after I moved here. I left my old house two days after everything happened. I didn’t want to live in the city that had taken my daughter and wife.»
«I don’t know if anyone has told you this, Victor,» Pamela said softly, «but you are one of the strongest people I’ve ever seen in my life. You were brave enough to face life alone.»
«After my husband died, I lost hope of living, but my daughter cheered me up. I had her, but you… you had no one, but you didn’t give up. I’m proud of you, old man!».
The older man smiled. «Victor,» he said. «I wish you’d call me that. I’m not that old!» and Pamela smiled back.
Overall, the dinner was pleasant and the best part was that Victor and Pamela no longer hated each other. In fact, a deep connection, one of love, blossomed between them soon after, and they realized they needed each other.
Six months later, that feeling became something more beautiful. Victor and Pamela exchanged wedding vows in an intimate ceremony, promising to continue their bittersweet discussions until God called them to their heavenly bed.
Pamela made Victor realize that life was about moving on. Starting over and moving on didn’t mean ignoring the loss of loved ones.
And well, that helped the man recover from his loss and Pamela find someone who would love her and never leave her alone.