Five years after Dad dies, Jeannette and her new husband, John, host the family for Thanksgiving dinner. John is a writer who admires Jeannette’s strength and says her scars prove that she is strong. Brian is a decorated sergeant and recently divorced, and Lori is an illustrator.
The family eats a large meal, and Brian notes that if someone is determined to put food on the table, they will find a way to do it. Jeannette often has similar thoughts upon seeing abundant amounts of food. Lori admonishes him for bringing up the past, but the conversation remains good-natured. Sitting down for dinner, they all toast to Dad’s life.
As, Jeannette, Lori, and Brian appear to grow into well-adjusted adults, Mom, Dad, and Maureen struggle to adapt to life in New York City, highlighting their lack of independence. Mom and Dad’s unique struggles on the streets of New York City highlight their toxic dynamic. Away from Mom, Dad manages to stay sober for nearly half a year, but when he comes back, he returns to his old habits and behavior. Mom can’t be blamed for Dad’s alcoholism, but the two of them do appear to bring out the worst in each other. Jeannette supposes that Maureen’s inability to establish independence in New York City could be attributed to the fact that she survived in Welch by relying on others, unlike her siblings who learned to fend for themselves. Her psychotic break later in life reveals one of the many flaws in Mom and Dad’s extreme parenting style. As the youngest child, Maureen grew up during the most turbulent episodes the Walls family went through, which meant she got the least functional and present versions of Mom and Dad as her guides. Unlike her siblings, Maureen never received the tools she needed to thrive.
Toward the end of his life, Dad appears to regret his loss of connection with Jeannette and attempts to make amends in his own way. His anger at receiving warm clothes for Christmas demonstrates that Jeannette’s care for him hurts his pride. In light of this, we can see his contribution to Jeannette’s college tuition as an attempt to restore balance in their relationship by, for once, providing for Jeannette’s education. His understanding that Jeannette might not want him at graduation demonstrates a before unseen humility and suggests that he now is willing to put Jeannette’s feelings before his own. Although they never truly reconcile, Jeannette and Dad manage to forge a kind of relationship before his death through Dad’s interest in her journalism career. These small steps allow Jeannette to remember what she once loved about Dad, making it possible for her to agree to John’s toast at the end.
As Jeannette becomes more secure in her new life, she begins to reach a place of understanding with her parents, and even finds herself able to learn from them. When Mom and Dad become squatters on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, she recognizes that they found purpose and a place to belong. Jeannette notices that while her parents’ life as squatters allows them to live in accordance to their true selves, her life, while comfortable, forces her to deny her roots. She keeps her past hidden from her colleagues, fearing that she would lose her job if people found out about her parents. After Dad dies, Jeannette grows restless and unsatisfied, divorces her husband, and moves to a new part of town, indicating that she realizes she has not yet truly found the home she was searching for with Eric in New York City. When Jeannette and her second husband John host the family for Thanksgiving dinner five years later, it appears Jeannette has found her true home. John states that he views her scar as a sign of her strength symbolizing his acceptance of and appreciation for everything Jeannette endured to become the person she is now.