“Can I help with the turkey?” Dad inquired at 8:00 a.m., approaching slowly, barely able to stand, with his thrift store not-a-walker, which has become his favorite walker. “No,” Mom responded definitively. Of course not. She has planned this Thanksgiving turkey bake for weeks. She bought the frozen turkey a month ago, placed it in the refrigerator a week ago, and dressed it an hour ago. “Should we turn the oven on now?” he queried, wanting to helpful, but much to late in the process to be helpful. “No, the turkey isn’t going in until 9:00,” she explained. The more Dad tried to help, the more he intruded on her well-made plans. “If we turn the oven on now, it will be pre-heated by 9:00,” he ventured again. “That’s too early,” she barked. “The oven only takes ten minutes to pre-heat.” Dad slinked away slowly, unable to be helpful, because he had not made the plan and did not know the plan, and because his too-late suggestions interloped on the well-established plan. He had been good-hearted, well-meaning, but extraneous. I watched this collapsed negotiation and felt an ache. Mom and Dad have navigated their relationship for 62 years. Are they any better at it now than early on? Are the negotiations any easier than at first? Relationships are always a challenge, always a negotiation, always a struggle of overlapping egos and an accommodation of disparate wills. Even the good-hearted and well-meaning work to exhaustion nudging those two wills to one purpose. After my 27-year marriage, I was beyond tired, and I wonder still these seven years later if I would ever find the courage and strength to take up anew the dance of negotiation and compromise. Being alone is so much easier, having only occasional arguments with myself. But at times I pull out the scales and examine the platters hung on chains, weighing the ease of aloneness against the terribleness of loneliness, watching them teeter on the fulcrum of elusive equilibrium. Dad asked me to string the bushes with Christmas lights, since he cannot do it anymore, with particular colors in a particular order on particular bushes, and I invited my capable creative son John to help me. He suggested a fun variety of colors for adjacent bushes, nowhere close to Dad’s plan, but I figured Dad would not really notice, not being able to walk anywhere near that far, and rarely seeing his yard after dark. Just then Dad shot through the front door on his power wheelchair to come inspect my work. And I figured it would be better, in this case, to ask permission than forgiveness, so I intercepted him en route, told him of John’s color notion, and asked him if that would be alright. Of course, having been asked, he said yes, and sat in his chair on the sidewalk, cheering us on, expressing his excitement and gratitude. “I just love seeing Christmas lights on my bushes. This is important to me, and makes me happy.” That negotiation worked out well—I love happy endings—and did not even leave me feeling taxed. The job done, he wheeled and we walked into the house for small slices of very rich French pear almond tart.
Tag Archives: Thanksgiving
Courage at Twilight: In Which Roger Finds the Courage to Cook Julia Child’s Delectable Boeuf Bourguignon
Alone with Mom and Dad on Thanksgiving, I determined to make a nice meal (that was not a turkey), and found my courage to try Julia Child’s recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon (beef stewed in red wine). The recipe had intimidated me for a long time, because of the expensive ingredients (quality cut of beef, bottle of Bordeaux) and the many involved steps that have to come together. Boil and brown the bacon sticks. Brown the beef cubes. Sauté the sliced carrots and onions. Pour in the red wine and broth. Simmer in the oven for three hours while sautéing small whole onions and quartered mushrooms to add later. “Do not crowd the mushrooms,” Julia charged. The last step was to boil the wine and broth down to a thick gravy to pour over the platter of beef, bacon, onions, carrots, and mushrooms. To my wonder and delight, the meal was a smashing succulent success. I felt quite proud of myself as the three of us chewed with delighted mmmms and ahhhhs. How disappointing to get full so fast! I will not prepare this dish often, but the four-hour cook time was worth the happy result as we quietly concluded our Thanksgiving Day with our meal of French Boeuf Bourguignon.
Courage at Twilight: Stopping the Spread
Living now with my parents, I cannot fathom the reality that we had no family gatherings with Mom and Dad for 18 months due to Covid-19. My sister Sarah grocery shopped for them every Saturday during those months. I cooked for them on occasion. We always wore masks and washed and sanitized our hands and kept our distance—no hugs (except for “air hugs”). My siblings called Mom and Dad frequently, sometimes daily. Sarah, as a speech pathologist, works at a critical care facility with people who suffer from conditions affecting their communication and swallowing. While donning head-to-toe personal protective equipment, she watched Covid rage through her patients, ending the lives of too many. My siblings and I all understood and respected that if Mom and Dad contracted Covid in their aged and weakened conditions, we likely would lose them, as so many thousands lost members of their families. To keep them safe, we did our little part to stop the spread, following all the recommended precautions, putting philosophy and politics aside in the interest of safety. Mom and Dad received their first Pfizer vaccine at a huge convention center. Hundreds of old and infirm people stood for hours in long lines, walking from station to station around the entire perimeter of the hall—fully a mile. Dad thought his cane would do, but shortly into the ordeal he confided to me, “I don’t think I’m going to make it.” I had him sit down while I ran for a wheelchair. They received their third shot this week at a local health department facility, walking 20 feet past the front door to their seats, with no wait. What a difference between the two experiences! But in all three cases, the nursing staff were so kind and pleasant and helpful. After all the family members were fully vaccinated, we began to visit again. My sister Jeanette recently came to visit from Arizona for a week. We cooked together and played Scattergories and drove to see the fall leaves in the mountain forests. And we broke out the fall crafts: wood pumpkins, a harvest-themed wreath, and a tall scarecrow. My niece Amy joined in, painting the eyes black and the nose orange. How grateful we are to be safe, healthy, and together again.
My first ever attempt at a wreath.