aging, Caring for a parent, Dementia, family caregiver

Thanksgiving without Turkey

We weren’t even going to “do” Thanksgiving. I was/am sick, Rebecca had one of her two days a year off from her store, no family was coming, and we both wanted to stay in our pajamas all day and watch sappy holiday movies and knit. Well, I wanted to watch sappy movies and knit; I don’t know what Rebecca wanted to do on her pajama day. But there was Mama, who kind of does that everyday—the “nothing” part anyway. So we pulled it together and had dinner. Our friend Sue, who is as close to family as you can be without sharing DNA, (who also wanted to stay in her pajamas all day) came, too. But we had no turkey.

What’s the turkey for, really? Turkey sandwiches for the next week—there is that, and that is not to be undervalued—and it smells good roasting; but who really likes it? And the picking it off the carcass after dinner, ugh. It anchors the plate, that’s what it does. Well, we saved a turkey from beheading yesterday. At least I hope there is one running around because of us. Or will be next year because of decreased demand. We had butternut squash/goat cheese toasts (Sue made them and they were delish!); sauteed chard with apricots and goat cheese, mashed potatoes, and cranberry chutney (my contributions, it’s not Thanksgiving without the chutney); butternut squash dressing, scalloped oysters, green beans with caramelized cipollini onions and chanterelle mushrooms (Rebecca, who didn’t want to spend the day cooking, spent the day making those, and enjoyed it), and pumpkin pie (Mama’s contribution with her caregiver’s “help”). There was also roasted chicken cut into medallions left over from Mama and Michelle’s Wednesday cooking spree, but no one ate it.

The only thing was, Rebecca and I both thought the other had discussed the plan with Mama. There were plenty of hints, like Rebecca saying she was making side dishes, but there wouldn’t be turkey; and me making chutney at 7am before Mama got up, so as not to be around her with my cold. And there was our assumption that she knew because she made a pie. But she can no longer make deductions based on hints—except things that only she recognizes as hints: like joking that “I really just want to stay in my pajamas all day.” No one sat down with her and said clearly what the plan was and then repeated it multiple times over several days (and we didn’t even have a plan several days in advance), so she accepted the kind promise of a plate from the neighbor because Gretchen was sick and Rebecca was too busy. We thought that was fine, because then there would be turkey, so we STILL didn’t sit down and tell her the plan. Because we still didn’t get that she didn’t get it.

Then my nephew called on Thanksgiving afternoon and I overheard Mama tell him, sounding all abandoned, we weren’t having dinner. Uh oh. I explained the plan thoroughly then; and she called our kind neighbor and told her “my daughters came through with a meal afterall, I don’t need yours.” And there went the turkey part.

The learnings of the day: There is no room for spontaneity (alternately known as procrastination) when dealing with an old person. And you have to thoroughly explain. And you have to repeat (repeat, repeat). And don’t make a joke, because that is what will be heard and remembered.

On another note, I very much enjoyed clearing the table of it usual detritus and making it look pretty—I got my own flatware out of storage, too; it was nice to see it after 28 months. Candles even. And dimming the lights. Mama really can’t see what’s on her plate anymore anyway, so maybe there can be a return to better ambiance more often.

This post was going to be just a little bit about Thanksgiving and mostly about my NaNoWriMo experience, and my return to the blog now that November is over. Next time.

Happy thanksgiving to you and yours. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to learn from my mother, lessons she doesn’t know she is teaching. (I could do without the lessons she thinks she is imparting, like her instruction yesterday to pull the chairs out from the table when I vacuum—a lesson she successfully imparted when I was 14.) And I am grateful to the readers of this blog who are struggling through their own learnings about aging, and who share them with me.

As we enter the holiday season, may you have a reflective Advent, a joyous Christmas, and a hopeful New Year. Gretchen


7 thoughts on “Thanksgiving without Turkey”

  1. Hey ! My birthday !
    Always wonderful when gratitude day falls on MY day. The toasts, the sauteed chard, cranberry chutney , those green beans AND pie ? Sounds perfectly delicious. This post had me laughing. I hope the ambience for the dinner hour has improved all these months later ! ♡


    1. I just love reading your posts. Really, I enjoy reading about your experiences. I am older than you are and younger than your mother. So, i am not quite in your mother’s position but I understand about trying to live while taking care of someone.


  2. A happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. And now onward to the rest of the winter holidays.

    Thanks for sharing your experience for me to soak up. Human psychology is amazing, isn’t it? Especially the aged variety.


  3. Delightful story of the day…nothing missing!! As always, thanks for sharing! Off to the hill country winery, to hear music too!


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