What Number Is Your Turkey?

[I’ll be taking a break from the blog next week. In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy this repost from 2009.]

woman-tempted-by-thanksgiving-turkeyEvery November when my mom worried about making the Thanksgiving turkey, Dad tried his best to encourage her by reminding her how many turkeys she had cooked through the years.

“We’ve been married 27 years, and you’ve made 27 turkeys. It’ll be fine

”We’ve been married 40 years, and you’ve made 40 turkeys. It’ll be fine.”

“We’ve been married 50 years . . .”

I’m sure that Mom prayed to God each time she put a turkey into the oven. “Dear God, thank You for this turkey. Now, please help me to cook it just right so it won’t be dry. Amen.”

She checked the bird often. She tested it for brownness and juiciness, and when it was done and brought to the table she’d say, “I hope that it’s okay.” Then Dad would announce the annual turkey number, proclaim that the bird was fine, and finally, we would eat.

The last turkey was number 57. We didn’t know that it would be the last. A few months after Thanksgiving, Mom suddenly became ill and died. That same year, Dad moved to a nursing home.

His dementia progressed quickly. He no longer remembered the number of turkeys that Mom had made, but he remembered Mom. After a while, he forgot that I was his daughter, and I became Betty. I looked like my mother, and I sounded like her, and that, I think, was a comfort to Dad.

virtual-concierge-assisted-living-300x200On each of the nine years that he lived in the nursing home, I cooked our traditional Thanksgiving dinner, packed it up, and took it there to share with him. Like my mother, I worried about the turkey. I’d say to Dad, “I hope that it’s okay.” I expected him to answer that this was turkey number 58, 59, 60 . . . and it would be fine. But he didn’t. Gone was the traditional exchange between my parents. Lost was the annual turkey count. But we went on sharing our Thanksgiving meals, father and daughter together.

This year, I’m thankful for all those worrisome Thanksgiving turkeys that I shared with my mother. I’m equally thankful for the additional Thanksgivings that I had with my dad. But, most of all, I’m thankful for memories of the little things: Mom and Dad bickering about the turkey, and the wonderful smell of it roasting in the oven when I walked through the door.

Those little things reminded me that I was home—and everything was fine.

What number is your turkey?

I wish you, my readers, a blessed holiday filled with cherished memories, and, most of all, a turkey that turns out fine!

Please take a minute to watch this short video about the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Then, pass it on:


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Filed under Thanksgiving

47 Years Missing in Action—This Vietnam Vet is Coming Home


Photo courtesy of Michael Van Bendegom

In 1967, James Van Bendegom joined the Army to fight in the Vietnam War. Unlike some high school seniors who planned to attend college and avoid the draft, James enlisted. He quit school and left for Vietnam on Father’s Day.

On July 12 of ‘67, 18-year-old Van Bendegom was on patrol in the Ia Drang Valley, near the Cambodian border, when the enemy ambushed his company and nearly wiped them out. Fifty-five American soldiers died, many of them executed as they lay wounded in the battlefield. James and at least one other survivor were captured.

The name James Lee Van Bendegom joined the long list of American MIAs, whereabouts unknown.

James was classified as missing-in-action for several years. Then, based on circumstantial evidence in 1969, his family received word that “Jim” might be alive and a prisoner of war. That hope was dashed, however, in 1973 when returning war prisoners reported that Jim had died of his battlewounds. His body, they assumed, had been left in a mass grave.

Life went on. Jim’s brothers married and had children, Jim’s parents grew old, his dad died in 2002, and his mom turned 89 this year—

VeteransThen, a few weeks ago on October 17, Jim’s mom received a phone call. A portion of Jim’s remains have been found and positively identified through DNA testing.

Jim is finally coming home.

This week, a police escort will lead Jim back to Kenosha, Wisconsin. Citizens there will line the streets to pay their respects as his motorcade passes by. Then on Veteran’s Day, James Lee Van Bendegom, a casualty of the Vietnam War, will finally be laid to rest, at 11 AM, with full military honors.

His mother will be there to welcome Jim home. And as her son’s remains are lowered into the grave, in her heart she might hear him whisper, “Mom, I’m not dead . . .

“God armed me with strength, and He made my way perfect. He made me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. He trained my hands for battle; He strengthened my arm to draw a bronze bow. He gave me His shield of victory. Now, His right hand supports me, and His help has made me great.” [paraphrased from Psalm 18:32–35 NLT]

Welcome home, Jim. Welcome home.

We honor you,

the 522 American soldiers still classified as MIA,

and all those who served . . .


Read more about James here.

Local newspaper article



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Filed under Freedom, Veteran's Day