What Number is Your Turkey

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:6 ESV

(Reposted from Thanksgiving 2009)

My mother was the official turkey maker for our Thanksgiving dinners. Every year, Mom would fret about cooking the turkey, and Dad would answer by telling 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.” It was the same conversation each Thanksgiving, and the turkey was always fine.


I confess, that I was somewhat annoyed by their annual exchange. Sometimes when we’re young, we miss the significance of the little things – those little exchanges that couples have again and again.


Mom was a worrier, and I’m sure that she prayed to God each time she put a turkey into the oven. She read her Bible daily, and Philippians 4:6 was a verse that she liked to quote: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. “Dear God, thank you for this turkey. Now, please help me to cook it just right so it won’t turn out dry. Amen.”


Mom checked the bird often. She tested it for brownness and juiciness, and when it was finally done and presented to the table she always said, “I hope that it’s okay.” That’s when Dad would chime in and announce the annual turkey number and proclaim that the bird was fine.


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


Dad had dementia that progressed rapidly after he lost his wife. He no longer remembered the number of turkeys that Mom had cooked through the years, but he remembered Mom. As time went on, he forgot that I was his daughter. I became Betty, his wife. I looked like her and I sounded like her, and that, I think, was a comfort to my dad. In his mind, his beloved wife was still with him, and although I wished that he’d remember me, I played along. I was Betty.

On each of the nine Thanksgivings that Dad was in the nursing home, I cooked our traditional Thanksgiving dinner at home, packed it up, and took it there to share with him. Like my mother, I fretted about the turkey and wondered if it would be done enough or if I had overcooked it and it would be dry. The nursing home staff always prepared a private dining room where Dad and I could sit together and eat our Thanksgiving meal. In Dad’s mind, he was home. “I hope the turkey’s okay,” I found myself saying as I presented Dad with a steaming plate of food. I half expected him to answer that this was turkey number 58 and it would be fine, but he didn’t. I fed him the turkey because he was no longer able to feed himself. He said that it was good. 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, until he died.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This year, I’m thankful for all the Thanksgiving turkeys that I shared with my Mom in joyful holiday fellowship. I’m equally thankful for the additional Thanksgivings that I had with my dad. Although the circumstances were sad, and grew more difficult with each passing year, we had each other. I’m most thankful for memories of the little things: my mom and dad bickering about the turkey and the wonderful smell of it roasting in the oven when I walked through the door. It was those little things that reminded me that I was home…and everything was fine.

Dear Lord: On this Thanksgiving Day, we give thanks to you for family, home, and for the sweet remembrance of Thanksgivings gone by. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

What number is your turkey? I wish you, my readers, a blessed holiday filled with little things that become cherished memories…and most of all, I wish you a turkey that turns out fine!

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8 Comments

Filed under Thanksgiving

8 responses to “What Number is Your Turkey

  1. That was really special..I'm going to forward to friends who are struggling with effects of Alzheimers and aging parents. It is important to remember these years with my immediate family…knowing that all does change…Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Jean.

  2. Thanks, Jamie. You have a great Thanksgiving, too!

  3. This is the first time I've visited your blog and you had me in tears mixed with bouts of laughter! Thank you for sharing your story. May you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  4. Herstoryan, Thank you for visiting my blog. I wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving, too.

  5. Jean, what a beautiful family story! I, too, am thankful for the many Thanksgiving's in the past with my parents and siblings ~ when things seemed so perfectly simple. It's those little memories that we should hold onto and treasure, and let God handle the worries. He is so much better at it than we are. Thank you for sharing your treasure, and may you and your family have a blessed Thanksgiving [and may your turkey be perfect]!Caroline

  6. Thanks, Caroline. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and may your turkey be just fine 🙂

  7. Hi Jean -Thank you for the beautiful remembrances of past Thanksgivings. My grandparents and Dad are in heaven, but I'm blessed my Mom is still with me. If I could say one thing, it's keep a record of all the little things. They become so meaningful as we get older.Blessings,Susan 🙂

  8. Hi, Susan.I agree. It's the little things that we remember when our loved ones are gone.Wishing you and your Mom a blessed Thanksgiving.Jean

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