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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2 Comments

Filed under Thanksgiving

2 responses to “What Number Is Your Turkey?

  1. Jean: I can't tell you the number of turkeys we have fixed. Sometimes we went to my mom's. A few years we went to my dad's. One year we went to a state park and had Thanksgiving dinner in the lodge. One time I fixed one in the aftermath of a blizzard. We couldn't get out to get to the store. Hubby had to get out to get my dad and bring him to our house because he couldn't get down the county roads to get to his house. So, we had him as a houseguest fo a while.

  2. What a touching tribute, Jean. I absolutely loved it.

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