Every 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.
“Betty, we’ve been married 27 years, and you’ve made 27 turkeys. It’ll be fine”
“Betty, we’ve been married 40 years, and you’ve made 40 turkeys. It’ll be fine.”
“Betty, 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 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.
On 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, “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. Still, we went on sharing our Thanksgiving meals, father and daughter together.
This year, I’m thankful for all the worrisome Thanksgiving turkeys 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!
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