Thanksgiving

THE DINNER ROLL RECIPE

“It’s time for us to move back to the Bay Area,” said my father.  “We need to live closer to you — not with you — but near you.”  At 85 he finally admitted to himself that my mother was slipping away and she would need more care than he could provide.  Not yet diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease, she was showing all of the signs.  I had noticed her failing as well, but the decision to leave their lovely home located between Sebastopol, California and Bodega Bay which boarders the gentle Pacific had to be theirs.

The little farm as the family lovingly titled my parent’s retirement home had been a gathering place for more than 20 years and tradition at Thanksgiving.   All of that time she and my father bought the bird from a local turkey farm while the rest of us brought the side dishes.  The one thing, however, that no one even ventured to duplicate were the dinner rolls straight from Mama’s oven.

Whether the recipe was her own, her mother’s or one clipped from a magazine we never knew.  What we did know was the roll recipe was tucked away in her black, loose-leaf binder among the other clippings and hand-written cooking treasurers collected through all the years of her married life.  My sisters and I never asked for the recipe because the rolls were Mama’s speciality.  Being a wonderful cook she prepared other specialities as well when there was an occasion or if she felt inspired, but when she was busy, food was plain and simple, “and better for you in the long run,” she assured us.  So it was that we grew up experiencing a few culinary delights as well as steamed potatoes still in their jackets and vegetables cooked in “waterless” cookware.

With their final decision to move absolutely firm, Ken and I looked, and found, an ideal house for them just a few blocks from us.  Four months later I drove the two-hour trip to begin packing with the family coming the following week for the big move.  Mama saved everything.  My job with the help of my niece Denise was not only packing, but also included sorting through some 60-plus years of accumulation.  Dad’s job was to keep those empty boxes coming, and Mama’s job was to see that we were all fed and happy.  After all, she was a wonderful cook.

As we sat down for dinner Denise and I looked at one another with the same thought, “What is thisssss?”  Tasting did not answer the question.  Too much spice, too much salt and too much of whatever else it was that she found in her food supply which made up the mystery dish.  My father, who usually wolfed down his meals in a matter of minutes, ate everything on his plate, but it was an obvious effort, and because he was hungry.   Denise and I dabbled with our food then went back to packing.  Mama, we agreed, had forgotten how to cook.  Following that first night one of us worked with her preparing dinner and I told my dad that he would have to help Mama in the kitchen once they moved into their new home.  Either that or he would have to get used to guess-what dinners.  I had known that Alzheimer’s was stealing away my mother’s thoughts and memories, but I hadn’t realized it was stripping away her skills as well.

When I packed the kitchen supplies, I placed all of her cookbooks in one box, sealed it up realizing that it would be unlikely she would ever use them again.  At the new home I placed the box on a shelf in the garage, planning to glean the best of her recipes and to browse through the black binder at a later date.

The later date didn’t come until after she was gone.  Picking up the dilapidated binder I thought about the aroma of her freshly baked rolls which had beckoned us to the dinner table on so many memorable occasions.  Page by page I searched, but to no avail.  There was no recipe for the rolls I remembered.  Instead of being tucked away in a book it was no doubt tucked away somewhere in the corner of her mind.

Even after  nearly two decades I find that every so often a thought races through my head, “I’ll call Mama and ask her about …..?”  But just as quickly reality follows; Mama isn’t here and a thousand little questions will never have answers.  Nor will I ever make rolls as delicious as the ones she made.

Originally posted 2009-06-04 06:23:00.

Pilgrim and Indian kid's table

Did the Pilgrims and Indians have a kid’s table at the first Thanksgiving. CREATIVE COMMONS

 

 

 

 

 

 

1620 — WHEN IT ALL BEGAN

November 20, 2015 — From our early days in elementary school we should recall from those long-ago history books all about the first Thanksgiving where the Pilgrims and the Indians celebrated a meal together, giving thanks for their blessings. The Pilgrims, of course gave thanks for their safe voyage, food to eat, shelter from the cold and the new friends they made with the local residents. The Indians: not too sure if they felt gratitude for this intrusion. Perhaps for a good meal, the new friends who at that time, were non-threatening and appeared to be content just settling in and making homes for themselves.  Just a little whimsy here putting myself back in 1620, and as a local, wondering, “What’s up with these strange pale-faced people?”

BACK TO THE 20TH CENTURY

That’s where I lived a good portion of my years with Mom and Dad and my two sisters. I was terribly shy, and was one of those little ones who often clung to her mother’s skirt and whispered my question or request into her ever-attentive ear.

We had been invited to a relative’s home for Thanksgiving dinner, and of course my sisters and I sat at the “kids” table. Finishing my plate I wanted some more potatoes and gravy. I pushed my chair back, wiggled into the space between the two tables and found Mom. As I passed Dad I must have bumped his arm and he spilled his water. “What are you doing?” he grumbled. “I want to talk with Mama,” I replied. “What is it?” she asked patiently. “May I have more potatoes and gravy?” I whimpered. She filled my plate, Dad forgot his spilled water but said, “Now go back, sit down and eat your dinner.”

ALL GROWN UP WITH A FAMILY OF MY OWN

Becoming an adult I outgrew my shy nature, and it appeared that none of my children inherited that painful trait, but one of my girls had her own issue. That was with the “kids’ table.” I guess  somewhere around 12 many young women feel they would rather sit with the adults than with the children. As I was setting the table, she looked wistfully at me and asked, “Do I have to sit at the kids’ table?” I nodded a definite  “yes” and her tears began to flow.  “I’m sorry, honey,” I tried to explain, “but there just isn’t room at the adult table.” “I’m never going to have a kids’ table,” she bristled, brushing away the tears. She didn’t cause her dad to spill his water, but I knew instantly that her Thanksgiving day was spoiled.

Years ago I read a delightful post in the newspaper by Erma Brombeck about the “kids’ table.” and how her children accepted their permanent seat until some older relative couldn’t be there, or had died making room for a graduation ceremony.

KIDS TABLE CONTINUES

I’ve noticed that even at her home with it’s expanding dining room table my daughter still has a “kids’ table” in the kitchen. However this new crop of kids seem to enjoy it more than eating at the stuffy and boring table with the adults in the dining room. I’m happy and relieved that the cousins enjoy one another and are content with the seating arrangement, and could be themselves. Makes me wonder, though, if they had a “kids’ table” in 1620 filled with small Pilgrim girls and boys and their Indian friends. I hope they did. I also wonder if they shot corn and peas at one another. (Volunteered confession and information about gross kids behavior from one of my own adult children now sitting at the table for grown-ups.) What else could explain all the giggling that came from one of those infamous “kids” tables?

 

Originally posted 2015-11-22 00:16:37.

GRATITUDE AFTER ALZHEIMER’S

This gallery contains 2 photos.

A LAST GOODBYE WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE

A family gathers for Thanksgiving dinner.

Some of our family gather for a day of gratitude and Thanksgiving at my daughter’s house.

 November 28, 2014 – So many things for which I feel gratitude. At the top of my list is that I have a lifetime of wonderful memories with Ken. I only wish that the selfish disease of Alzheimer’s had allowed my loving husband a momentary return to his old self just so he could have said goodbye to me and his children. I would have asked for just one chance where I could have said to him, “Thanks for 64 wonderful years, but then we all know that AD never gives anything back once it has robbed the mind of life and living. So I won’t dwell on what might have been and go on to a Thanksgiving long ago when the children were younger and we were on our way to Grandmother’s house. You know, “Over the bridge and across the bay to Grandmother’s house we go. The car knows the way.” And on that memorable night it was almost believable that the car knew the way.

THE NIGHT BEFORE

We always packed our clothes well ahead of departure for a long weekend in the country, and set out for Thanksgiving at “The Little Farm” located half way between the town of Sebastopol in Sonoma County, California and Bodega Bay on the ocean.  It was Wednesday evening as we headed north from our East Bay home for our annual holiday festivities. Continue reading

Originally posted 2014-11-30 02:58:09.

THANKSGIVING WITH AND WITHOUT ALZHEIMER’S

THANKSGIVING THROUGH THE YEARS

November 29, 2013 —  Thanksgiving hasn’t always been marked with Alzheimer’s although we’ve certainly had our share with both families.  Actually Ken and I have had a lifetime of wonderfully memorable holidays filled often to overflowing with family and friends.  I always made sure we divided the November celebration of that first Thanksgiving deuqlly  between both of our families making sure no one ever felt left out. A few times we shared the dinner at the home of friends that we loved just as if they were family.  We were filled to the brim with those same feelings of caring and love.  That kind of love just enlarges the circle.   Continue reading

Originally posted 2013-12-02 02:15:31.

ALZHEIMER’S, PAIN AND THANKSGIVING

PAIN AND ALZHEIMER’S

 A woman cries in pain

Pain comes in many forms to different people.

November 16, 2012 – Pain:  Something we all experience in many forms yet it remains undecribed and unmeasured because there is no scale or other device to record those calculations.  The severity of the pain may be determined really bad as medics watch a patient’s blood pressure skyrocket under many kinds of duress, or the doctor will summarize it with, “She/he is in a lot of pain.”

A friend might say, “I feel your pain.”  Perhaps.  But to what degree?  So the remark should be graciously accepted for what it is: concern, sympathy, comfort, recognition or even empathy for where you are in life’s battle at that moment, and for what discomfort you are feeling – either mentally, emotionally, physically or all of the above. Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-11-17 21:48:36.

THANKSGIVING AND MOMENTS OF FEELING “NORMAL”

Turkey

Sometimes the familiar will help Alzheimer’s victims glimpse normal

Living with Alzheimer’s there are seldom days, or even periods of time, when life is “normal” – or I should say the way it was – or seeming to be the way it was.  Nevertheless I strive for “normal” as a goal – possibly that we could live our lives in the same manner as we did before AD even if for only a moment.  Certainty the day-to-day care and the fluctuations which occur to the mind and body of anyone with a severe terminal disease are to be expected. Yet a portion of a day can still appear almost like old times.  I suppose it all depends on many factors: influences from within the AD victim and outer influences, noise or silence, visitors or none, cooking aromas, weather, music, sports on TV, the voices of children – any of these may or may not set the stage for mood swings.  Optimistic that Ken would be in a good mood, I set his usual place at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

It’s always a gamble to eat with Ken.  At times he’s been known to reach over to my plate and help himself to something that appeals to him.  Something like those long-ago times when our toddlers were tied with a dish towel into a chair stacked with books when no highchair was available. It was comical to see the adults pulling food and plates out of reach as the small hand stretched at arm’s length to acquire what might satisfy his curiosity as well as his tummy.  So I wondered how Ken would react to a table filled with other people and food in abundance.

I have mentioned before how social Ken had always been, and he responded well yesterday as company arrived.  He seemed more aware, warning the children not to go out a certain door leading to the backyard (which was pretty much ignored) and shaking hands with the adults when a hand was offered.  He even managed a smile or two.  The real test, though, would be dinner, and I did have a back-up plan.  Hopefully I wouldn’t have to use it.

As all of the prepared food and turkey culminated into a feast, Crizaldo and our son Keith guided Ken into the dining room where his chair faced away from the table into the living room where everyone had gathered.  “When dinner is served and his food is in front of him, you two can pick up the chair and turn it around.  That way he won’t be distracted by an empty plate.”

Ken was happy to be part of the group as Keith welcome everyone asking Bob to say a prayer of thanksgiving and a blessing on the food.  As the room became silent I counted my own blessings: years of good living with this man I had married and his prudent financial preparation for our retirement and the possibility of needed care beyond what either of us might be able to do for the other, and for the caring men who provide that additional need.  I am grateful for not only the surrounding family, but for those of our family who had other obligations and those scattered throughout the country; grateful for Liz who, after nearly two years of world travel, had her two feet gripping the ground of New York City and was on her way home.  We are truly blessed.

Following the final “Amen,” Keith and Criz picked up Ken in his chair and planted it directly in front of a plate filled with food.  Without as much as a skip of a heartbeat he picked up his fork and began to eat.  Not the way he often does, barely chewing before another fork full goes into his mouth, but casually, chatting the way he always did before.  I suppose it might be said that old things bring back old ways, and gathered around the dinner table could have triggered a memory from the past. Tuning in every so often it was nice to hear he was engaging as best he could in somewhat of a conversation, and I was pleased.  Nearby the children ate at a smaller table where they were more interested in getting finished and back to playing than they were in Thanksgiving’s bounty.

Another year has passed since we all gathered to celebrate our blessings and offer our thanks to the Almighty.  So as evening approaches I sit quietly and glance around the table at my ever-growing family.  I see Ken at one end of the table and me at the other: matriarch and patriarch of this wonderful group of people, and it all appears incredibly normal — almost like a Norman Rockwell painting.  Today, I am grateful beyond expression and content in these happy, captured moments.

Originally posted 2011-11-26 08:00:45.

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