Today my parents would have been married 71 years had mom not died 11 years ago. We still send Dad Happy Anniversary wishes; he continues to send his five kid's birthday wishes and gifts, as well as Christmas gifts, signed "love, from mom and dad". Mom was full of powerfully positive energy; she is very much present with all who knew her well.
Our family's Thanksgiving tradition revolved around mom. She would start planning weeks before: going through old recipes; choosing from new recipes collected over the past year; assigning dishes for her five adult children to bring; checking to see who was coming on Wednesday to be the chopper, dicer, and stirrer.
It was always orderly chaos on Thanksgiving Day. With at least two daughters plus mom, the music would begin. A combination of Motown, Rock 'n Rock, and Fifties Big Band blared. With wine glass near-by, we gyrated to the beat as we whipped the cream for the strawberries, browned the livers and gizzards with the Holy Trinity* for the cornbread dressing, and carefully stirred the gravy to avoid lumps.
"The Men" - Dad, my brother, in-laws, male relatives and friends - would be putting up and setting tables, scouring for extra chairs, talking about hunting. Doing "stra-tea-gery" stuff. None were allowed in the kitchen to disturbed our private female party.
The culmination came around 2pm. We'd all sit in some form of chair at some form of table. Dad'd say some form of grace, or assign the task to one of the grandchildren. And we'd dig into the love and good will that was the main ingredient in every dish.
After the grand meal, the grandkids would clean-up, supervised by an adult. If the weather was good, we'd all go outside and play or watched others play volleyball or flag football, or just take a long walk around the country-side that surrounded my family home.
As the day turned to evening, we'd slowly dispersed after a turkey with mayo and cranberry sauce sandwich, or a small meal of everything. If everyone wasn't gone when my Dad thought they should be, he'd disappear for a moment and return dressed in only a v-neck t-shirt and boxer shorts. Everyone knew that that was the signal: GO HOME! And anyone still there left.
It was idyllic. Truly.
Then Mom died after a very successful triple by-pass eleven years ago. Yes, the heart surgery was a success. But the renowned heart surgeon in the best Houston hospital let a small piece of an artery get loose and within only a few hours, Mom had a major stroke when that small piece of artery got stuck in her brain. She was totally paralyzed on her right side, was basically helpless, and could no longer speak.
Mom was gone and, even though she had made clear her wishes never to live that way, my Dad decided, with persuasion from two out of five children, to keep Mom alive as long as medical science could. That was the beginning of the end of any family solidarity - and idyllic holiday gatherings.
The disagreement between family members regarding what was best for mom ripped us apart. Three children (including me) were pained beyond words seeing our Mom kept alive day after day unable to care for herself, to talk, to eat, to sleep in her own bed. Mom never lacked the best care, and even though we disagreed with our father's decision, we got mom home after almost seven months in this that and the other hospital.
It took three more months, but Dad finally let go. Or, to be more accurate, Mom came up with a medical problem that medical science could not treat: a cancerous tumor on her right ovary.
Unbelievable. Uh huh. My 78 year old mother still had all her equipment. And, not wanting to continue to be alive and unable to live, she caused the cancer in order to end it all.
My Mother was a powerful woman. And I am honored to be the only child with my Mother's blue eyes. And her energy is still with me.
Miss Althea, you have a good week.
*In Louisiana, onions, bell pepper, celery are the Holy Trinity in cooking.