Thanksgiving Day has come and gone for 2013. It was much like other holidays in our house – busy. As usual, I peeled 15 pounds of potatoes the night before and had them ready to cube, cook and mash Thanksgiving afternoon. This year I did something I have never done – prepared the typically large (23 pound) turkey a day early. On Wednesday morning, I popped this large bird in the oven where it stayed for the next several hours ~ until it was done and a beautiful, perfect, golden brown. Since most of my sons don’t pay much attention to how the turkey looks when it is finished, I decided to carve it all the way to the bone and made the gravy. What a relief to have all that behind me when I woke up early Thanksgiving Day to finish preparing our meal.
I try to arise early to allow myself enough time to begin cooking (without interruptions). I peeled apples and put the pies in the oven. I chopped celery, water chestnuts, bacon, and olives to add to the stuffing, which I baked in a large roaster pan. I made deviled eggs for my sons to snack on until the feast was ready. Then, it was time to get the guys up: toileted, dressed, in their wheelchairs, medications and breakfast. Our friend Linda was here and gave me a hand in peeling yams, fixing a vegetable tray and mixing the punch (just like my mother did for years).
About 10:15 I took off for San Jose to load the large van with four sons. None of them live in the same location, so it’s more than a two-hour trip to drive from their residence, load in the van, secure wheelchair to the floor and on to the next son’s apartment or house. When we arrive back to Los Altos, it’s unbelt the chairs, unload and get everyone into the house. I quickly whip up two pumpkin pies and serve snacks while we wait for others to arrive and the potatoes to cook.
Once the pies are done, the potatoes and yams mashed, turkey, stuffing and rolls warmed up, I begin to prepare plates, with the help of Sergei, Greg and Linda. We decide who will help feed whom and begin eating in shifts because many need assistance with their meals. Ben, Jose, and Alan need to have their food ground since they can’t chew. Linda feeds Ben (I’ll admit I don’t have much patience for this) since it takes an eternity for him to get his mouth open so he can enjoy the taste of holiday meals (this is the reason he has a feeding tube). Alan is much faster to feed but we must be careful there are no lumps in the potatoes that can get stuck in his esophagus. Greg helped David and Sergei helped prepare plates for others. I’m so thankful for their assistance or we’d be eating Thanksgiving dinner until midnight.
After everyone has had their fill, and as other families do, I fix some leftovers for the guys to take home and begin to clean the kitchen. Soon, I start loading up the van to drive my sons back to their homes in San Jose. I’m happy for the sons who were able to come home for our meal and share in conversation and laughter (although most of the time I don’t know what they are laughing about). However, for various reasons there are some who don’t make it: they were scheduled to work, they live too far, lack of transportation, or what might be conflicts with siblings. That’s correct – not everyone gets along in such a large group. That’s hard for me to swallow since I want everyone to get along and respect each other. I try to understand each has his reason for coming or not coming. The one thing that hurts the most is when I am so very close to where some sons live but I already have a van full. I can’t even find a few minutes to stop in and say hello. I must admit that I’m stretched to the limit at times like this. Yet, I find comfort in knowing their group homes have parties and dinners where they seem to fit in well. I vow to make time to go and visit these sons when life isn’t so hectic and I can give them some individual attention, but will it happen?
As you read this, Christmas 2013 has come and gone as well. It was much a repeat of Thanksgiving (without Linda’s help) and a few different sons coming and going than in November. Instead of a large turkey, I fixed Swiss steak (lots of it). And to replace the apple and pumpkin pies was a birthday cake for Ben – Grandma’s chocolate cake made from scratch per his request.
Once again, everyone ate their fill, conversed, joked and laughed with each other. They were able to come to a place they can call home – regardless of how they arrived and became connected with each other. And I pray there will be many more Thanksgivings and Christmases where each feels welcomed, loved, and comfortable coming home.
May 2014 bring you great moments of joy and harmony among all you meet.