In last week's blog, I shared the story of my First Worst Thanksgiving and how fortunate I've been to enjoy some really terrific Thanksgiving celebrations after that. Today, I'm remembering one such gathering with my late dad Bob and his Washington family. (That's Bob in the photo below along with his adopted daughter—my little step-sister, Nasa)
If you look closely, you'll see the table is set for a traditional feast. We dined on all the usual Turkey Day favs—turkey, dressing, ham, sweet potatoes, etc. As we ate, we laughed and shared funny stories about our family while a crackling fire burned in the corner of the living room of our rented condo in Blaine, Washington.
This gathering had all the elements of a perfect Thanksgiving (complete with paper plates for easy clean-up). The only thing was, we didn't have this meal at the end of November. You see, in 2019, uncertain as to how much time my dad would be with us, we had Thanksgiving dinner on September 28th.
Rewind back a couple of days before the photo was taken . . . James and I had arrived in Blaine, and although Bob wasn't in the best of health, his mind was sharp and he was still pushing himself to walk up the hill to his mailbox every day. It was during one of these strolls when he asked me if I remembered the time I showed up on his doorstep with a tuna fish casserole.
"Of course I remember that," I assured him. "If you'll recall, I'd made it for James and the boys but they completely snubbed it. James told me it tasted like canned cat food. (I'm not sure how my husband knows what cat food tastes like, but okay . . . ) Once James turned his nose up at it, our sons, Jake and Nick wouldn't eat it either. So, I packed it all up and drove over to your house!"
"Your mother thought that was so funny!" Bob exclaimed, chuckling at the memory. "As I recall it was quite tasty."
"Yeah well, you know what a culinary master I am!" I joked. "The key is adding plenty of crushed Lay's Potato Chips and lots of cheese—it helps mask the taste of the cat food—I mean, tuna fish!"
"I think it took me all week to finish eating all that casserole," Bob told me. "Franny wasn't a fan, either, so it was all on me."
At this, I had to laugh. Having grown up in a lumber camp where he often went hungry, Bob did not believe in wasting food. I knew him well enough to know that he'd eaten every bit of that casserole because he would never have thrown any of it away. I can't even imagine how sick of it he must have been!
"Sorry about that, Bob," I said. "You know, I think that's the last time I made tuna fish casserole." I thought for a moment. "Hey, I can totally throw one together for you while we're here. Our condo has cookware and everything. What do you think?"
Bob shot me a mischievous grin and his bright blue eyes twinkled merrily. "You know, Monica, as great as your tuna casserole was, I think I'll just continue basking in the memory of the last one you made."
We both chuckled over this as we continued up the gravel road, making frequent stops for Bob to rest and catch his breath. "You know, I would like to make dinner for you, Noi, and Nasa," I told him. "But the place we're staying is on the second floor and the stairs are quite steep. Do you think you can make it or would you like James and me to bring everything here to your place?"
"Oh, I think we can come over there," Bob said. "When have you ever known me to turn down a dinner invitation?"
I decided to have a little fun with him. "Hmm. What if I told you we were serving tuna casserole?"
"Then this might be a first!" he teased.
Driving back to our condo that night, I told James we were going to pull out all the stops and make a huge Thanksgiving feast for my dad. (In hindsight, I probably should have taken stock of the limited amount of cookware in our condo before taking on such an ambitious undertaking)
I made a list of everything we needed to make. "I want this place to look and smell like Thanksgiving," I told James. "After all, this might be our last time to celebrate this important holiday with Bob and it needs to be really special!"
"You're crazy, you know that?" James asked, looking around the compact kitchen. "How are we gonna pull this off—and, also—how is Bob even going to get up the stairs? He's so frail."
"You're going to help him," I said. "Don't worry, he really wants to come and I think it will be good for him."
"I do, too," James said. "I want Bob to watch the sunset with us from our balcony. I know it will mean a lot to him."
And . . . it did!
My heart is full as I'm sharing this story with you because there have been many times in my life on Thanksgiving when I've really felt the true spirit of this holiday. I saw it in Bob's eyes that evening and will always remember the joy he took in living and the way he delighted in spending time with his family—the family of the past and those in his present. He was living in one of the most extraordinarily beautiful places on the planet and though I know Bob was aware that his time on this earth was coming to an end, he was grateful for everything he had.
I can tell you that although the challenge of boiling potatoes in three small pots and baking a turkey in a tiny oven is not something I'd ever want to tackle again, Thanksgiving last year was phenomenal. The stuffing turned out gummy, the turkey was tough and the mashed potatoes were lumpy (I never did find a mixer!), but Bob went on and on about how it was one of the best Thanksgiving dinners he'd ever had.
My dad never considered himself a philosophical man, but I think we'd all agree that the words he spoke next were beyond wise. "Family is everything," he said as he looked around the table at the people he loved. "Thank you for this incredible evening."
"You're welcome, Dad," I told him as I blinked back tears of love and gratitude. "So, you ready for some pumpkin pie?"
Bob, with his usual boyish grin, took a moment to respond. "Well, I don't know . . . I'm pretty stuffed, he answered patting his belly. "Is there whipped cream?"
"Is there whipped cream?" I repeated with a chuckle. "Now, what kind of Thanksgiving would it be without whipped cream?"
"You're right, Monica," Bob agreed. "Bring on the pumpkin pie!"
Closet ClotheSure Week 43
My friend Deb gave me this black and white checkered Calvin Klein dress a couple of months ago after deciding it didn't make her feel like a "ten". (Hmm, is my Closet ClotheSure Challenge rubbing off on someone?)
I love that it has pockets and also the length. Next time I wear it, I'm going to swap out the belt for a wide, black leather one. The belt it came with kept coming loose making very high-maintenance.
This one's a keeper!
I've had this long green dress from Ann Taylor for over ten years and had forgotten it was even in my closet until it recently reappeared.
I think the last time I wore it was five years ago for a Christmas event at the office. It's going into the 2020 reject pile because I'm not loving how it clings to my body. Not even the best "incredible fat sucker" will smooth this one out as you can see every little bunch or line underneath the dress. Definitely not "ten" material!
And, this ensemble completes the short Thanksgiving workweek. The lacy cream-colored sweater top is from Lucky Brand (another gift from Deb). I'll keep it, however; the long kite skirt from Ann Taylor gets the boot. Although I do like the beautiful color, I've always found it challenging to find a top that looks good with this skirt. I've found the best thing to do is tuck whatever I'm wearing with it in. You can see for yourself how horrible this looks in the above photo. #itsagonner
From The Garden -
Not too much going on in the yard these days except for a lot of leaves falling!
James did snap this cool shot of the tiger paw plants in one of the beds down by the creek. Neither of us remembered them blooming with these bright yellow flowers before. Pretty nifty!
Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend and praying for our nation during this challenging time.
God is in control and hope is on the move!