Friday, November 27, 2015

Different but better

As Thanksgiving approached this year, I found myself angry and upset. Because of Mom's dementia and confusion about so many things, I'd wanted to take the full responsibilities of the dinner upon myself. I wanted her to relax, sit back and let someone else do all the cooking, all the preparation, all of it. No such thing happened.

About a month ago, Mom announced that she wanted to buy the turkey. I begged and pleaded, telling her it was way too early, first of all. I told her that they've come to my house for the last five years, and wouldn't she like to do that again? Wouldn't she like to just enjoy the meal and get out of her house for a change? Nope. Mom would get upset every time the turkey battle would ensue. She'd huff and puff on the phone when we spoke, acting what I thought was rather childish. Little temper tantrums about how she wanted to do this, and a day or so without speaking to me after she got upset over mashed potatoes.

I cried myself to sleep a few nights about this change of power. I felt wronged and I grieved over the injustice done to me. Then it hit me. This is not about me. This is about her illness. An illness of the mind. She doesn't have control over much these days, not her thoughts or actions at times. Perhaps this Thanksgiving meal is the last hurrah of sorts. Her one way to gain control over a situation that is important to her. For cooking and baking have always been Mom's strengths. We had meals through the years, and not only the Italian ones, meals that were homey and good. Baked goods and homemade pizza that rivaled most of the best pizza parlors in town. This is where Mom felt safe. Her kitchen. A place where she always had control. And here I was trying the power struggle to take it away from her.

When I let my pride go and got into the spirit of things, I immediately felt a release of all the pent up emotions of the last few weeks. If it was this important to her, then I'd make it my priority for it to be important to me. Mom started days before Thanksgiving with a chocolate cake. Then another dessert she always makes called refrigerator cake. (Recipe to follow.) She threw together a batch of unbaked cookies. She made potato salad even though I told her we wanted mashed potatoes. There was no stopping the whirlwind frenzy that was my mother in the days leading up to the Thanksgiving.

I fretted over the bird most of all. I wondered if she remembered how to make one. Was her stuffing going to turn out? Would that turkey be fully cooked? Were we all headed to the emergency room afterward?

My brother and father helped Mom best they could until I arrived early Thanksgiving morning. And I was surprised that the turkey sat in the oven, already stuffed, already baking. As the hours ticked by, and each additional preparation began, the heavenly aroma lay about the house as the bird continued to roast.

I found a meat thermometer which pleased me to no end a little later. And when I inserted it into the breast, I saw it jump to the proper reading. It was finished! Wow, and it looked great! The picture above is indeed of the main event. On my parents old stove sat the pride of my mother. She'd remembered and done well I might add. Yes, she talked about the same things over and over yesterday. She checked and double checked things many times. But each of us handled it with good grace and a sense of humor. We enjoyed the day, so thankful for the blessing of our family. So grateful to still have Mom and Dad with us and the closeness of the loud Italian family I speak of so often.

No, it wasn't like Thanksgiving's of the past. It was different, yet somehow better. Years and memories have come and gone. Good times and bad, happiness and sadness. One thing remains: the love.

Refrigerator cake:
Package of graham crackers
Large box of Vanilla pudding, the type you have to cook
Large box of Chocolate pudding,the type you have to cook
Bananas optional

Layer graham crackers in a 13x9 pan across the bottom, breaking them to fit. Do not crush them, lay them flat.

Cook vanilla and chocolate puddings according to package directions.

Begin with a thin layer of chocolate pudding across the graham crackers, spreading it evenly. Then layer graham crackers across the top. (Remember do not crush them, lay them whole.) Alternate with vanilla pudding, etc until you end up with pudding on the top. Now you can slice bananas onto the dessert if you wish, then refrigerate. No baking involved.


  1. How touching. I can relate to some of the things you talked about. It is hard watching our parents age. Thanks for sharing Karen.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thank you so much for the comment. It's very cleansing for me to bare my soul this way....

  2. Thanks for sharing such s special Thanksgiving. And the recipe sounds wonderful! I'm glad you enjoyed such a special day with your family.

    1. Yes, special indeed! Thank you for letting me bare my soul....thank you for the comment!

  3. It is true that we must let go of certain things or really drive ourselves insane. What a beautiful tribute to your mother that you allowed her the gift of preparing dinner. And truly, she stepped up to the plate. ;)

  4. Very touching story thank you for sharing