Growing up, Thanksgiving was always pleasant enough, but I never quite understood what all the fuss was about.
It was a day off from school. The greatest stress involved was the cooking of the meal and that was left primarily to my mother. I suspect my oldest sister, eight years my senior, shared some of the responsibility. I’m sure she’ll let me know after she reads this. But, by and large, it was my Mom’s meal which meant we would feast on overcooked turkey, over-creamed vegetables, over-radished salad, and (surprisingly) delicious chocolate pie! (My grandma’s recipe).
This meant, for my Dad and me, Thanksgiving was more about Lion’s football and dessert than the meal itself. (Although my Dad did love turkey skin!)
As my parents aged and my siblings moved away, Thanksgiving grew even less about the food – if that could even be possible. Much like other fall days, it was a time to spend with my parents and watch the Lions with my Dad.
I vividly recall one Thanksgiving with my parents and grandparents where, as I looked around the table, I noticed that each adult had food somewhere on their face. I gagged a little. Needless to say I really started dreading Thanksgiving. It had become about aging and change. It was making me sad.
After my Mom passed, it got worse. My Dad moved into a retirement community and not wanting him to be alone on this day for families, I’d join him. By this time I was a full practicing vegetarian. While the seniors in the home dined on turkey, and my Dad the extra turkey skin he loved, they lovingly prepared me a boiled vegetarian hot dog for my protein. After a few years of that, my Dad really encouraged me to go to Detroit. “It’s just a day. Go. Go,” he would say. I went.
But after a few years spending the holiday there, I decided to once again spend Thanksgiving with my Dad. I also decided to make my grandmother’s pie.
The meal was being served at 12:30pm, which meant seating at noon and completion by 2pm. But kickoff for the game was around noon and that disappointed me. I really wanted my Dad to be able to see the whole game and I really wanted to the see the whole game with my Dad.
I arrived at 11:30am. Late arrivals always stressed my Dad, so I was unusually early this day. He was pleased. We chatted a bit.
Then I said, “Too bad kickoff is right at meal time.”
“Oh, you saw that, huh?” he said as if he didn’t want me to feel bad about missing it.
It was sweet. He knew I wanted to enjoy the game. He didn’t realize it was about enjoying the game with him. I appreciated the concern. Then I had an idea.
“Hey Dad, why don’t I run over to Meijer, grab takeout and we can just watch the game?”
“No, you don’t want to do that. You want a real meal,” he said half-heartedly.
I knew he already thought it was a great idea.
“Really, Dad? I mean the food here isn’t that great. Let’s bag it and eat in front of the TV.”
He lit up, quickly rubbing his hands together as to express excitement. Within minutes I was at Meijer and, moving as if on an episode of Amazing Race, was serving up a full meal in his apartment by kickoff.
I bought a roasted chicken, gravy, mashed potatoes, biscuits, glazed carrots, creamed corn, and for the first time ever… wine! I always enjoyed that with my husband’s Italian family for Thanksgiving, but we had never had it. My Dad even wanted a glass. We sat with our TV trays for the entire game. We ate, drank and laughed. The food was decent. He was happy. I was thrilled.
When it came time for pie, I asked him how big a piece he wanted. He didn’t want any pie. He told me he never really cared for my mom’s chocolate pie. Wow. Thanksgiving wasn’t even about pie for him. Just football. I was so grateful that he got to enjoy the whole game – beginning to end.
As we said our goodbyes, he thanked me and I thanked him. I didn’t want to leave. He didn’t want it to end. We kept remarking what a lovely day it was. How grateful we were that it played out as it did. How we should do it again. I think we both hoped the day could go on forever. I know I did. For the first time I realized, truly, what the fuss was all about.
It was my last Thanksgiving with my Dad. I am forever grateful.
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Teresa L. Thome is co-founder and Managing Partner of Fubble Entertainment. She co-writes and co-produces the Emmy® award winning web series www.backstagedrama.com.
She and her partner are Executive Producers for LaughFest’s signature event having creatively produced shows with Betty White, Alan Zweibel, Martin Short, Kevin Nealon and Wayne Brady. Teresa also served as Executive Director for the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum for more than ten years. She has directed more than 20 theatrical productions in and around West Michigan.
She resides in Grand Rapids, MI with her husband, Fred Stella and two cats, Pickles and Simha. You can read more about Teresa here.