A real Thanksgiving


by Frances Edstrom

One of my life's ironies is that on a given Thanksgiving Day, the better my life is, the less I'm inclined to find something meaningful to be thankful for. Some years, I'd be thankful that the turkey finally got done after the stove was acting up or that the weather was just chilly enough to use the front porch for an extra refrigerator.

This year, the thankfulness started on Wednesday. I went to an appointment with my hip surgeon, five months to the day after the surgery in which they removed my hip because of infection, and two months to the day after the prosthesis was put in. I was reluctant to be hopeful. Hope hadn't gotten me very far in the hip department.

But Wednesday morning, I got the news that after five months in a wheelchair and then on crutches, I could walk with a cane! Not only that, I could drive my car! And not only that, I could throw away my brace, ride the exercycle, exercise in a pool, and go in a hot tub! When you put it in a list like that, it doesn't seem much until you understand the possibilities.

My sister, after staying with us for five months, could go home and lead her own life, no longer doing my laundry, making my meals, driving me everywhere I needed to go, and generally being my personal servant. Walking with a cane means that I can pour myself a cup of coffee, and then carry it to the table by myself. Driving means that I can go to work when I'm ready, drop by the grocery store, or hop in the car to go visit friends. John can lead his own life, too. Being able to exercise means that the leg I haven't been able to move for five months and is sadly withered and thin can gain some muscle and start working again. Ooh, pretty soon I'll walk the dog around the lake.

I was elated!

Then the good news kept on coming. Jeremiah called from the office to say that while the part for my computer was on back order and wouldn't be coming for a month (!) the company had offered to give me a brand new computer in exchange for the one that was on the fritz. To keep! We only had to retrieve my computer from the repair shop in La Crosse, which Jeremiah would try to get done.

"I'll do it!" I cried. "I can drive now!" So I got in the car, cranked up the Aretha Franklin CD, and took off. I've never been in jail, but I've seen plenty of movies where the guy walks through the gate to the freedom side of the gates and you can see on his face a look of relief fathoms deep. That's how I felt. As though I'd just been released from jail. Now I understand why our parents and grandparents fight so tenaciously to keep their drivers licenses. Being able to drive again nearly trumped a brand new computer.

On Thanksgiving Day, my daughter Cassidy and her friend Angie were to take over the dinner preparations. (Morgan and Dan and baby Peyton were visiting his folks in New Jersey.) I slept late, and was halfway through my shower, just to the point where I was going to wash my hair, when a huge holler went up throughout the house.

"Turn off the shower! Turn off the shower!" they shouted.

The plumbing had backed up, flooding the kitchen, downstairs bath and dripping down into the basement.

Cassidy was barefoot in the kitchen, our suddenly ineffectual sponge-type floor mop in her hands, my ice cream bucket pail on the floor, trying to get rid of the inch of water standing in the house. John called the plumber. Then he called his brother Nick, who brought over a wet-dry shop vac (ours was over in Fountain City), plus a real floor mop and big bucket. Cassidy went to work on the floor, and John and Angie were sent off to pick up the rest of the ingredients for dinner plus a BIG bottle of disinfectant (and wine, which I knew I'd be needing; make that a BIG bottle, too, I thought).

A couple of hours later, the plumber was gone, the floor had a first disinfecting, and the girls started on the dinner preparations. Luckily, the backed-up water had not reached the part of the kitchen where the appliances are. Meanwhile, completely against character, John tackled the floor, furniture and fixtures with probably one of the best cleanings and disinfectings they've ever had. The dog and I watched.

By evening, the beautiful turkey sat golden on the counter. Cassidy's accompaniments warmed in the oven. We were in the family room snacking on Aunt Nancy's hors d'oeuvres, and Aunt Lori's desserts cooled on the porch. When the family plus a few friends gathered around the table, I found much to be thankful for: life, liberty, the happy pursuit of good and abundant food and family love in abundance.


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