Thursday is Thanksgiving. My favorite holiday. For me it’s a warm, inclusive, happy yet somewhat poignant celebration of our good fortune in this country and we remember also that many are not as fortunate as we. My husband has begun the meal, since we’ve had men and women fighting overseas, with a short prayer for their safe return, expressing our gratitude for their sacrifices.

While I have always prepared the majority of the meal, I have made a special point of encouraging older people to participate in the preparations. My father, alternated with Harry (when both were in their 80’s and early 90’s), stringing a cranberry necklace for the turkey–something I’d seen on the now deceased Gourmet Magazine cover many years ago. If I couldn’t cook the elaborate turkey, I could at least make–or have Dad or Harry make–it look elaborate.

Mother, in her 80’s, made her special pumpkin chiffon pie, but bought, instead of making, the dough as her fingers became more arthritic. And R., who celebrated her 96th birthday in September (see October post), fixed the stuffing and helped me make Harry’s wife Mary’s yams, after Mary died in her early 90’s.

And so traditions begin and are continued. For almost 20 years, since I saw part of an early morning Martha Stewart prepare-for-Thanksgiving show before going to work, I have made place cards on autumn leaves, guests’ names written with a special white ink pen. During these years guests have brought boyfriends, girlfriends, and fiances; and have divorced, broken engagements and died. We have disposed of all but the latter’s place card leaves, which are placed name side down, along with other autumn leaves, around the centerpiece.

Ruth’s leaf will be a new addition to the name side down group this year. I think she was 93 when she died. It wasn’t easy for her daughter–and later grand-daughters–to pick her up from her assisted living apartment almost an hour away. But she looked forward to coming for Thanksgiving. And as long as she wanted to come, her grandchildren made the effort to bring her and take her home. And as she grew more frail each year and had sight only in one eye, she continued to create for me a Thanksgiving card of appreciation.

When something means a lot to an older person, but entails going out of our way and even sustaining an underlying worry that some emergency type health issue could interrupt everything, our knee-jerk reaction may be that we don’t want to make the effort (which is probably very little effort compared to the effort an old person must make). But when we do, and see the priceless joy we’ve made possible, how could we not make that extra effort.

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