Thanksgiving Revived

A week ago I  read an interesting, humorous post over at the blog, Tales From the Mama Duck. If you liked my story about Firecracker the rooster, you’ll get a chuckle from her post, titled I Can’t Have A Relationship With My Turkey. Click here to read it

Her post brought to mind the account of another dinner menu that was changed in a hurry one Thanksgiving morning. I first posted this in Nov 2013, so I guess can make a second appearance now. This account appeared in New England Scene almost 25 years ago in a collection of humorous Thanksgiving memories. It was submitted by a lady from Tuscon, AZ, USA. I’m retelling her experience as I remember it.

Turkey

Photo from Pixabay

The Thanksgiving Turkey
A Raw Experience

One year someone gave a young wife, new to the farming life, a turkey to raise for Thanksgiving. She got quite enthused and decided when Thanksgiving rolled around she’d invite both her family and his for this Thanksgiving feast.

So she set out to raise the turkey that would grace their festive platter. She decided that a happy bird is bound to be a delicious bird, so she fed her turkey chick by hand. No hard scrabbling for this bird. To encourage optimum growth, she gave her bird many an encouraging word.

The chick grew into a fine specimen of its breed that summer and by fall it had plumped up nicely. In spite of its maturity, it still came running if it saw her outside and tagged along after her. She smiled and pictured a family feast with all the relatives commenting on her tasty turkey. Thanksgiving Day was around the corner and she had issued her invitations.

Over time, though, she smiled less when she looked at her turkey. On the Eve of the event she knew it was time to deal with the Thanksgiving platter’s guest of honor, but a strange sadness niggled at her. When her turkey came running to meet her as she stepped out the door, she burst into tears. She went back into the house sobbing and told her husband, “I can’t do it!”

“Just leave it to me,” he comforted her. “I’ll take care of it. You make room in the fridge.” He went out and came in half an hour later with the limp turkey in his arms. She sniffed the air as he passed and caught a vague whiff of… Chloroform?

Hubby opened the fridge door and stuffed the turkey in, feathers and all. “It can chill in here overnight and we’ll pluck it in the morning.”

She was good with that. Avoiding opening the fridge that evening, she and her husband passed a few relaxing hours. Then, thinking of the busy morning ahead of her — and perhaps feeling some unconscious stress over poor bird — she said,  “I’m sleepy; let’s go to bed.”

She woke up quite early the next morning, her mind on the task at hand. She was anxious to have the turkey plucked, cleaned, and dressed for the oven in good time. She dressed and headed for the kitchen. And when she opened the fridge door the turkey leaped out at her. Its garbled gobble would have translated as “Mom! Save me!”

She screamed and fell in a dead faint. Her husband came running and found her out cold and the well-chilled turkey staggering drunkenly around the kitchen. He must have thought he could avoid the merry chase around the poultry yard and bloody-axe episode by drugging the bird, but hadn’t used enough chloroform. He grabbed it and ran outside, dumping it in the yard. Then he came back to revive his wife, and face the music.

His parents and siblings arrived on time for the Thanksgiving dinner and heard the sad tale of the Thanksgiving bird that got away. The couple invited all the family to a nice meal at the local restaurant. Strangely enough, no one ordered turkey.

From that day on the festive bird enjoyed an unthreatened existence in the farm yard and lived to a ripe old age.

Traces of Paranoia

We moved back to Saskatchewan from Quebec in 1998 and I soon made the acquaintance of an older lady in Saskatoon. In time she became very dear to me, though she lives in another province now. Over the time we’ve been friends I’ve had lots of fun visits with her. We went out for coffee often and I helped her figure out various things.

You see, she’s what sociologists call “functionally illiterate.” Bank statements, bills, contracts, sales slips: she’s brought them to me and had me figure them out — until she moved away five years ago. She finds it about impossible to figure out her (direct-deposit) pension by looking at her bank statement. She can buy things, but has a hard time looking at the sales bill and figuring what she should have gotten for change. Also, she was often suspicious people were cheating her.

This spring she called me up one day, all alarmed because of the discrepancy in a purchase she’d made. The item cost $6.25 and only got back a dime and a nickel (15¢). It really bothered her to think that sales clerk had cheated her. I did a quick bit of math and reminded her of the 60¢ tax on her purchase, which would account for the difference. Ahh! She was happy again and we had a nice visit.

Concepts like health, nutrition, drugs and their use, all needed to be explained in the simplest terms. Different times I went to the doctor with her and translated. She didn’t ask him, because she didn’t want to appear dumb.

One day she told me her doctor had said she was borderline diabetic. “But how can a person be ‘borderline’ diabetic?” she asked me, somewhat annoyed with her doctor for that dumb diagnosis. “I figure it’s like being pregnant: either you are or you aren’t.”

I went for a simple illustration. “Your body’s pancreas, that makes insulin, is somewhat like a well. A well holds so-and-so much water, but when the well’s almost empty, there’s just a bit of water and the bottom is muddy. That’s borderline. When there’s no trace of water or even mud, we say the well’s gone dry.

“Our pancreas gland makes insulin as long as it can, but when it can’t keep up anymore, we’re on the borderline of having diabetes. When the gland stops producing insulin, we can’t digest sugar anymore. We’re diabetic and need to take pills or injections to make up for what our body can’t do.”

That made sense to her.

Before she moved, being almost eighty and forgetful, she was misplacing things, then was convinced they were moved or stolen. “Someone with a key, ” she claimed, “is coming into my apartment and taking things or moving stuff around.”

With her eyesight not being very good, she couldn’t see the normal wear-and-tear until something was quite worn. Then she’d say, “Look what someone did to my blanket. They frayed it somehow. It wasn’t like this before.” Sometimes the intruder would scatter a few things on the floor, just to annoy her.

She was convinced that “someone” was watching — that is, sitting beside a closed-circuit camera somewhere all day — to see whenever she went out. Then they’d come in and do mischief. She started hiding her precious things (she had nothing of any real value to a thief) like her many rings and watches into suitcases so they wouldn’t be stolen. Which made things even worse because she couldn’t remember which suitcase they were in.

I tried to be a helpful friend and hurried to the city several times to help her find important “lost or stolen” bank card, wallet, credit card, etc. Thankfully they’ve always turned up — in her apartment. I’ve helped her replace credit cards when she’s lost them. I’ve tried to be patient and be there (if I could) when she needed help or transportation, even though it meant an hour-long trip to town.

She bought a motion sensor camera to catch the culprit but, though it’s been set to take a picture every minute, saw no trace of the culprit on her film chip. I tried to convince her that people have more to do with their lives than sit and watch her apartment on closed circuit camera all day, but one thing I’ve learned over the years: you can’t reason with paranoia. Fear doesn’t respond to common sense.

She extracted a trace of criticism from what I said, got angry with me for not being supportive, and wouldn’t speak to me for a couple of months.

I was happy for her when, with the help of her children, she moved to a seniors assisted-living apartment in another city and her intruder woes faded away. I do miss her — just not THAT part of her nature.

Fandango’s prompt today: TRACE

“Are You A Nazi?”

An old BeeGees song comes to mind:
“It’s only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away.”
Or
to praise and honour you
to despise and insult you
to blame and incriminate you
to acquit and justify you
to inspire and encourage you

WORDS: Comfort or Cudgel?

Fandango’s prompt word for today is REPRESS
Words are our tools, with which we express, impress, repress
— or resist repression.

ME? A NAZI?

I was working at the doughnut shop one evening, doing a bit of clean-up during a slack time, when one of my co-workers, a young man in his early 20s, walked in. Totally off work and out of uniform, he strolled behind the counter — where he had no business being.

At almost the same moment the staff entrance door at the back opened an ex-employee strode in quite purposefully. He’d quit several months before, so he certainly had no business coming in that entrance. Age: mid-thirties, wearing a long black trench coat, he walked behind the counter like he owned the place and helped himself to a jumbo coffee. Then he turned and handed the first co-worker a fat roll of bills and left by the back door again. My co-worker pocketed the cash and remained standing behind the counter.

I was initially stunned. This was a flagrant violation of our rule about being on shift and in uniform when behind the counter. They were also displaying a major contempt for me — a contempt I’d often felt while working with either of them in the past. I didn’t see the need to speak, since neither of those guys were going to listen to a word I said. You don’t need to say one word to show your contempt for someone. I had a strong suspicion what this was all about, which made it all the more insulting. They were dealing right in my face, as it were.

A moment later I protested to my co-worker that he had no business being behind the counter in street clothes. Maybe he saw me as repressive because he lipped off with this reply: “What are you, a Nazi? Are you the Gestapo?”

I put on my best German accent and answered, “You haff to obey ze ru-els.” His response was a disgusted snort and he walked out.

Could I have claimed “defamation of character”? Since I’m not a racist nor a German, I could hardly be a Nazi. And since I’m not a member of Hitler’s private police, I couldn’t be one of the Gestapo.

Alas! We seem to be in an era where accusations are flying left and right without proof or legal repercussions. I’d better qualify that: unless the recipient of your vitriol is from some racial or ethnic minority or the remark is deemed to be sexist. My co-worker and I were both white and Nazi isn’t exactly sexist. So there I was.

Also without witness. He was always quite careful about that.

DEFINE “NAZI”

For some, the definition’s simple. “Anyone with rules I don’t like.”

In my understanding a Nazi is someone who belonged to the Nazi party in Germany, or at least subscribed to their political platform. Or someone who belongs to the new Neo-Nazi movement I’ve heard about. To my co-worker it meant, “I don’t like you or your ideas and I’m not going to listen to anything you say.” Which might include any parent, employer or worker who thinks their offspring, employees, or co-workers should follow the rules.

Ideologically, my rock-band-drummer-pusher co-worker and I were on opposite ends of the universe. “Nazi” was a handy rock to toss at me right at that moment. Maybe I shouldn’t complain, though. There are a lot worse verbal rocks flying these days.

Well, I have something in common with the US President now, seeing he’s often been called a Nazi. As far as actually subscribing to the Nazi political ideology or being a member of that party, I wonder if he’s any more of a Nazi than I am? I’ll leave that question to more informed people than myself, but to me the term seems to be saying, “I hate whatever he stands for.”

One thing I wonder: Do those folks who suffered such atrocities at the hands of the real Hitler and his real Nazis feel disgusted when we with such cushy lives sling this term around so freely?

WHAT’S A STUPID QUESTION?

I made a quick stroll around the internet this morning and stopped in for a discussion with Kristian (see Tales from the mind of Kristian) about the word STUPID. We’re in agreement: out with it!

If “I didn’t sleep a wink” and “It’s raining cats and dogs” are outdated clichés that must be avoided now, I propose we add the word Stupid to the list of outdated clichés and forget it. Along with Idiot and Imbecile. (Dough-head was one of my dad’s favourites.) You can probably think of a few more.

They’re only words, but cruel ones, and they’ve been around too long.

THE MOST HELPFUL WORDS

I visited J.S. Park’s blog this morning, too, and read his answers to a reader’s question about helping someone get through depression. “Working Through Depression As A Team.” His closing thought is worth echoing around the world. I trust he won’t mind me repeating it here:

What’s the Most Helpful?

Once in a while, tell a person you love them just because. No reason. Many of us who struggle with depression feel like we’re bothering everyone all the time. They need to know they’re loved in the middle of that. That’s a God type of love. “I love you just because.” That’s a really big deal, to be loved that way.

In life we’ll meet lots of people who sling angry words at us and point out our failings. Don’t we all wish for someone to come along side and just care? A friend who looks at us honestly and still sees a few good points, who encourages us and praises our efforts even if we’re down in the dumps? And to be a friend like that?

As the song says, by using our words wisely we can win hearts.

“It’s Over”

Fandango’s prompt word for today is OVER. As I took a second look at it just now to see if the word would nudge me into a blog post, a memory popped up. So here’s my response:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“It’s over,” I’d tell myself. Over and over I repeated those words, fighting the feelings, the sensations running through my system.

When I was 27 I found a hard, walnut-sized lump in one breast. A shocker. I thought my life was OVER — too soon! Five minutes later I’d made an appointment with my GP.  Within a week I was facing surgery for breast cancer.

Being so young, I recovered fairly fast afterward. I was booked for a trip to the Cancer Clinic at London’s Victoria Hospital. (London, Ontario, that is) I was given three different oral chemo drugs and the oncologist set up a schedule for chemo-therapy.

Every Monday morning I had to report for blood tests, then was taken to a small room where I sat and had that stuff pumped into my veins. As time went on the veins got more uncooperative and would collapse when the nurse tried to insert the needle. She tried 3 or 4 sites at times. Now THAT got painful!

It’s pretty hard to describe how I felt after chemo. Not really weak, but like you had something inside you that you just didn’t WANT to feel or think about. Even back in Jan of 1981, when I started chemo, they had pretty good anti-nausea drugs but I didn’t push my luck by thinking about how I felt. I focused on, “This will very soon be over.”

For the first eight treatments the drugs (methotrexate, vincristine, and something called FV) were cold from the fridge, injected right into my vein. Definitely chills a person! Sometimes I read that expression in a tension-filled scene, “His blood ran cold.” I believe I know what that feels like a lot better than any story character. 🙂 And before long my head was cold, too, because my hair started falling out after the second treatment and was completely gone by the third.

Vincristine—extracted from a South African primrose, if I recall correctly—has some nasty side effects: it damages the nerve endings. I had to quit that after three treatments because my finger tips and toes were numb.

The second round, Adriamycin, lasted four weeks, again once a week. This drug was so damaging to the vein the nurse would inject it very slowly through an IV drip. Thankfully, though, it didn’t knock out my hair, which had started to grow again.

During those weeks different friends kindly drove me into the city and drove me home again. We went straight home, never tried to stop and pick up this or that. And all the way home I’d tell myself, “It’s over.”

At certain times of your life, OVER can be a most beautiful word.

 

Is Honesty Always Best?

Today’s Word of the Day prompt is CANDOR

Here I am rattling on this keyboard in hopes of conveying some thoughts on this topic. HONESTY; TRUTH. Deep subjects!

According to Merriam-Webster candor is the free expression of one’s true feelings.
Adjectives: honest, open-hearted, truthful, direct, forthright, frank, plain-spoken, straightforward, blunt.

How candid can you be in your relationships? How much open sharing do you think is okay between spouses, friends, family? How honest are you with your competitors and antagonists? And when do you just keep quiet and hope for the best, letting others make their own choices and learn their own lessons?

How much candor can you handle from others? If you have a fault, do you want to know about it? Are friends allowed special privileges in this department? Do you expect more gentleness or less frankness from your spouse than close friends?

I can look back on a few times when a friend has been very forthright with me about one of my faults. I sure didn’t appreciate it at the moment, but later on I thanked them for what they said. I’d fallen into a rut and their words put me back on track again.

And I remember a time when I wrote a candid reply to a friend. Her letter informed me that she’d discovered her husband was cheating on her. She was deeply wounded, insulted, and furious. She referred to the “other woman” as “That…that SLUT!”

Do you blame her? I didn’t. Yet I sensed that the fountain of fury I saw splashed across her letter, if she kept bathing in it, would finally drown her. As they say, “Acid corrodes the container it’s in.”

I wrote back to sympathize a bit, yet told her as kindly as I could that she had to let go of that anger or it would destroy her. And as for “that SLUT!” where was she coming from? Though this affair was wrong, maybe the other woman was a hurting, confused person, dealing with self-esteem issues too. I reminded my friend of her own teen years when she had such negative feelings about herself and what this led her into.

(My friend’s mom died young and her dad was abusive to them. One day he decided she needed to work on her math, so he sat her down at the table and sat down across from her with a textbook in one hand and a ping pong paddle in the other. Every time she gave him the wrong answer, he smacked her face with the paddle. As a teen her need for love and approval drove her into a relationship with a married man, which led to an abortion.)

It was a hard letter to write. Honesty stings. She might well hate me when she read it. But my conscience wouldn’t let me just pat her on the back, say “Poor you,” and leave her to drown in that acid.

I didn’t hear from her for a long time, but finally we did resume correspondence. She told me all her other friends were full of sympathy. When she read my letter she raged, “How can she? She’s supposed to be my friend!” But then she wrote, “In the end your letter helped me more than all the sympathy I got.”

Having seen people flounder for years in bitterness, I do believe that sometimes, to help a friend in need, you simply must be openhearted and call a spade a spade.

What do you think?

Memory of a Bird Rescue

I see that today’s RAGTAG Community prompt word is MEMORIES.
Opened my DropBox file and checked how many memories I’ve stored. Since I started my new system where every file is neatly categorized, I can take a quick check of the files starting with Mem–.

I counted 120 of them. So I can ace this prompt. 🙂

I suppose the idea is to write a fresh one, but I’ll cheat and pull one out of storage, a tale not posted for a long time. Hope you enjoy it.

Out of the Lion’s Mouth…

One balmy spring day I was visiting with my next-door neighbour, Marilyn. She has a lovely, flower-filled yard and we were walking on the lawn checking out the perennials around her house.

Several times we took note of a small bird hopping around on the ground not far from us. The tiny bird looked similar to a chickadee in coloring, yet we could see it was not a chickadee. Marilyn and I remarked about how tame it seemed to be, hopping around only a few yards from our feet.

Then we went across her back lawn to check out a new flowerbed she’d made in the middle of the lawn. Before long we saw the little bird again, not far away from our feet. Her three barn cats had also wandered over to hang around with the ladies, maybe hoping a bit of nibbles — or a least a bit of friendly petting — might come from some kindly hand.

Suddenly her buff-colored cat jumped up and dashed over to the little bird and grabbed it in his mouth. I hurried over to inspect the situation: the poor bird’s head was in the cat’s mouth and its wings were flapping frantically trying to escape.

If the cat had injured the bird—like damaged a wing so it couldn’t fly— I would have left well enough alone. But the bird’s wings were obviously fine. And the cat was in a dilemma, too: as soon as he opened his mouth to deal with the bird, it would make good its escape.

You will know what a soft heart I have. I said, “Enough of this! We can’t have slaughter going on right before our eyes.” So I bent over the cat, grabbed its head, and pried its jaws apart. The bird, now released, flew to a nearby shrub and then off into the trees. A wiser bird for his close call.

The cat looked bewildered. Like, What just happened here? Where’s my lunch? Marilyn laughed and said, “He’s never had anyone do that to him before. I think you’ve offended him.”

“Well, too bad. I couldn’t bear to watch the slaughter,” I told her.

Later after a few minutes’ thought. I asked her, “Do you think God has to do that for us sometimes, too? We get ourselves hopelessly ensnared in some vice and He actually has to pry open the devil’s claws in order to set us free?”

And she answered, “Maybe He does.” It does seem that some folks are amazingly rescued from the most dangerous situations or pulled out of violent lifestyles.

When I got home I looked up that little bird in our bird book, and learned that it had the simple, descriptive name: “black and white warbler.” It’s a migratory bird here; we see them only passing through to the North country. I sure wonder why that one was so brave (or foolish) as to hang around our feet? And I’m glad that her cat didn’t win that battle.

Boyhood Memory

by Edgar Guest

It used to be fun in the good old days
to rise at the dawn of day
and dig for worms for a fishing trip.
It used to be fun, I say,
for I swear that a robin who hovered near
knew just what we were about,
since he flew to the ground when the earth was turned
and begged us to toss one out.
Yes, it used to be fun to go fishing then,
but Time has rewritten my terms
of what pleasure is — and I never get up
to dig for a can of worms.

We’d sit on the dock and we’d swing our legs
all day in the blazing sun,
and a few small fish on a piece of string
was our ultimate dream of fun.
Then digging for worms was an easy task,
but I tried it a year ago
and the earth seemed hard as a city street
where the streams of traffic flow.
And I’d lost the knack of clutching a thing
that wriggles and twists and squirms,
so I said to myself: “You will never again
go digging at dawn for worms.”

I stuck to the task ‘til my hands grew sore,
I labored and toiled and wrought,
but the worms were scarce and no robins came,
and it wasn’t the fun I thought.
But a small boy said as we walked away:
“I’m wondering, Uncle Ed,
when there’s so much pleasure in getting up,
how can old folks stay in bed?”
I could only answer him this: “My lad,
all experience confirms
the dreadful fact that there comes a time
when it’s labor to dig for worms.”

From Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest
© 1934 by the Reilly & Lee Company

Some of us who have grown old and stiff are finding that it’s labor to dig for any reason nowadays, though ‘nature’s call’ may still rouse us before dawn. 😉
Happy gardening, everyone.