A Misty Thanksgiving – Part 2

I love most dogs, but I don’t like dumb dogs. I think German Shepherd dogs are dumb. They are slow to figure things out. That makes them suspicious. That makes them good guard dogs and police dogs.  I don’t like German Shepherd dogs.

(I just had to get that out.)

Now that I have alienated and offended owners of these dogs and they have left this post, I will continue.

When I arrived Thanksgiving morning, my first stop was Kim’s house. We had a short reunion chat where she gave me the breakdown on what Cheryl had prepared and how they came to the decision for the change of venue. We drove to Cheryl’s house in Baltimore to join the gathering of Larry (Cheryl’s boyfriend), Phil (Kim’s friend), Jamil (my nephew), and Jamil’s then girlfriend.  While getting out of the car, upon our arrival, Kim chose that moment to reveal the fact that Misty, Larry’s dog, had been invited as well.

Cue the sound of a wrench being thrown into the gears, tires screeching from sudden braking, and a phonograph needle sliding violently off the record. She invited a dog to Thanksgiving dinner.  Not just a dog, but a German Shepherd dog to a familiar house full of people not so familiar to her.

There is the unpredictable chaos of family relations, which one gets to enjoy whole hog, warts and all — beautiful in the twists and turns of our relationships with each other. Conversations spring from recent inspiration or familiar gems mined from the past. Then, there is the predictable chaos presented by a certain type of dog in a certain type of situation. I knew how this was going to go.

On our arrival, we were greeted by barking and found Misty in her containment cage in the dining room. Yes, the dining room.  Misty was not made to feel isolated from her loved ones. But, Misty did not like the cage and so she barked until she had reassurance from her handlers that all was well.

From that point, the room tipped and it all began to slide south. The layout of the appetizers was enticing, and noticeably, at dog level. Conversational flow was interrupted by the repeated reassurances to Misty, and admonishments  for being both fretful and a pain. To appease Misty, she was released, but muzzled, to reassure guests that she would be well-behaved. Soon after, she found the hors d’oeuvres table and began licking the apples and cheese fondue.

Dinner was approaching. Cheryl, in Martha Stewart fashion, had taken the whole organic turkey out of the oven and presented it on the platter for all to admire. She took the platter back to the kitchen and began to carve the bird. We heard her shriek. The turkey was nowhere near ready. The timing of the dinner was off; the hors d’oeuvres were no longer in play; the alcohol flowed unabated and unchecked; and through it all was the call for Misty! Misty! Misty….!

A degree of equilibrium was reestablished after Jamil’s girlfriend departed for her family’s gathering, taking Jamil with her. Kim busied herself in the kitchen with Cheryl, while Phil, Larry and I formed a sort of boy’s club at the table. Phil provided a buffer between myself and a well-lubricated Larry, probing for salacious details of my past — don’t know how he went there; and Misty was returned to confinement. As if she sensed her work was done, Misty finally settled down to relative quiet as we ate a meal that arrived in fits and starts; but was as amazing as I had hoped.

And, just as quickly… it was over. Cheryl had just sat down to visit with us in the living room when Larry called out to her from another room. When she screamed back, “What?!!! What now?!!!” and stomped out of the room, Kim said she had had enough and it was time to go. I wasn’t ready as I had not had time with my sisters, only their guests. The party was clearly over.

It was disappointing that I did not have the heated and stimulating conversations that I had come to expect from a gathering with my family. Though the food was good, it was not about the meal. Though the effort Cheryl put into the presentation of that meal reflected tremendous desire for a wonderful experience, it did not win the day. What was lost was her presence and conversation while she struggled mightily against the forces of confusion arrayed against her.  What was lost was being together, because that’s what we should be doing when we get together.

Food addresses the common need and shared purpose. And it was Thanksgiving. I had much for which to be thankful. I was thankful for my job, hard as it was to get away from. I was thankful for siblings, including my brother, Daryl (not mentioned in this story), and thankful that we truly enjoy each other’s company, and for the parents that made it so. I am thankful for the good fortune of my sister, Kim, and her fortitude and dogmatic pursuit of health and well-being. And, finally, I am thankful for the grace that my sister, Cheryl, will exhibit after I have dredged up her repressed memory. I won’t see any of them this Thanksgiving; and I will miss them.  Somehow, I’ll find a way to blame the dog for that, too.

Author, David

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A Misty Thanksgiving – Part I

I was looking forward to the Thanksgiving of 2010. My sister, Kim, had invited me to her house, in Maryland, for the gathering.  This was to be the first time, as I recall, Kim was to host a Thanksgiving. I was looking forward to kicking back with a beer; helping with a dish or two, if asked; and enjoying a low stress event, the way she likes it. It would also be an opportunity to try the new dishes she was bound to present, that were aligned with her new and irritating diet.

Sister Kim, with her ongoing campaign to combat the rebellious cell lines that had mutated in her breast, had chosen a diet she felt would reduce the untoward effects certain foods had on her body. She had identified inflammation as the enemy, and was hell-bent on eliminating anything and everything that tipped her body towards an inappropriate immune response.  Her guide in this quest was something she identified as “the blood type diet.”

From what I gathered from her interminable treatises on the subject, this diet consisted of lists of foods that one could eat based on a given blood type. The lists were very specific. The diet would not merely say you could eat nuts. Instead, for example, it would list for type AB, that almonds and walnuts were beneficial, but cashews and Brazil nuts were to be avoided.

I am used to relying upon scientific principles in most things. These statements loudly (to me, at least) beg the question, “How do you know that?” Each list should represent conclusions of scientific studies with measurable quantities, corroborating the claims. I couldn’t imagine anyone quietly applying that rigor to the subject and then printing it all up neatly in a book available on Amazon for fifteen bucks.

With Kim, every offered or suggested food was vetted by her list. She would respond,“No, it’s not on my list,” or, if her answer was “Yes,” then it would be accompanied by the verbal footnote: “It’s on my list” or “It’s my powerhouse food.”  This would be followed by a brief lecture regarding the diet, the lists and the ramifications of it all.

All.Quite.Tedious.

To me, it was pseudoscience. To her, it was the religion of her new lifestyle and the firm foundation in the belief system that allowed her to survive her ordeal with breast cancer. She emerged to thrive in the state of health, post-cancer therapy, that had long eluded her. In essence, the diet worked. Science or no science, the diet worked for her and the food she cooks is delicious; and I was looking forward to it.

As luck would have it, I was scheduled to work the day after Thanksgiving, and therefore, unable to go to Maryland after all. I was disheartened, but resigned to work my assigned shift.

Luck intervened again and I found myself suddenly free of my work obligations and the trip east was back on line. I made that journey, but during my brief absence from the plans, the plans had changed. The dinner, originally slated to be at Kim’s house, was now at Cheryl’s. This was not a downgrade and it opened up the menu considerably.

The short Thanksgiving holiday makes travel a pain, though many folks try to make it back to family, anyway. That is what this holiday is about after all. It’s not really about a meal. It’s about the opportunity to share a meal, once again, with family. As crowded as the airways and highways may be, they come.  The common ties are once again connected.

It can be messy, too.

-Author, David

Next: A Misty Thanksgiving – Part II

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