When I was a kid my family was divided. My mother didn’t exactly get along with my father’s relatives and vice versa. This was due to the fact they were brought up in closely knit families and you had to earn your way in. Thanksgiving was usually at my Aunt Sophie’s or at our apartment. If my father was uncomfortable or resentful that he couldn’t be with his family for the holiday, he never showed it. After a while my father and my Uncle Stanley built a two family and moved int together. It didn’t last, there was tension. Maybe my mother contributed or my father and uncle discovered closeness wasn’t all that good of an idea. We moved out. Now during this my mother was getting sick. Breast cancer, followed by a single mastectomy followed by radiation and chemo. On Father’s Day in 1960, my mother died. All of my adult female relatives,both sides, were with her, they tossed me out. I lost my faith that day. Thanksgiving was moved to my father’s relatives. Just my Uncle Stanley and Aunt Mary and their daughters, my Aunt Ann and Dad my sister and me. It was family. We lived near them so it made sense to go there. We eventually wound up having dinner there every night. The family kind of fell apart, I went into the service and whole bunch of other minor fiddley things happened. My aunt and uncle died, my father died and that pretty much was it. My sister married and tried at Thanksgiving but really wasn’t equipped to handle the task. Frequently her battleship plans overloaded her rowboat abilities. Her in-laws took over and I was happy to be alone. She and her husband divorced. She moved out and I cooked Thanksgiving for by brother-in-law’s relatives. He remarried and I moved out. By that time Thanksgiving was a work day. I did it for a long time. Cooking a crapload of turkeys and dressing for people who didn’t want to do it or spending the day and part of the night in bars that catered to hospitality workers who usually worked holidays. I moved back to my hometown and in the process of looking for an apartment my ex-brother-in-law steered me to my sister, She had an extra bedroom, I helped out on rent and I hit it off with her boyfriend. We split duties for Thanksgiving. They broke up. She found another boyfriend who had a house so I mooched along. We did Thanksgiving for four years including one when she’d won a 35 pound turkey in a raffle. It was a buffet attended by every relative that could be coerced into coming. Every one of them left with a doggie bag the size of grocery bag. We had turkey soup for a month. She and the boyfriend broke up. Her ex had an apartment to rent. She hooked up with the prior boyfriend. They wrangled over marriage and split up after one Thanksgiving at his house. She met and married the Murph. We had a couple of Thanksgivings together, they were family, but not the same. Six years ago in January she died. Murph has been going to his sisters’ houses and I either worked or stayed home with a TV dinner. Big comedown for a cook, right? Nope. This year he’s going to his nieces for the big day. His sister is a real smart mom. Teach the kid and hand it off to them. Me, a turkey breast is lurking in the freezer. It’s coming out Saturday. After a thaw it’ll be skinned, boned, butterflied. I have a stuffing that has been working its way through my brain since I decided on the turkey breast. I’ve been systematically been picking up the items I need. Yesterday was a sourdough loaf. Saturday mushrooms and carrots and celery for use as a platform for the turkey. I’m waiting.
All of this week one of the questions that has been popping up is “Where were you on November 22, 1963?”. I was in Mr. Halpin’s Biology class at Pulaski Senior High School. It was around one in the afternoon when he was called to the door. After a short conversation he went into the storage room behind the front of the class and took out a radio. He plugged it in, turned it on and tuned to a news station. The president had been shot in Dallas Texas. I remember a cute girl I had a crush on but went out with the drum major broke down sobbing. It was contagious. The boys kept a brave face but they were shell-shocked. It was that event they had heard about from their father and uncles about, December 7th . Nothing was going to be the same. No matter what we thought about him before he got elected, he was our president. Not some old man our parents looked up to, our fucking president and somebody shot him! Every boy had some kind of crush on his wife and wanted to be able to handle pressure with the grace he did. The girls had their crushes and wished their closets could be filled with high fashion clothes. We all looked at the potential, his dreams and wishes for this country. The politically astute among us saw them as lost during the term of his successor. The weekend tested our tolerance for what was determined as appropriate mourning. It was unseemly to play rock and roll records during that weekend. Saturday and Sunday brought more shocks. The killer was a nobody with a mail-order rifle. He denied everything. Sunday he was shot and killed by a small-time club owner/ police groupie who later was revealed to have connections to organized crime. Kind of lost in all of this was J.D. Tippet the police officer that Oswald shot. The three were all buried the same week, one with an eternal flame and love of his country, one with full police honors and one with news reporters as pall bearers. It’s been fifty years. JFK has drifted into legend and demystified, JFK/Oswald/Ruby have become a cottage industry for conspiracy freaks and writers. J.D. Tippet is still remembered by his wife. Since then we all watched hijackers fly aircraft into the World Trade Center and the world become less safe and more uncomfortably secure at the same time. We press on.