My family adopted Grandma Gertrude when I was two years old. It took many years for me to understand she wasn’t “really” my grandmother. She was short, a little round, always wore a dress, and had glasses that sparkled like diamonds. Although she had no children of her own and had never been married, she was a pretty great grandma. She was a retired schoolteacher, a wonderful storyteller and always expected good manners and good behavior.
We had no nearby relatives, so this one Thanksgiving my family joined the masses on the roads and we drove hours to have dinner with Grandma Gertrude. I remember our journey ended on a narrow winding road, mostly covered by leaves. Grandma Gertrude’s house was a real little cabin in the woods. It was crammed with a lifetime of trinkets & memories, no playroom for children, but lots of puzzles and hundreds of books.
We rarely saw Grandma Gertrude, so there was lots of catching up for the adults to do. Finally, after what felt like hours of grown ups talking, I snuck into the kitchen to find something to nibble on. I peeked into the oven & saw a huge turkey – a cold, pasty, white turkey…sitting in a cold pan in a cold oven!
I slipped back to the living room to get mom’s attention, but was reprimanded to be polite, children were to be seen and not heard. During a lull in conversation, I insisted that mom come out to the kitchen. What a surprise! Seeing that ole cold bird took the stuffing right out of her! We’d driven hours to get there, were about out of conversation, and that turkey would take hours to roast!
Poor Grandma Gertrude, I cannot imagine the embarrassment she felt. We laughed about the heartbreaking moment, not recognizing the onset of dementia. In those days it was hidden, talked about in whispers, and as a young child, I didn’t understand it at all. But I do understand what a wonderful blessing she was to our family. She had no family of her own, my sister and I had no grandmother to hug, so we were a perfect fit, filling out each other’s family.
As for this year, my husband and I are joining the masses on the road! We’re Chicago bound to spend Thanksgiving with the gift we are most thankful for, our son! Here we come Clay! Forget the oven, make the reservations!