It's been a week. A wonderful, relational week. Exactly what the week in which we give thanks should consist. As a representative of all that I have valued in this year, these days spent with people have been full of superficiality and depth, laughter and tears, grace and truth, and I treasure them--because wherever two or more are gathered in His Name, He is there. Absolutely. And I testify to these moments for which I give Him thanks--in just this week:
An evening with friends who have walked the road we walk with mental illness and could speak into our fear, unknowing and drowning. They were wise and real, transparent and profound and by the time we'd prayed ourselves out the door, we we buoyed with encouragement. Renewed faith in God's sovereignty.
SK and I (and E from her home) drove through a torrential downpour two hours south to my brother's home high on a hill in Tacoma, overlooking the waterfront where (on clear days) there's a view of Mt. Rainier, which must be breathtaking at dawn (though I'd never know, even if I lived there. We spent the day with him, his son and daughter-in-love, and their darling, very pretty 6 and 1/2 month old daughter. It was a quiet day, with the pouring rain outside, and the rhythm of a baby setting the tone, but the conversation was like the lovely sweaters my brother's wife creates, knit together by the knowing that comes because we're family. E left, R's wife survived an arduous commute home from work and we sat down to a dinner my brother deftly made while the conversation flowed without a hitch. And when we left, we felt blessed, (especially to have met Amazing A! Good job, K & C, if I didn't tell you. Hang in there, you're doing a wonderful job. I pray for you!)
Beve's brother visited over the weekend for a flying visit to see Grampie. It was good to see this mountain of a man. We tried to take Grampie out to dinner but for the first time, Grampie refused to come with us. I choose to thank God for this new hard development. I choose to sit here this morning and thank Him for what we have left of Grampie today: his face-lighting smiles when he sees us, his large appetite that hasn't abated, his ability to talk (even when he's confused), his presence in our lives. We will try to bring him here today. Hope for the best. Please, God.
A hard thankfulness this week is that close friends had to put their beloved Golden Retriever, George, down this week. I've hardly known a dog more loved, and I've loved dogs deeply. As I hurt and cry with them, I give thanks for the furry almost-son George has been in their lives. This was a dog who thought broccoli was a treat! Incredible. Really. Anyway, as I hold in one hand the grief of his death, I'm very thankful for this beautiful, loving, scared-of-thunder dog, thankful for the tremendous joy he brought to D and ML. By the way, he featured in a post a couple of summers ago (and it's a good one, if I do say so myself), which you can find it here.
And finally, on a completely different note (and apologies for those of you who know this story already) our Thanksgiving story, told every year, like people tell the Christmas story. It just has to be done.
The most famous of our Thanksgivings was the first Beve and I shared. Now when I say shared, I simply mean Beve and I shared the same table, sat down as friends, stood up as friends, and nothing but friends. It was a start, though we didn't know it at the time. That year (the olden days to our kids) Beve and his brother were living in Finland. The living there stuck for Beve's brother, and he's called no other place home since, though that was something else none of us knew at the time. My Europe-traveling friend and I had made our way north like we were following the twilight, getting to Helsinki just about the time the sun went over the horizon for the years. At least it seems that way as I look back on it. So after hanging with Beve and his brother for a few days, we decided to put on the bird, so to speak, for a few of their friends. None of the four of us had ever cooked a turkey before, but we'd seen between 24 and 30 years of them cooked, so we thought we could do the job well enough.
Unfortunately, Finland in November isn't exactly a turkey farm. While my friend S (actually, she was the original SK, the one whose middle name we gave our own SK) and I made a shopping list, Beve went turkey hunting. When he walked back in the door, grinning, he said, "I looked all over Hell...sinki for this turkey." Inimitable Beve, one down the road our kids would recognize as Vacation-Beve! Later that night, the three of us went grocery shopping for all the ingredients of an American Thanksgiving. More easily said than done, however. Looking for specific items like 'french-fried onion rings' and sage and thyme isn't simple when most store clerks wouldn't admit they spoke English, and we couldn't make heads, tails or anything else of ingredient labels the multi-voweled, double-consonant two-mile long words that make up the Finnish language. We managed, but just barely. Looking for sausage for the stuffing I intended to make, just like dear old Mom, was the hardest task. However, with the help of a clerk, some highly inventive sign language, including pushing our noses up like we were pigs, we found a package similar to good ol' Jimmy Dean's, so we were set. The clerk seemed to find us odd, shook her head at us a bit, but we'd gotten that a lot since we'd stepped off the Viking line ferry into the land of the reticent Finns.
While Beve and his brother duly worked that Thursday--after all, it was no holiday in the land of the Northern Lights--S and I cooked. First things first. The sausage for the stuffing. After frying up some onions, adding celery and herbs, we peeled back the packaging, and discovered Finnish sausage is maroon. I'm talking a deep crimson that was my father's favorite color, but has almost no resemblance to the ground sausage (or any other meat) which we expected. And it didn't fry up like ground meat either. It kind of clumped and stuck to the spoon. However, with enough seasonings, it began to taste okay. Then, with the bread, it actually tasted quite good. So we stuffed the bird, put it in the minuscule oven and went on with our preparations. When Beve got home, there was still some left in the pan, so he had a taste as well. OK, so it's just possible we spent the day tasting that sausage stuffing. Dang, we were good cooks! At some point, after many spoonfuls, we decided it was so tasty, we might need another roll of sausage--leftovers, you know. So Beve went back to the store for that amazing crimson Finnish sausage.
While the potatoes boiled, and the turkey cooked. we moved every table into Beve and his brother's small living room, created our own banqueting table. And then, just as we were folding napkins into festive triangles (I never have learned the art of napkin folding), Beve returned with the largest grin on his face I'd ever seen, and I can tell you Beve has a smile to melt a heart. He could hardly contain himself. Really. "It's not sausage," he said, exuding glee like a little boy. (And this may have been the moment I first saw him as more than a friend)
"IT'S DOG FOOD."
Dog food. Dog food, stuffed in our gullets all day long.
And dog food, stuffed--gasp!--in the turkey we were about to serve our Finnish guests. So the moral dilemma was, obviously, should we serve it to them? I mean, we'd been eating it all day and were still alive to laugh about it. Or should we take it out of the turkey? What would you have done?
Can you guess what we did?
Months later, back home in the states, I got all my film developed, and the picture of the trip for me was the one of my friend S, standing at the stove in Beve's apartment, holding a large spoonful of that dog food stuffing, about to take a bite.