The Sad in Happy, the Happy in Sad

Dear Dad,

It is the ninth Thursday since you died, but who is counting?

I am a little ticked off that you picked a Thursday because this has always been my favorite day of the week. It is the day after Hump Day, but not yet the weekend. It is the day when I start to anticipate my time at home and begin to look forward to it. It has always been a happy day for me, but now, it has a lot of sad mixed in.

This particular Thursday also happens to be Thanksgiving. I know this holiday was tinged with sadness for you, because it was at this time of year that you lost your own father when you were nineteen. In later years, you also lost two other good friends at November’s end, one of them a student of yours. I know these losses weighed heavily on your heart.

Thanksgiving was always a mixed time for you. But, I never really knew any of this until I was an adult. When I was a child, you always made Thanksgiving a cozy and special gathering time of sharing food and celebration. You never let your sadness show. Kudos to you for that and for teaching me how to remain joyful even at the saddest of times.

stuffingThis morning, I am up early to do what you always did first thing on Thanksgiving morning when I was a little girl, that is, make the stuffing. I am not actually going to stuff it into a turkey, though. I am going to follow your lead and press the stuffing into a baking dish. Stuffing the bird always made you uncomfortable because of the potential for spoilage. Instead, you would fill the turkey with chunks of apple that you would toss in the garbage when it was time to eat. The apples helped to keep the meat moist. I pass this along—one of your trade secrets—to anyone who may be reading.

This morning I begin, of course, with onions sautéed in butter. I throw in chopped celery (including those lovely, leafy tops of theirs), some garlic, some apple. I may get rowdy and throw in some pear chunks and pecans too. I will leave the pecans whole, because that is what you always did. I will brown some mild Italian sausage with a tad of salt, pepper, sage, and oregano. I will splash in some beef stock. (Stock in a box. Love that stuff.) Mix it all together, bake it for a while at 350. Moisten it with stock a couple times as it browns. You did not like things to dry out.

There were so many Thanksgivings that we did not spend together because we were physically too far apart to make a gathering feasible. However, the early imprint of Thanksgivings from long ago will never leave me, so I thank you for that, and for teaching me how to trust my instincts when preparing food for family and friends.

You were so good at that, along with many other things. Goddamnit, Dad, I miss you!

Rest assured, it will be good stuffing, not dry, and even if I cry over it, it will only help me to remember how happy I am that you were, for a time, my ingenious and wonderful father. Happy Turkey Day, Dad.


4 thoughts on “The Sad in Happy, the Happy in Sad

  1. Thanksgiving has been bittersweet for my mom and aunt these last few years, too. My grandpa’s birthday would have been today — Nov. 29. This was our third Thanksgiving without him, and it’s hard not to remember him on Turkey Day because, when he was alive, dessert was always his birthday cake. Pumpkin pie just isn’t the same, but the angel food cake with coconut cream frosting wouldn’t work anymore either.

  2. I have a photo of my sister and I making stuffing on Thanksgiving morning when we were little, reminding me that we crumbled two day-old sweet rolls into the dressing to make it perfect. I still carry on this tradition, thought it often means a trip to the bakery to select the rolls specifically to age for the dressing.

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