It’s the time of year when many of us relish connecting with our families and friends and spending time together to reflect on our blessings. I’m talking about Thanksgiving, of course, although sometimes it feels like it’s being turned into “ThanksChristmas.”
My sister Bev has become the matriarch of our Italian family since our mom, grandmother, and oldest sister passed away. Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, or just a routine Sunday dinner, Bev has always prepared enough food to feed an Italian village. There always was enough food for everyone to take home afterward.
But I have seen the progression of Parkinson’s disease in Bev since her diagnosis in 2017. What started out as mild tremors in her head and hands has evolved into stage 3 Parkinson’s, complete with balance and gait issues, falls, and problems with short-term memory and decision-making.
This year’s observance will be a different kind for us.
Bev is no longer able to prepare her homemade stuffing and haul a 20-pound turkey into the oven, or put together her lasagna with the special sauce and set out the usual Italian spread for all of us, but I know she will make sure that Thanksgiving is still a blessed occasion.
Bev will make banana bread, pumpkin bread, and other baked items, because she says baking has become therapeutic for her. She says it helps her to focus and concentrate. Being able to offer something to the Thanksgiving meal makes her feel like she can still contribute something, she says.
And we are grateful. The biggest blessing for me and for all of our family is that Bev is still here among us, offering words of wisdom, and making sure that Thanksgiving remains a celebration.
I won’t be spending Thanksgiving with Bev this year, but I will FaceTime with her. I’ll be able to talk to everyone and see them gathered around the table, along with the cornucopia that others will have prepared. Although we can’t be together physically, we can still celebrate, share a virtual meal, and play games.
While Bev will experience the crisp autumn leaves and their many colors in Ohio, and maybe even a bit of snow, I will be admiring the tall and bold saguaro cacti and enjoying the 70-degree temperatures of the Arizona desert.
I will miss being with her. My sister and I will be thousands of miles apart, but I will hold her close in my heart and celebrate Bev’s life with gratitude this Thanksgiving.
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