no oyster dressing

This is the first year that my parents are spending Thanksgiving without any of their kids around. It would be easy to drown in pathos about how the kids all deserted them, but it’s not that easy.
It all started last year after my mom worked hard to host a Thanksgiving dinner that would include her sister’s family and my mom’s parents (my grandparents). Well, wait. It starts earlier than that.

A few years ago, after a Thanksgiving that my grandparents spent at their home alone while my family had dinner with my dad’s relatives, my mom rashly promised my grandmother that she would never desert them for a holiday again. This increasingly became burdensome. My grandparents don’t want to drive too far from their house, or have anyone else drive them. They will only go to my parents’ house for a holiday—they don’t even like going to my brother’s house, which is closer to them than my parents’ house. They don’t like big crowds of people, including events with my dad’s side of the family, which is pretty substantial (he was one of seven kids).
You can imagine the fuss this caused. Other relatives would host lavish holiday dinners, but my immediate family would be stuck at my parents’ house, eating a spice-free meal because my grandmother is “allergic” to garlic and anything with taste, listening to my grandmother describe her ailment of the week and everyone else’s diseases. She also likes to tell people how fat she thinks they are. My grandfather likes to sneak outside to smoke and then come inside to watch football games. My mom was reluctant to invite other relatives because my grandmother didn’t get along with them, but on this point my sister and I managed to change her mind occasionally. I was only ever there for Christmas, but I got to hear about all the other holidays secondhand. Usually at length, from my aggrieved sister.
My mom tried to convince her sister and her family to visit my grandparents for a few Thanksgivings, but what this meant was that my aunt and uncle would come to town and stay with my parents. The holiday was more enjoyable for my mom even though it meant more work.
Last year, though, she finally Had Enough. My grandmother refused to leave her house for Thanksgiving. My grandparents would not even answer their phone after my grandfather called my mom at the last minute to let her know that my grandmother was too ill to leave the house or talk to anyone. If you don’t know my grandmother, you would probably feel sorry for her for being too sick to attend the holiday festivities. Let’s just say that you don’t know my grandmother, and leave it at that.
She would see only my aunt, by herself, that weekend. She refused to see my uncle (they can’t stand each other) or even my mom. She said she just didn’t feel up to it.
My mother normally sighs and says things like, “Well, they might not be with us much longer” and “Would you want the last thing you said to them to be unkind?” and “They’re my parents and I have to take care of them” and “They’re old. We have to accommodate that.”
After last Thanksgiving, she said things like, “Maybe we should come visit you in Austin next year” and “I don’t know what we’re doing next year, but we’re getting out of town.” She was irritated enough that we spent Christmas Day at my aunt and uncle house in Covington, instead of preparing a dinner for my grandparents.
My sister thought she had convinced my parents to go with her and my niece to Disney World for Thanksgiving this year. However, my parents decided to cancel the trip this summer on the grounds that my niece is too young to appreciate it, and it wouldn’t be much of a holiday if they spent the whole time helping to take care of a four-year-old. They promised my sister that they could all go in a couple of years.
However, my sister had already told her daughter about going to Disney World for Thanksgiving, which is around the same time as the child’s birthday. You can imagine how you’d feel about going to Disney World for your birthday when you are tiny. Sis was looking forward to the trip, too. She said she wasn’t breaking any four-year-old girl’s heart. She convinced a single-mom friend to go with her, and they booked plane tickets and a hotel room. They’re leaving next week and my niece could not be more thrilled. I think my sister will enjoy the trip more without having my parents hovering the whole time.
My married brother, his wife, and their two kids are going to Houston to have Thanksgiving with my sister-in-law’s side of the family.
My boyfriend and I are going to Massachusetts to visit with some of his family, and then to Boston to have a nice little mini-vacation of our own.
That left my youngest brother, who is juggling a full-time courseload at LSU, a role in a play, an apprenticeship in a local dance company, and a job at a country club. He told my parents that honestly, he really could use the time off to catch up on schoolwork and other projects.
So my parents are going to Destin, Florida (it’s near Pensacola) to stay with one of my dad’s brothers and his wife in their condo. No fuss, no worries.
(People from the New Orleans area have a real fondness for Destin, I’m not sure why. The drive is pretty short and the beaches are still white, I guess. When I was a little girl, we spent a week every summer in a run-down cottage park right on the beach in Destin. Every year, you could see more high-rise hotels and condos go up, but the cottages were still there and we had a great time snorkeling for sand dollars and playing in the Gulf. Over the years, the water grew terribly seaweed-y and we had to stop snorkeling. My parents told me a couple of years ago that the cottages had finally been torn down and a high-rise was there now. I’m only surprised it took as long as it did.)
They’re planning to be back by mid-weekend, when my youngest brother will drive in from Baton Rouge to visit with them and maybe have a delayed Thanksgiving dinner.
And what are my grandparents doing for Thanksgiving? I suppose they’re staying home by themselves. Maybe my mom will feel guilty about it … but not guilty enough to stay home.
Meanwhile, Christmas is just around the corner. What are the plans? No one wants to think about that quite yet. And I’m in no mood to encourage them to do so.

2 thoughts on “no oyster dressing”

  1. I always enjoy hearing about your grandmother. Isn’t she the one who wouldn’t talk on the phone because it would strain her voice, and then shouted at your grandfather when he was on the phone? I swear they are probably more entertaining in print than they are in person, but hoo-boy… you’ve got some fun in your family.

  2. My parents live in Destin, which is pretty much the only reason I ever have for going there. I’m not sure how much beach there’s going to be this year, though, given the hurricane. It all got scraped out pretty badly.
    I’m told that Navarre Beach is the new place to go for those who think Destin is overbuilt (and, well, it is). But apparently it REALLY got a pounding during the storm.

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