Turkey Popsicle: Thanksgiving with the Leventrys

Unorthodox yet meaningful holiday traditions sweeten a last celebration with a dying loved one.

The ingredients for the perfect Leventry Thanksgiving meal are as follows: Loads of family, plenty of fattening food, clean spoons for hanging from our faces and lots of laughter. Mix it all up at Grandma's house in Ohio and you have one terrific turkey day.

In 1995, that recipe changed.

In October, my Grandmother suffered a stroke. It wasn't all that severe, but still a jarring reminder to us that the family matriarch--the woman who had survived the death of a child and her husband, not to mention raising my father--was not made of steel. A feisty, petite, life-long Republican whose favorite cuss word was shinny, Betty Bush Leventry was the embodiment of grace under pressure and the bond that held the family together. Her recovery was rapid and the speech therapist was impressed with her swift recall of language. She would tire easily, but Betty "No Problem" Leventry refused to slow down too much.

When we arrived at Grandma's that Thanksgiving Eve, everything was as it should be: Reader's Digest and Guideposts in the bathroom, vegetable soup cooking on the stove and turkey-shaped salt and pepper shakers on the table. Grandma seemed more frail than usual, but full of good cheer. There was nothing to stop the usual descent into silliness that occurred when my family gathered together. Not even the omnipresent shadow of grandma's recent stroke.


Almost the entire clan was present--Aunt Jane and uncle Bob, cousin Beth and her husband at the time, my brother Rick, his wife Tracy and their daughter Kate, and my rarely seen cousin Bill and his girlfriend Elaine. It was a full house, except for my parents who were in Ecuador working for the Peace Corps.

That morning started out like any other Thanksgiving morning, a flurry of cooking mixed with moments of watching the Macy's parade. We practically had to tie grandma to a comfy chair to keep her from bustling about organizing things. As it turned out, we needed her help.

We had forgotten to defrost the turkey.

Sure, we probably had 40 years of combined cooking experience in that household, if not more, but somehow that big bird had slipped our minds.

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Ellen Leventry
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