The covered dishes were carried into my mother’s house in the arms of all the relatives in attendance. Normally, my mother would prepare every single dish herself as Thanksgiving was her party to host. Her sister, my aunt, always hosted Christmas. But at eighty-seven, hunched over from the ravages of osteoporosis on her brittle vertebrae, she just isn’t able. My aunt, with knee replacements gone awry, won’t be doing the cooking at Christmas either. Did we know when the last holiday meal toiled over by their caring hands was being enjoyed?
Their canes, looped over their chair backs, remind us all of their frailty. My mother has shrunken in height and my aunt is the thinnest I’ve ever known her to be. Both of their husbands, my father and uncle, are deceased. My aunt’s oldest daughter is also deceased. Their absences are palpable wounds.
There is more food than ever, my nephew even fixed a duck. I think we are all aware of the possibility that someone will be missing next year. So we enjoy every ounce of turkey and time with one another. And when the last sliver of cake and pumpkin pie has been shaved off and the dishes cleared, we plan Christmas at my aunt’s so that the covered dishes can be carried into her house for the feast like old times, because we never know when the last meal prepared by someone is being enjoyed.

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