Another thing I like about fall is that the colors mirror those of my house. One last weekend to enjoy them, before we launch into Advent and wintry decorations. My younger son went to visit his brother for Thanksgiving and a good friend invited me to join her family. I wish I'd gotten a photo of that spread - everything on the table was delicious and the family welcoming and friendly.
I made a small exception to my usual Black Friday no-shopping policy and ran out in the morning to buy my Christmas tree. I've only found one place in town that ever has a few white pines amongst the ubiquitous firs and I wanted to make sure I got one. I found a beautiful tree still dotted with pine cones. I chatted with the man who helped me wrap and load the tree and we talked about the gorgeous weather and spending time with people who matter to you. He said every Thanksgiving is good in his eyes. I drove home feeling glad I'd had that conversation and blissing out on the rich pine scent filling my car.
My sister and brother-in-law came up later that day for the weekend. I made a huge slab of salmon with herb cheese stuffing and several sides because I wanted to test out some recipes: caramelized brussels sprouts with lemon, asparagus with feta and a balsamic glaze, baby carrots slow-roasted on coffee beans and puff pastry spirals with spinach, capers, parmesan and lox. Let me just say: Mmmm. The next night I made a big pot of chicken vegetable chili-ish and blue buttermilk cornbread.
The visit was mainly so we could drive up to Lexington together to see our father. He was happy to have lunch with us and was surprised when he heard our ages. Time is a flexible thing with Alzheimer's. He recovered, though, and said, "You look good!" There is a noticeable decline since I saw him last. He is in a wheelchair now and struggled to remove the knife and fork from the napkin the restaurant had wrapped it in. When he finally just gave up and sat looking at his plate, I took the bundle and got the utensils sorted out for him, and was sad to see how little he ate. He confused my two youngest sisters when we asked about them, and I know it won't be long before he has trouble remembering who we are. But for now he was happy to have us there. When my BIL told him he'd had a nice conversation with my younger son who is studying to be a mechanical engineer, my father perked up and said, "I was a mechanical engineer!" I hope that important part of his identity is one of the last memories to go for him. Dad has stage IV prostate cancer but, because of his dementia, is not aware of either the cancer or how little time he has left. The amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles that choke his brain make him live in a very moment-by-moment way. The formerly scarred and angry man appears to be perfectly at peace and grateful for small pleasures. And in turn, I am grateful for that gift hidden in a brutal disease. The man at the Christmas tree store was right - there is so much in this world to be thankful for. Sometimes, it's just a matter of looking for the blessings.