“stuffed” full of food, memories, and feeling old

Had a fantastic Thanksgiving celebration! Hope you did as well. Am sure we had a lot in common, turkey and all the fixings, family and friends gathered around the table, laughter, small talk, and oh-so- full bellies. What we may, or may not, have shared in experience was feeling, for the very first time, like senior citizens.

Original plans were that my husband and I would have been the middle-aged folk since friends, a couple in their early and mid-70’s, were set to join us for our holiday meal. Of course our daughter was always to be the young chickadee, at 24 years. A call from our nephew who lives and works in Seattle, altered the dynamics. Because of the snowstorm that blew our way, his plan to spend Thanksgiving with his mom’s relatives were canceled due to icy roads. We expected that Kanoa and his girlfriend Erica would dine with us, but were pleasantly surprised to learn that his brother, Sam, would be in town as well. We’d not seen this nephew since he was 11 or so. Now he’s an aerospace engineer, with a degree in aeronautics. Another welcome addition to our cozy home was Kanoa’s roommate, Darnelle. As it turned out, our first guests, Sylvia and Jim, cancelled because of icy weather conditions between their town and ours. So my husband and I quickly moved up, or down, depending on your viewpoint, the age ladder.

My gourmet feast was a hit! Conversation was lively! After some expected “hiccups,” that is. I mean, 30+ years difference in age does require some fancy footwork. I love dancing, and talking, but even my brain was working overtime trying to “connect the dots” in our conversation. I did miss a couple, “dots” that is, like the time Sam told a joke about an antelope in rut who ran into a stopped SUV. The animal was chasing potential mates, who’d smartly sidestepped the vehicle. I got that part because it’s a known fact that females are smarter. Ahem. What I didn’t get, is that the story was a joke. I thought the anecdote was a true story about a friend whose car was hit by a stupid animal. So what began as laughter at the joke, evolved into hysteria when I asked in disbelief, “Was that a joke?” Thank God they thought I was a cute, little, old aunty. Hey, I don’t deny it. I embrace it, especially when I ponder the alternative.

Decades old memories with a Long Island friend and her family, is one that remains with me. Even many years after having lost touch, I can still picture sitting around the dinner table with as many as 10 guests. The food was the best Italian fare I’ve ever tasted, all homemade and exquisitely delicious. The manicotti with delicately, thin pasta shells and the large, flavorful meatballs topping handmade spaghetti drenched in Carmella’s mom’s marinara sauce, were two of my favorite dishes. Even more memorable was to be enveloped into the loving warmth of an Italian family. So like Hawaiians who embrace one and all. I loved them dearly, Carmella, Vito and mom and pop Adamo. Still do, though the parents have long since gone to Heaven, and we’ve lost touch with sister and brother who moved to other states. Even Christmas cards have stopped arriving. But no matter, I will always remember them with fondness and love.

As I sat listening to our young dinner guests last night, I was reminded of pop Adamo. When we first met, he was virile, engaging, witty, and “in command.” Though small in stature, pop was the “man of the house,” though his daughter and son hovered above him like giants, and even his wife stood a half-a-head taller. It’s true, Italian men rule the roost. They might be small, like pop, but his “presence” was large. Vito was taller than 6 feet, but “shrank” when pop barked. When they wanted to convince pop of something, son, daughter and wife would have to cajole him, sometimes for days or weeks. It usually endured for some amount of time, so I can’t remember if they succeeded more times, than not. I do know that I always tried to remain on pop’s good side. He did have a small, soft spot in his heart for this island girl.

I’m not certain when I first noticed that pop was no longer “himself.” Was it before, or after Carmela told us he had Alzheimer’s? Or was it when his voice no longer reverberated through the house, or when he sat in silence after we said our first hellos. But the image foremost in my mind is of pop sitting in his usual chair at the head of the dining table, looking “lost.” It saddened me that he was unable to participate in conversations, where before his witticisms were part of the social gatherings. While his body sat, his spirit seemed elsewhere, perhaps floating overhead, disengaged. In time, pop became permanently wedded to the dreaded disease.

Alzheimer’s assumed a stranglehold on the Adamos, and their home was never the same again. Somehow the family evolved, as we all do, moving forward to become newer, updated versions of their former selves. Carmela married a wonderful man, Steve, and they were blest with an only child, daughter Christine. Last we heard Vito had moved to Las Vegas where he enjoyed the many pleasures of “sin city.” I’m sure pop rolled over in his grave. Mom grew more frail as the years passed, finally succumbing to eternal peace. I’ll always remember her charitableness, especially for those who sat at her bountiful table. We celebrated Thanksgiving every time we sat down to dinner with this loving family.

Last night I caught a glimpse of my own “evolution.” Aging is inevitable, as is change. Resisting either, or both, is probably unwise, and unhealthy. Granted, I am who I am because of 61 years of accumulated experiences, memories, and “self-diagnosis.” There’ve certainly been “detours” along the way, which meant tweaking my life, here and there. But true happiness, I think, is the “thread” that courses through our lives as we evolve, from birth to death. Standing still, inflexible and unchanging, would probably cut, or at least thin, the flow of happiness. Though I may be goofy at times, acting “abynormal,” as my daughter and I label my zany behavior, I am normal in wanting, like others, to know happiness in my daily life.

So I owe much to the young folk who sat around our dinner table on Thanksgiving Day. They “stretched” my brain cells with their chatter about X-Box games, reasons for disliking Windows 7, multi-tasking on 3 computers simultaneously, all while checking their cellphones intermittently. I did hold my own, however, when relating stories about life experiences. They seemed to enjoy my fear of bear anecdotes, and my general “c’est la vie” attitude.

Thanks Kanoa, Sam, Erica and Darlene! You added to the cozy evening, with your youthful gaiety, “geeky” conversation, and contribution of  “ono” food, the lomi salmon, poki tako, kalua pig and pumpkin cheesecake. More than anything, you added to our family’s Thanksgiving memories, about which we’ll be reminiscing for a long time.

are you as “stuffed?’…hugmamma..

hugs for sharing some brief thoughts...and keeping them positive

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