persons, places and things: Adjusting our tradition


By Barb Arland-Fye

Thanksgiving Day was a dress rehearsal of sorts for my immediate family because the head cook — my husband Steve — was on the other side of Iowa operating a train.

The cooking chores fell to me. Having never before cooked a turkey, I was thankful just three of us would be partaking of this feast.

Beginning the day with Mass at my parish, Our Lady of the River in LeClaire, filled me with a sense of God’s blessings. I had the privilege of cantoring with fellow choir member, Jan Davis, while our music director, Cheryl Brogla-Krupke, enhanced the celebration with her performance on the organ and keyboard. Singing at Mass is uplifting and deepens my sense of relationship with God.

After Mass, I checked with others about their Thanksgiving plans. Even if I’m not a cook, I was willing to risk culinary embarrassment so that someone else wouldn’t be alone for the holiday. Fortunately, everyone had plans.


My sons, Colin and Patrick, and I would be eating a late Thanksgiving dinner. After picking up 22-year-old Colin at his apartment in Davenport, the boys and I headed to a favorite recreation trail for a walk. The weather was brisk, but the walk felt invigorating, even though we shortened it because Colin asked us to.

That might have been my first inkling that our break from tradition wasn’t setting well with Colin, whose autism causes him to cling to routines as if they are lifelines.

He asked me what we would be eating, even though he knew the menu. He needed to know I wasn’t making changes. But I wouldn’t be preparing green bean casserole, one of Colin’s favorite Thanksgiving dishes. I thought I would be juggling plenty without it. I did, however, promise that Steve would prepare green bean casserole on Saturday night, along with the leftovers from our Thanksgiving dinner. It would be an encore, but this time with the “Four Fyes” as Colin loves to refer to us.

My first turkey turned out beautifully, and the boys loved it.  The stuffing and green beans met their approval as well. The baked potatoes, unfortunately, felt like lead weights and required a trip to the microwave. Steve had baked pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie ahead of time and, of course, those turned out perfectly.

Colin had a few tears in his eyes, but his 15-year-old brother and I assured Colin that everything would be OK and that we could still enjoy Thanksgiving even if Dad was gone temporarily. I, too, felt a twinge of sadness. But we are truly blessed. Steve has a good job and he would be coming home. I know of several families whose loved ones were absent for Thanksgiving because they had gone to their eternal home.

Anxiety has, in the past, caused Colin to get sick; that happened on Thanksgiving, too. But another of God’s blessings eased the distress; Steve’s train trip was completed earlier than expected. He arrived home around 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving night, called Colin and told him we could all go out for lunch the next day.

We had a wonderful time together, the Four Fyes, and followed up with a delicious sequel to Thanksgiving on Saturday night — complete with green bean casserole.

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