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Grandpa, Wine & Turkey
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Rebecca Droeger

The year before my Grandpa passed from this earthly life to his eternal life, he and my Grandmother wanted to fix Thanksgiving dinner like they’ve always done.  Sadly, my Grandfather suffered from Alzheimer’s, and he was having difficulty remembering his old recipes.

Since he was older and was not venturing out as much as he used to, we knew one of the few things he still enjoyed doing was drinking wine; so we bought him a bottle.  My Grandma did not let him drink often; and it was often a game of “hide the booze” anytime my uncle purchased some.

We did not realize that Grandpa had already had another bottle from my uncle.  I do not even know if Grandpa remember he had already had some wine.  So, when we gave him the new bottle, he went to town.

About two hours after we were there, we started wondering why the turkey wasn’t done yet.  It’s normally done about a half hour after we arrive.  Grandpa kept checking, and saying it wasn’t done.

After a little while longer, my Grandma could no longer take it and decided to check on the turkey herself.  Apparently, Grandpa turned the oven off, so the turkey was not finished.

All of a sudden, we wondered where Grandpa was because he wasn’t pacing around the kitchen like he had been all day.  We go into the living room, and he’s passed out, sitting in a chair, snoring as loudly as can be.

We all couldn’t help but laugh.  Here we were, wondering why the turkey wasn’t finished cooking, and all along it was because Grandpa was soused and had turned the oven off.  It was priceless, and I feel blessed to have that memory of him before he passed on.

Thanksgiving always brings fond memories to mind.  My grandparents would always prepare a feast fit for a king.  They left nothing out:  a huge turkey roasted all night long, homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes made from scratch, dark gravy, green beans from their garden, corn, my grandfather’s homemade biscuits,  my grandmother’s fresh tossed salad with her homemade Italian dressing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and every other side and dessert you can imagine.

It was always such a wonderful experience.  My Dad’s whole side of the family would attend.  We would all sit down at the table, give thanks to God for the wonderful blessings of plentiful food and family, then we would all eat to our hearts’ content.

Afterwards, it was always tradition to set-up the Christmas tree.  My Uncle Fred took great care to ensure all of the lights would work; especially the Bubble Lights.  He always bought special and unique ornaments; and everything looked magical.  Of course, the scene was topped off with a train set around the base of the tree; and Manger Scene.

These meals weren’t your normal run-of-the mill family meals.  My grandfather used to be a master chef at the Columbia Club, the fanciest restaurant in Indianapolis Indiana.   He specialized in roasts.

He grew up during the Great Depression.  As one of nine children and the oldest in his family, he had to make a living for the rest of the family at a young age.  He became a chef because he could eat some of the food that was left and bring all of the money home for everyone else.

After he married my Grandmother, and they had my Dad, Grandpa started a restaurant in the 40’s.  Even though he was in his 30’s, he and my grandmother said he was drafted into the army during World War II.  He actually remained a chef in the army and wound up cooking for President Truman while he was still Vice President under Roosevelt.  President Truman wrote my grandfather a letter of commendation for preparing such a fabulous meal for him; and it sits in a frame in my Uncle’s house until this day.

The restaurant ran for over a decade, but it made a huge impact on the family.  It wasn’t just the great food, but my Grandparents’ gift for hospitality.

Not only would my Grandparents make sure that their children were fed, but they also kept my grandmother’s siblings and children fed; along with his family.

As Christians, we do not always witness the fruit of our labors in Christ, but my grandparents’ hospitality had a profound impact on the lives they touched with it.  Their hospitality helped some of their relatives make life choices that would not have happened otherwise.

For instance, my Grandfather loved the movies; and he invested in movie projectors and projector screens.  He would have all of the neighborhood come over to watch movies in the street and would make popcorn for everyone.

To this day, my Grandmother’s nephew remembers movie nights, and said the reason he started his restaurant and catering business was because of my Grandfather.  The nephew said that he saw how my Grandpa had made a living at owning a restaurant; and how Grandpa had shared his life’s earnings by providing such pleasant and simple treats to the neighborhood with his movie nights and popcorn.  The nephew saw what Grandpa had done, and decided that he wanted to be able to do the same thing for his neighborhood and family.

This same nephew now has three prominent catering businesses in Indianapolis, and he has a huge family dinner on Sundays where all of his children and grandchildren gather and share new memories.

Not only does the nephew operate successful businesses, but his son-in-law decided to start a catering business because of his example.  The son-in-law now owns the premiere catering business in Indianapolis, which services huge venues like the Indianapolis Zoo and Yacht Club.  All of this because of my grandfather’s example.

On a Church sign once, I saw a saying I will never forget.  It said “Sometimes, you’re the only Bible people will read.”  My Grandparents embodied this, and I pray that I can carry on the tradition.

Thanks be to God for my Grandparents, my Mom, Dad, my husband, daughter, family and friends.  Thank  you God for the plentiful food, and your Holy Spirit within us.

This Thanksgiving, may you all have a blessed and wonderful time in our Lord Jesus Christ.  To Him be all the thanks and glory.

About Rebecca Droeger

Last week: Georgie Porgie Pudding Pie Kicked the World and Made it Die

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