Luanne Austin Mugshot

“U.S. Overdose Deaths Topped 100,000 in One Year,” is one of today’s headlines.

Experts believe the top drivers are the growing prevalence of deadly fentanyl in the illicit drug supply and government COVID-19 lockdown policies, which left many drug users socially isolated and unable to get treatment or other support.

Brothers and sisters, this ought not to be. It doesn’t have to be.

During this month of gratitude, while I’m thankful that no one in my family uses illicit drugs, it hurts me to know that others are suffering in this way. So as we give thanks for this year’s blessings, I’ll be remembering those who haven’t been so fortunate.

As we say in 12-step circles, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

When the year circles around to Thanksgiving, no matter what has happened, I can depend on that meal, that same meal. It’s the same meal I ate as a child and the same I eat now.

Oven-roasted turkey, herb stuffing, mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, stuffed celery, creamed onions, pumpkin pie.

Comfort foods. Hearkening back to a time when life felt more stable. The people in my life, around that table — grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins — were people I could depend on.

In the morning, we four kids got all dressed up and off we went to Grandma’s house. On Long Island, that wasn’t exactly over the river and through the woods. More like over the railroad tracks and through the traffic.

When we got to Grandma’s, things were bubbling on the stove. Her red-and-black tile floor was shining, the white metal cabinets gleaming, and the sun brightened it all through the bay windows.

While Mom and Grandma tended to basting and mashing, we kids watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV. Sometimes we knew people who were marching in the parade, so we stayed glued to the set to see them.

About a half-hour before dinner, my Aunt Clara and Uncle Bob arrived with my cousin, JoAnn, and the turkey. Aunt Clara always said she cooked the turkey to save Grandma the work of lifting the huge bird, but knowing Aunt Clara, a strong-willed German with a strong accent, she probably wanted to make sure the bird was cooked right. And it was.

We “youngsters” had to sit at a wobbly card table in the next room, which we hated. Meanwhile, the formal dining room was elegant, the table set with a lace tablecloth, fine china, real silverware and crystal goblets.

After I married, we always went to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving because as a Jehovah’s Witness, it was the only holiday she observed. Plus I could not bear to miss it.

One year, after Grandma was gone, seduced by photos in Better Homes & Gardens, I decided to try a different meal, with cornbread (gasp!) stuffing and asparagus and peas or something. Everyone hated it and told me to never, ever change the menu again.

After Grandma died and her house was sold, I got only a few mementos. But what I do have is from Thanksgiving. I’ve got the wine glasses, the lace tablecloth and the leaded crystal dish in which she served the stuffed celery.

With family scattered around the world, the faces at the Thanksgiving table sometimes change, but the meal never does.

And in a world that’s vastly different from the one in which I grew up, that is comforting.

“Thank you, Lord. Show me how to help make life better for others.”

Luanne Austin lives in Mount Sidney.

Contact her at RuralPen@aol.com,

facebook.com/ruralpen or care of the DN-R.

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