Shared Stories: Thanksgiving Wisdom

Her granddaughter’s observation one Thanksgiving gave Yolanda Adele a sense of peace after her father passed away. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns.

By Yolanda Adele

It was 1991. Getting together with the family for Thanksgiving dinner was not something I was looking forward to, having lost my father, whom we called Popi, just two months earlier. 

Yet I felt an obligation to my mother and the rest of the family to be there to help alleviate the obvious void that was left in my parent’s home.  

On holidays before my dad died, the house and neighborhood were filled with sounds of Mexican music blasting from Dad’s reel-to-reel tape recorder. 

It could play non-stop for 24 hours and sometimes did, often to the annoyance of the neighbors, and always to the frustration of my mother, in spite of being hard of hearing.  I could hear the music the minute I turned the corner on to their block, though their house was almost at the end of the street.

Popi enjoyed having lots of activity around him, especially since my eldest daughter Yvette made him a great-grandfather, first with Jaime, born in 1986, then with Brandon who was born in 1990. 

It amazed me to watch Popi interact with his great-grandchildren in a way that he never could with his own children. I came to realize that becoming a grandparent was God’s way of giving parents another chance to get the bonding thing right, if they didn’t fare well the first time.

Jaime loved her Popi. The last time she saw him alive she was five years old. She came with her parents to visit with Popi in his bedroom where he lay on a hospital bed. My mom called us to the kitchen to eat. I told Popi to rest, and that we’d return in a bit.

After a while Jaime left the table. I got up to look for her. I went to the living room where her toys were spread out on the floor. She was not there. I checked in the bathroom, she was not there either. 

I walked down the hall to my father’s bedroom. There I saw the sweetest sight. Jaime had somehow managed to squeeze through or climb over the hospital bed’s metal side guard, and lay on her side facing her Popi. They both smiled at each other as Jaime gently stroked the top of his head. 

Now, the family gathered without Popi, without his lively Mexican or any other kind of music playing.  In fact, the only sounds beside our voices were the harsh clattering of the dishes and silverware.  

I didn’t know how I was going to get through this strained family gathering. We held hands around the table preparing to say grace. 

Then, with the voice of an angel, Jaime proclaimed, “Popi is so lucky. This is his first Thanksgiving with God.”.

Suddenly I felt all the pent up tension leave my body. A smoothing peace washed over me. Someone turned on the radio filling the house with a joyful noise.

Then I knew Jaime was right. And I whispered “Happy Thanksgiving, Popi.”