— From the pages of FLL Issue #36 • Written by Lisa Goich-Andreadis
I miss my mom’s gravy. And her mashed potatoes that were just lumpy enough to occasionally have to chew them. I miss the sound of my mom’s slippers shuffling around the kitchen early Thanksgiving morning, while she started dinner before the sun was even awake. I miss the clanking of her setting the table with her fine beige and white china she had been serving holiday meals on for nearly half a century. I miss her Edith-Bunker-meets-Fran-Drescher voice yelling from the kitchen, “Get in the shower! Company’s coming in a half hour!”
I miss my mom’s Thanksgiving and I miss my mom.
I didn’t make my first turkey until I was in my twenties. It was for a Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter that my girlfriend and I volunteered for. Both of us were novices, thanks to being spoiled by mothers who always took the cooking into their own hands. We bought the biggest turkey we could find. It was something crazy like 40 pounds. We bought a nice, deep pan to put it in and, at my mom’s advice, some canned broth to baste it with during the cooking process. My mom suggested two cans. To be on the safe side, we bought five.
After putting the turkey in the pan, we poured the first can of broth over the turkey. It barely filled the bottom of the pan. So we opened up a second can, poured it in, looked inside, and decided we needed more. Three cans, four cans, five cans later, the turkey looked sufficiently hydrated, so we covered it with foil and went to sleep. I stayed at my friend’s apartment that night, so we could prepare the food together and wake early to bring our donations to the mission.
At around 4:00 a.m., I woke up to go check on the turkey. When I turned on the oven light, I saw our turkey doing the backstroke. The liquid from the turkey somehow tripled and was now right up to the inside rim of the pan.
This did not look like my mother’s bird.
I bolted into my friend’s room to wake her. She ran into the kitchen and, as we both stared into the oven wondering what to do next, we called my mom.
“Why are you calling me at four o’clock in the morning?” my mom asked, groggy and slightly panicked.
“Well, um… our turkey is flooded.”
“Yeah, the whole pan is full of broth and we can’t even pull it out to empty it, it’s so heavy.”
“You have to syphon out the liquid!” she told me. “Put it in another pan to use as your gravy! Why do you have so much liquid in there? Did you use the two cans of broth like I told you to?”
“Well… I… yeah, we used two cans. And three more.”
“You used five cans of broth?!? Lisa! Why don’t you ever listen to your mother?!?”
This Thanksgiving, instead of ignoring my mom’s advice or stuffing myself with her green bean casserole, I’ll be launching the memoir I wrote about her final two weeks of life. 14 Days: A Mother, A Daughter, A Two- Week Goodbye is a tribute to my mom and the final days we spent together celebrating the life of Millie Goich.
In December 2011, I traveled home for what was to be a three-day visit. A long weekend before the Christmas rush made traveling from the West Coast to Michigan virtually impossible. The day before my arrival, my mom fell at her kidney dialysis appointment. She had just completed her tenth dialysis treatment and hated every minute of it. The fall left her immobile. She couldn’t stand, couldn’t move, and decided at that moment that she was going to stop her dialysis and… well… die.
We moved my mom from the hospital to her living room where a fancy, electric bed was set up that would serve as her throne for the next 14 days. Friends and family came and went. Big meals were shared. Football games were watched as my mom’s children and grandchildren circled her bed shouting at the TV and their favorite teams. We took turns talking to my mom one-on-one. We each made a goodbye video with her to chronicle her final words to us. We laughed until we cried and cried until we laughed again.
I picked my mom’s brain for as many things as I could remember to ask her before she left us: How much did I weigh again when I was born? How do you make your apple strudel dough so crispy on the outside? Is it light or regular Philly cream cheese you use in Billy’s Dip? Tell me that story again about you in the canoe on the Detroit River. What outfit do you want to wear to your funeral?
We were fortunate to have this time together to share and reflect. And blessed to have at least 12 of those14 days be good ones for my mom. Medication kept her pain free and roundthe- clock nurses and hospice workers kept her clean and comfortable. As far as deaths go, this was a good one. We should all hope for an exit like the one my mom was able to have and we were able to orchestrate for her.
Someone once said that Thanksgiving is the best holiday because it’s not a holiday about giving gifts, but about giving thanks. This year I give thanks for Millie Goich, the woman who let go of my hand when I took my first steps, the woman who released the back of my bicycle seat when I pedaled on two wheels for the first time, the woman who grounded me when I got drunk on Mad Dog 20/20 in high school, the woman who sat on the kitchen floor with me when I sobbed my eyes out over a boy, the woman who told me I was the most precious gift she ever received and that she was so glad I was born.
And the woman who taught me that two cans of broth is all you’ll ever need for a happy Thanksgiving.
Lisa’s book, 14 Days: A Mother, A Daughter, A Two-Week Goodbye (Savio Republic) is available November 10th on Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com and wherever books are sold. For more information visit: www.14DaysAMemoir.com.
Lisa Goich-Andreadis is an author, talk radio host, former comedian and Detroit native living in Los Angeles. She manages the Jazz & Comedy Fields for The GRAMMY Awards. Married to Guns N’ Roses keyboardist, Teddy ‘Zig Zag’ Andreadis, the two share a home with four dogs in the San Fernando Valley area of L.A. Lisa is the author of “14 Days,” blogs regularly for the Huffington Post and can be heard as a special guest on “The Mitch Albom Show” on WJR-AM in Detroit. For more information on Lisa and her projects, visit her website at www.lisagoich.com.