Every year at Thanksgiving time we drive to the suburbs of Kansas City to spend the holiday with my sister, Donna, and her husband, Homer.
It’s sort of a ritual. We do the same things every year. We arrive on Tuesday in time to get a late dinner at Houlihan’s, near where Donna and Homer live in Lee’s Summit. It’s a local restaurant that now has spread around the country.
Wednesday it’s off to Gates for lunch, where I’ve been eating Kansas City barbecue for more than 40 years.
Thursday is the big hou-ha at my sister’s house, with turkey and all the trimmings. Homer makes his famous cat litter turkey. Yes, you read that right. He marinates the turkey overnight in a plastic cat litter bucket filled with a briny liquid.
Friday we head to Dave & Busters for lunch and to celebrate our son Joe’s birthday with a couple hours of playing the video games. It’s Joe’s favorite place.
On Saturday we drive home to New Albany, exhausted and ready for a day of rest before getting back to work.
The routine doesn’t vary much, which is good. We eat too much and have a good time. I always look forward to making the trek. At least, until last Saturday, when Donna called.
“In the interest of full disclosure, I thought I should call and tell you that Homer’s not going to be here at Thanksgiving,” Donna said. “I didn’t want you to get here and be surprised.”
All sorts of weird thoughts raced through my mind. Was he sick? Had he gotten tired of putting up with my sister after all these years? We Mitchells can be a handful, you know.
No, he was going to be out of town. Donna said that even though he is retired from his job as an economist with the Army Corps of Engineers, the federal government had asked him to return to work.
Lots of retirees were being asked to help out and deal with the aftermath from Hurricane Sandy, the super storm that did so much damage in the Northeast.
Homer flew to New York Tuesday to begin his temporary job analyzing the needs and costs of the cleanup. His assignment: the Borough of Queens in New York City.
Typically, during an emergency assignment, retirees work six or seven days a week. It was uncertain whether he would even be off work on Thanksgiving Day, she said.
Jenny and I feel sorry for Homer. His prior emergency assignments have been things like dealing with the aftermath of an ice storm in Nebraska or a flood in Washington state. He’s not much of a big-city guy.
We suggested to Donna that we all fly up to the Northeast to have a Thanksgiving meal with Homer. But we looked at the cost and gave up that thought.
Then we started feeling sorry for ourselves. My sister’s version of a Thanksgiving meal is a major cooking ordeal, filled with recipes from her cooking classes. The number of times my sister says “Homer, will you do this?” or “Homer, will you do that?” is seemingly endless.
Who’s going to do all of poor Homer’s “honey-do” jobs if he isn’t there? I wondered.
Um, I think I’ll suggest we all go out for Thanksgiving dinner.
T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.