THANKS A BUSHEL: When I got the news about the death of my friend Douglas during my Thanksgiving dinner two years ago, it probably changed the way I think about Thanksgiving. And that's good. It was always should I have dinner at my house, should we go out, or what should we serve to a mostly vegetarian crowd which eats turkey once a year only because they're so darn hungry by the time I get food on the table they'd gnaw on a table leg if it had gravy on it.
Now I think about Douglas and the massive 1950s meat roaster he bought when he decided he wanted to be the brisket and rib sultan of the desert southwest. A Nebraskan by birth and a big meat eater by choice, Douglas threw some monumental parties, where people stood around Bacchanalian-like with juice and fat dripping off their sticky fingers.
Douglas was always the first to have a party and say, "Don't bring anything," and the first to scold you if your plate was empty for more than two minutes. He was a cook, a host, a throwback to the take-care-of-your-friends-and-they'll-take-care-of-you days.
And he did take care of us. At his memorial service, a splendid eulogy delivered by a friend reminded us that it was Douglas the Landscaper who filled our beds with remaining plants he couldn't squeeze into his clients' manicured plots. He'd stop by and say "plant these" even if you protested you had neither the room nor the time. He brought me hybrids I'd never heard of and came by faithfully to make sure I hadn't abused them. He taught me how to group flowers so one gawky orange snapdragon was not left standing miserably on its own between two pink petunias. Now my beds are thick with the grace color brings.
When we added onto our house, it was Douglas we entrusted to halve our famously old edible orange tree. He was the one person who never thought for a minute we'd lose the tree--its only fault was that it stood, crown and roots, halfway into what would be a long-awaited bedroom and second bath. Were we really going to sacrifice a 40-year-old tree for a commode?
On the day he came by with his--gulp--chainsaw, I ran into the house, emerging only after the cruel deed was done. With a large root severed and her head adequately shaved, we proceeded to fertilize the tree's remaining side like Douglas had advised.
Today the tree is still big and healthy. The oranges are turning now, going from their youthful green to a yellow-orange, just like they did at Thanksgiving two years ago when Douglas died at home. The ones at the top, touched by the brightest sunlight, are always the first to change.
Thanks to Douglas for oranges at Thanksgiving. Keep your plates full this year, warriors.
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