Everyone Loved DorcasPosted: November 22, 2012
Today’s tale has all the elements of a great story – romance, family, a villain, a military hero, death, horror, and home-made cranberry sauce. Before you read this, know that when I say it is a great story I do not mean it is good literature. It is a great story in that it is a great one to tell after a few beers.
I was about twenty years old when this happened. Twenty-year-old me was a lot like middle-aged me, except more mild-mannered. People who know me well would tell you that I am not exactly the life of the party now. So to calculate who I was then, deduct thirty-something years of experience and confidence from a low-key middle-aged guy.
Our Tale Begins
College was going well. I also juggled three jobs and was dating a girl I’d known since high school. She and I were into each other like twenty year olds are. We thought it was going somewhere, because that’s what people who are that age think.
I got along with her family too. Her mom and her dad liked me and invited me to family events. Being invited to family events was part of my undoing in this tale.
As I mentioned in a previous post, that Thanksgiving dinner was my introduction to the girlfriend’s version of home-made cranberry sauce. The recipe was passed on from her maternal grandmother. Speaking of passed on, the grandmother had, several years before I came upon the scene.
The guest of honor on this holiday was the widowed grandfather. He was an imposing man, a retired high-ranking military officer who had received honors for his service. The man was someone. He carried himself with a bearing that didn’t demand respect, it communicated that his life entitled him to it.
I’d never met the great man. His granddaughter was not going to have me botch my debut. She educated me on his background and deeds. She spoke reverently of his late wife and their relationship.
She told of the wonders of the family cranberry sauce recipe that was the centerpiece of the celebration. In this family, the berry ranked above the turkey. Her biggest fear was that I would expose myself as a fool in her grandfather’s eyes by making some remark about cranberry sauce coming from a can.
If only I’d made a cranberry joke instead of the one I did.
Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? Me.
The big day arrived. The girlfriend gave me a quiz on grandfather trivia before we went inside. She ushered me into the man’s presence. At nearly seventy years old, he was still the equal of me and my three fittest friends. I looked way up at him, gave him a firm handshake and the talk began. Upon being dismissed, I went to the kitchen and was greeted as a hero. All indications were that I’d been judged as suitable to continue the relationship.
Dinner was served. I ate the cranberry sauce. My loyalty to the canned stuff did not change, but I didn’t declare that aloud.
There was a lot of talk of someone named Dorcas. Everyone referred to Dorcas by her first name. I didn’t know who she was. There was a lot of laughter and reminiscing about her. Discretion would indicate that my best choice would be to not speak during Dorcas talk time since I had no fun stories about her.
Inexplicably, I chose to start talking.
The Gettysburg Address took two minutes to deliver. If that is true, I spoke longer than President Lincoln. Lincoln used notes for his speech. Mine was completely off the top of my head – a two-minute extemporaneous speech about the name Dorcas. Amongst my subtopics were how the name sounded like someone was being called a dork and questioning the wisdom of naming a child that.
My message, though well-crafted, was not as well received as Mr. Lincoln’s remarks. Things got quiet. Quiet enough for me to hear a whispered “Dorcas was my grandmother’s name”. That is when I felt the side of my face melting from the glare I was getting from the head of the table.
I can tell you the turkey was good. The cranberry sauce was pretty good too. I was long gone by the time dessert hit the table. Young me didn’t know when to keep his mouth shut. He did understand when it was time to go.
It Was A Choice. Not A Good Choice, Just A Choice.
I still don’t know what made me think talking about this Dorcas person was a good idea. I think before I speak; I thought before I spoke that night. Despite all the reasons I knew I should have nothing to say on the topic, I chose to make a joke. The choice was my responsibility.
Despite my incredible display on that Thanksgiving, that young woman and I dated through most of my college years. My standing invitation to her house became a warning to keep my distance when her grandfather was in town. That was understandable. There was a little more animosity toward me from the family members who were not dating me. I understood that as well.
There was one who lived in that house that surprised me. I’d always gotten along with the cat. But shortly after the incident, I was tying my shoe in their front yard. The cat crossed the yard and peed on my hands.
Everyone loved Dorcas.
She must’ve been as good as cranberry sauce.