Monday, October 12, 2009

Thanksgiving Day:
The Family You Choose

He loves to tell this story:

"One day at the beginning of July 1988 I was in my office and this person walked in all dressed up in a smart skirt and high heeled red shoes and said, 'I need a job.' And I thought to myself, 'Oh my gosh, will we have to change the dress code of the King?!' "

Twenty-one years later, Don and Norma are two of the most important people in my life.

Don hired me at the Dairy King right after I arrived from Alabama, a deportee due to a "bureaucratic error", shell shocked by the events of the preceding weeks. He tried to train me in the kitchen: I dropped food, cut my hands and burnt myself and the chicken on a regular basis. So he gave me another shot, in the dining room; and he found that I had a natural aptitude, and so he let me stay.

Norma took me under her wing and got me oriented to life in Three Hills. She would invite me to their home and make me tea and let me talk.

These are some of the things I learnt while working for Don and Norma:

1. How to make a good burger: was there ever a hamburger like the Don's Burger?!
2. It takes the same amount of time to do a good or a shoddy job, so do it right the first time.
3. Hockey - Don was a Flames fan and I was an Oilers fan, and nothing could change this until the firing of McTavish; now I am a Flicker ...
4. The balance between a cool head and a warm heart.
5. How to swear in sign language.
6. When to keep trying and when to walk away if need be.
7. Attention to detail.
8. The 'F' word - no, not that one; get your mind out of the gutter!
9. When to talk and when to listen.
10. The value of a second chance.

And when we opened Nilgiris Tea House, the very first people through the front door were Don and Norma: he had done the unthinkable and set an alarm clock for the occasion! It is Don who sat through -- and ate through -- my attempts to come up with the perfect recipe for chocolate cream pie until I produced the one we make now and he deemed it good ("If you don't have good chocolate pie, you might as well be closed!").

Don and Norma have always been there for me all of these years; and even now, as I struggle with knowing what to do about the TH, they listen and clarify and share from their own experience. When they are here they work hard to help me in whatever way they can (as you can tell by looking at the pictures!).

But more important than that, they bring me joy just by my being with them . One of the highlights of my summer is when I gather a few friends together on a lovely weekday evening and I persuade Don to bring his saxophone and we play some of the old songs together.

I know of almost no one outside my family who loves me and accepts me for who I am more than Don and Norma do. And so on this day of the year when we are reminded particularly to be thankful, I want to thank God for bringing these two into my life so long ago. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He guided me to them when I had nowhere to turn. I pray for His hand of protection on them as they head back south and I go into hibernation, waiting for the spring to return them to us once more.

1 comment:

  1. A great tribute. If you don't have good friends, you might as well be closed.


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