Lottie looked at her watch. It's already noon. They'll be here in a minute. As in Thanksgivings past, she placed Haviland dinner plates on the table, admiring the tiny pink flowers of the Varenne pattern. Next, she put her sterling silver knives, forks and spoons in the proper order on either side of the plates. She slipped pure white cloth napkins into brass rings and made sure they were exactly parallel to the spoons.
"Oh," she said with a little tremor in her voice, "someone's knocking at the door. That must be Susu, she always gets here first."
When Lottie opened the door, she got a big hug. "Glad to see you, Mama. How are you doing?"
"I'm fine. You want to help me finish setting the table? Get the turkey platter. It's on the bar in the kitchen." She smiled. "I didn't carve the bird yet. I wanted you to see how pretty it is."
"It's lovely, Mama." She put the turkey in the center of the table.
Lottie poured some iced tea in each crystal goblet. "I hope Jansen gets here on time. Everything's hot and I don't want it to get cold."
The door opened and a tall, slender man walked in. "I'm here," he announced. Putting his arm around his mother's shoulders, he said, "Good to see you." Then he sat at the table and Lottie sat across from him.
"Let's say the blessing." Reaching out, Lottie took each of their hands. "Oh, Lord, thank you for the many times we had Thanksgiving at this table in the past. And please bless those who can't be with us today." She reeled off a list of grandchildren's names. "Please bless all of us, too. Thank you for all the gifts you've given us, including our family being together today enjoying this meal."
They said an Amen in unison.
Lottie pointed to the turkey, "Could you please do the honors, Jansen? Use that electric knife, it slices more evenly and..."
Her words trailed off as she slumped forward in her chair. When it tilted sideways, she fell to the floor with a thud.
Seconds later, two nurses who'd received an alert from a monitor rushed into the room. They shoved a card table out of the way and, following procedure, carefully rolled Lottie onto her back.
"She's still breathing, but her heart's beating erratically. I don't think we'll be able to resuscitate her this time," one of them said as she frantically administered CPR.
Minutes later, despite their efforts, Lottie was gone. The older nurse had tears in her eyes. "Miss Lottie was a sweet woman, kind and patient, not like some of the old biddies in here. She rarely complained." She looked at the lifeless figure. "It's sad. She's been in Baytime Nursing Home ever since I have. Four years and not once have her two children visited; the only time I saw them was when she was admitted. I guess they think they're too important to be away from their offices. The son's a psychiatrist in Atlanta and the daughter's a big-shot literary agent in New York."
The other nurse raised her brows. "Really? That's awful that they don't come see their mother."
"Well, they seldom call to check on her. Oh, the daughter sends expensive clothes for her birthday and Christmas. But I think that's to ease her own conscience."
"You're probably right. But Miss Lottie never spoke ill of them. I'm new here but Miss Lottie's one of the patients I took a liking to right away." She looked at the table with paper plates, cups, and plastic serving pieces wrapped in a paper napkin, all were in disarray. "What's all the stuff on that card table about?"
"Oh, we humored her. Every Thanksgiving we'd set up a table and let her pretend her family was coming for dinner," she replied as she bit her bottom lip. "She'd talk to them, but I don't know if she really believed they were here. She did have a little dementia." She looked at the pale pink blouse with the lace collar they'd pulled back to work on Miss Lottie. Stepping closer, she re-buttoned it and pushed her patient's white hair off her forehead. "But she didn't forget her nice designer clothes and she always made sure we dressed her up for this occasion."
The nurse backed away and shook her head. "So, whether this dinner with her family was pretend or real in Miss Lottie's world, I guess it doesn't really matter. Either way, for her, it was Thanksgiving and she used it as a time to give thanks, even if her family didn't show up and she didn't have much to be thankful for."
She pulled a tissue from her pocket, roughly wiped her eyes, and kicked a folding chair beside the card table out of her way. "I'll notify her son and daughter. Maybe they'll make it to the funeral." She shrugged. "But I wouldn't bet on it."