Biff America: Prayers and pecan pie |

Biff America: Prayers and pecan pie

The holiday of Thanksgiving appeals to me. No gifts, no religion — just guilt-free eating and a reminder to count your blessings. (Though I can understand why Native Americans are not too keen on the celebration.)

We were invited to a calorie fest at a friend’s house. Despite a recent knee surgery, confining my mate to a stiff-leg brace, she was determined to bring freshly baked pecan pies. My assignment was to shop for needed ingredients, clean up afterward and imbibe in moderation at the party.

Ellie said, “You got off easy: All we need is butter, corn syrup and pecans.” She offered to write it down, and I was insulted over her lack of faith in my memory.

Whenever Ellie hands me a grocery shopping list, I experience a sense of dread. There is often stuff that I have never heard of like lemon grass, liquid aminos, avocado oil and rose hips. My shopping outings turn into a form of grocery spelunking as I search for stuff I never bought while single.

No matter the quest, in these times of an abundance of visitors and a lack of employees, any shopping can be a challenge. So I girded my loins for battle and biked to the store. Past experiences of shopping on or near holidays have taught me to give myself plenty of time and patience. Like every other business, the grocery stores are chronically understaffed, so trying to find an employee to ask, “Are rose hips an ingredient or a condition?” is as difficult as finding a tofu stand at a rodeo.

But this was a cushy assignment: butter, corn syrup, pecans.

Unfortunately, I left the store without pecans.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t find them. I saw them. But standing in front of the nut shelf was a family of eight debating which kind of nuts Uncle Jimmy, back at the condo, would like and whether they should go back and trade in the Honey Nut Cheerios for some Captain Crunch.

Since I had two other things to buy, I decided to pick up the other stuff and return after the Walton family had moved on. Along the way, I got distracted by saying “hello” to friends and wondering why the folks who package 10 ounces of chocolate milk give the calorie count as “per serving,” like anyone would ever drink half of a 10-ounce bottle of chocolate milk and save the rest for later.

I was halfway home when I remembered that I had forgotten to buy the pecans. I cursed myself, turned around and reentered the pre-Thanksgiving bedlam.

When I walked into our house, Ellie asked, “Did you remember to get pecans?”

“Of course I did,” I said. “I’m insulted that you would even ask.”

This column is really just a long-winded way to admit that my short-term memory is deader than King Tut. Though I can sing the theme songs to the ’60s TV shows “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Green Acres,” I’ll often enter a room for a purpose and forget why. Usually, I’ll exit the room, turn and reenter, hoping for a mental reset.

But I will say my recollection of long-past events, song lyrics, conversations and poems is impressive for a guy between the ages of 60 and death.

For instance, I can still remember my nightly prayers in summer 1963, when I was 10 years old: “God bless my parents, my brothers and sisters, and Patrick Kennedy.”

Less than three years after JFK was elected, the First Lady Jackie gave birth to a son named Patrick, who lived only 2 days. The country, particularly the Northeast, mourned the death of Patrick just as we reveled in the election of JFK a few years earlier.

I’m not sure whether my mother suggested I include Patrick in my prayers or I came up with it on my own. I do know I mentioned him every night. At the time, I was convinced that my prayers were heard.

When his dad, President Kennedy, was killed only a few months later just before Thanksgiving, I included him in my prayers. Then MLK was killed five years after that, and he made the cut. But then, two months after MLK’s death, Bobby Kennedy died, and I stopped praying.

But to quote Meister Eckhart, “If the only prayer you say in your entire life is ‘thank you,’ that will be enough.”

I guess I never stopped praying after all.

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