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Friday, June 26, 2015

The Sunday dinner challenge

The Accidental Farmwife
A challenge to your family from mine
By Diana Fisher

I’ve mentioned the miracle of Sunday dinner before but it continues to work its wonders with my family so I’m mentioning it again. Just in case you missed it the first time.
My Dad got sick and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just a few weeks before I got married in 2007. I moved onto the farm in August and we started our Sunday family dinners shortly after that. I can’t exactly remember the reason but it was wonderful to have family together on the weekends at our place. It was one day of the week that everyone could count on to get together and see each other and spend time with Dad. It was much easier on Mom that way too, so she didn’t have to worry about keeping her house ready for visitors when she was busy taking care of Dad every day.
When he was given his terminal diagnosis on September 11th, and went through various bouts with chemo haze and mental fog due to all the pain medication, Sunday dinner became something he looked forward to. Almost as much as his daily marathons of Corner Gas, and his afternoon nap. The girls would laugh and tease each other at the dinner table and he would just sit there and smile at them, forgetting his pain for a moment.
As we said our final goodbyes to Dad just four months later, the Farmer and I decided that we would continue Sunday dinners for the family. And truly, sometimes I think it’s the only way we would see each other. Because lives get busy and it is often difficult to schedule a get-together other than for special holidays and celebrations. We have dinner for about 20 people, on average, every single Sunday. The only time we cancel is if we are out of town for some reason. On those weeks I’m always afraid someone is going to show up just out of habit and no one will be there to greet them but the dog.
It’s like Thanksgiving dinner, every week. It’s no wonder I’ve gained 25 pounds since we married. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. People ask if it’s a lot of work and yes, it is. But it’s worth it.
The Farmer does most of the cooking (of the meat, anyway). He loves to cook so he does it up big. You don’t have to have a smorgasbord every Sunday. People bring dishes to add to the table and you could arrange for that as well. Or just have everyone pitch in and order pizza, or Chinese. Make a big pot of spaghetti or a pan of lasagna. It doesn’t have to be gourmet. The point is you are together.
When people are eating and drinking together, they relax and feel welcome, no matter what they are going through at the time. That’s another thing the Farmer has established: on Sundays there are no serious confrontations or grudges revisited. The white peace flag is up and the farm is a sanctuary where no one passes judgment or voices disapproval. Save that for Monday.
Sunday dinners are not just for immediate family. We occasionally have honorary or extended family members at the table. That’s a good thing, because if it was just the usual suspects every week, eventually we would start arguing and throwing food, I’m sure. Having the occasional special guest keeps us on our toes and exhibiting our best behaviour.
In recent years my Uncle Pat has joined us for several dinners at the farm. At first it was just Easter, Thanksgiving and special birthdays. Then he and his lovely Christiane started showing up to join us just on a regular summer Sunday, when they could enjoy the farm and the pool. Pat’s big, booming voice broke out in laughter and song and he seemed to really enjoy his visits when he was able to join us. Pat had a few health problems and he died fairly suddenly last week, at the age of 68. His wife has requested that we host a celebration of his life on the farm, because he loved it there.
If your home isn’t big enough to welcome the entire family for a weekly or even monthly drop-in, look around and see which family member does have a house big enough and see if maybe you can offer to potluck the food and do the set-up and clean-up. It is worth the effort, I promise you.

Photo: Patrick Cullen whose career spanned 40 years in voice, film and stage passed away unexpectedly. He will be remembered with an Irish wake by family and friends later this summer on the Fisher farm in Oxford Mills. 
RIP Patrick -July 29th, 1947 - June 23, 2015 

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