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Cranberries are much more than a side dish this Thanksgiving

This photaken Oct. 31 2009 shows homemade cranberry sauce.  Homemade cranberry sauce while lacking thfamiliar sound shape when putting

This photo taken Oct. 31, 2009 shows homemade cranberry sauce. Homemade cranberry sauce, while lacking that familiar sound and shape when putting out canned, gives you a truly flavor packed condiment with little effort. From foreground, spicy cranberry salsa, dried fruit cranberry compote and cranberry chutney only take 10 to 15 minutes to make and are a step well above their canned cousin. (AP Photo/Larry Crowe)

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Updated: December 19, 2012 11:42AM

I f you were to compare the days of my Dad’s life to an hourglass, you’d see the sand racing to the bottom, with those around him having little chance of stopping it.

Dad was diagnosed with end-stage prostate cancer in late May; it now was in his bones. This pretty much surprised us all because until then it seemed as if the disease was being held at bay. Yes, he’s 83, but this is someone who was up on his roof cleaning leaves out of the gutters only last fall. But boy, have things changed rapidly since that diagnosis.

My family is lucky in that we have had time to take care of business, and there is a lot to do and think about when the end draws near. Checking legal papers, gathering important documents, figuring out who gets the car, deciding funeral preferences, all sorts of stuff. And we’ve all been trying to stay on top of things. No time to procrastinate right now. Sometimes it feels as if we’re playing a personalized version of Beat the Clock in trying to get everything finalized while Dad is still here and able to participate.

So I guess with all that’s been going on, it should not have shook me up as much as it did when I realized, I forgot to buy the cranberries.

But when that omission came to me in the middle of the night, waking me out of my usual coma-like sleep, I was inconsolable. And then positive I wouldn’t find any. I started racking my brain, trying to recall: did the hot, dry summer create a cranberry shortage? I’m still not sure why I didn’t just get dressed and go to a 24-hour supermarket; it would have made the rest of the night more bearable. I needed to have cranberries in my possession, the sooner the better. I was in the grocery store just before daylight, grabbing up my supply.

Because after all, what would Thanksgiving be if my family couldn’t make fun of my cranberry sauce?

When I was first teaching myself to cook, I decided that my contribution to the family’s Thanksgiving feast would be cranberry sauce. In the 30 or so years I’ve been making it, I’ve tweaked the basic recipe a lot, and anywhere else it would be lauded. But you have to know this about my family and Thanksgiving tradition: they want everything pretty much exactly as the holiday was from day one, and homemade cranberry sauce wasn’t there. Bring on the jellied stuff with the can indents on it!

Every year I’m there pushing the sauce, and every year there’s huge resistance. (In actuality I do have some takers, and my Dad is one of them.) There’s a long table of all of us laughing and trading jokes. It’s our family.

So, I had to have those cranberries because they’re really about much more this year than a holiday side dish. I needed to maintain that family tie that’ll give us the chance to act as we always have for at least one more Thanksgiving.

Things are going to change, but on Thursday, it’ll be just like always.

I don’t know if we’ll get many more holidays with my Dad. But for now, I’ve got the cranberries.

Let the joking begin.

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