Jim Bradford, author of The Awakening of HK Derryberry, fondly recalls what the holiday means for himself and for his disabled yet talented friend, HK Derryberry.
With the holidays rapidly approaching, I often find my mind wandering through warm memories of past holidays joyously spent at my grandmothers house with family and friends.
Memories of her spending hours in the kitchen without help and before mega grocery stores and frozen or ready to serve foods. Her labor of love began days before anyone would come over. She spent all day basting the turkey, slicing country ham, boiling potatoes that eventually and magically became mouth-watering mashed potatoes, baking candied yams, preparing multiple casseroles, slicing tomatoes, making homemade rolls, and effortlessly baking chocolate and coconut pies and then browning them in the oven just long enough to leave little sugar drops on the tips of the meringue.
Memories floor my mind of her always setting more places at the dinner table than she expected…just in case someone who didn’t have anyone to celebrate with unexpectedly dropped in at the last moment. Maybe we should do the same, set an extra setting – but actually open our doors to someone new.
Maybe those are similar memories for many of you. Days that I often refer to as the good old days. Days I sometimes think I’d like to relive occasionally.
My childhood memories were far removed from those of my very special friend HK Derryberry until we met unexpected seventeen years ago. HK’s mother died following his premature birth from complications from an automobile accident. His father didn’t want him. His grandmother raised him. As a result of the accident and premature birth, HK is blind and has cerebral palsy. He was nine years old when we met. I was fifty-six.
Unlike my family, holidays had never been much of a special thing for HK and his grandmother. They were not much different than most other days of the week. HK spent a lonely existence most days listening to a portable radio from the time he awoke in the morning until he went to bed at night. The aroma of a delicious holiday meal cooking in the oven was not present at his house.
Soon after meeting HK, my wife, Brenda, and I quickly introduced him to things he’d never experienced. We opened our world up to this stranger that soon became like a son to us. HK’s life was changed and so was mine, by a once chance meeting you can read about in our book The Awaking of HK Derryberry.
HK loved to eat, and his first holiday at our house after we became friends, Brenda quickly realized she had to double her recipes – to bring to HK’s grandmother’s house. They were so appreciative.
HK has often told me that it was one of best meals he’d ever eaten and they enjoyed the leftovers for several days. Surprisingly, for some unknown reason, holidays like Thanksgiving, soon became a tradition for them. Like Brenda, HK’s grandmother now prepares a Thanksgiving day meal that includes many of the same menu items we enjoy at our house. She invites a couple of family members to join them… making the season very special for HK. This special time of year I now I hope he’ll remember fondly long into the future like I still do about my grandmother.
This year while Brenda and I are traveling during the holidays, I will be blessed to know that HK will be doing the same thing with his grandmother and other relatives in Tennessee. They might even invite someone new into their home as well. Giving is the gift that keeps on giving.
HK frequently tells me that it is better to give than to receive…and he is so blessed.
To learn more about “The Awakening of HK Derryberry”, click here!