Kathryn Nilon

Kathryn Nilon — known to the Steve Flores family as "Grandma Kay" — passed away last week.

My oldest daughter, Nikki, posed a great question the other night as our family sat around our kitchen counter. “What is our favorite Thanksgiving food memory?” she asked.

Nikki is the gatekeeper for all things related to Thanksgiving dinner, a role she has reluctantly but willingly assumed since the passing of her mom several years ago. Most women agree preparing Thanksgiving dinner is a loving but arduous labor of family love and for many like Nikki, a highly emotional undertaking with a loved one now missing in the kitchen.

So rather than ask each one of us what we would like for Thanksgiving, she asked this great question. She was using her black belt mental judo skills to coordinate this year’s Thanksgiving dinner.

What are the Flores Thanksgiving favorite food memories? One of the favorites of my twins, Sean and Aaron, are the bread rolls their mom made every Thanksgiving. She always made extra because of Sean and Aaron’s inability to withstand the aroma, soft texture and flavor of their mom’s lightly buttered bread roles.

As soon as she would pull them from the oven and load them into a huge bread pot, Sean and Aaron would attack them like potato chips. She always had a cheerful gleam in her eyes when she gently slapped them on the hands and admonished them for eating the hot bread.

As I type this, I can clearly hear her say, “You’re not going to be hungry for dinner. That’s the last one!” And of course, it never was. The twins would use ninja stealth strategy to try and get their fill.

And all my children remember their grandfather Boni’s favorite. It was the Fred Flintstone brontosaurus-size turkey leg he insisted on eating every year. I say this with total love — seeing him eat the turkey leg was like watching starving Norwegian Vikings feasting after they celebrated conquering a village.

He almost went into a trance. No one could talk to him, ask him any questions or God forbid, interrupt him as he feasted.

And my favorite? I must admit, and my doctor won’t like this, but it is the buttered yams topped with melted marshmallows. My mouth just watered, seriously.

My daughters Brenna and Nikki have several favorites. Brenna didn’t just have one. She had several, which included grandma’s stuffing, gravy and persimmon and chocolate cookies.

Nikki’s is the mixture of apple sauce and turkey but more importantly, “It is just the spirit of the day, seeing everyone together and enjoying the food and family in equal measure.”

And I am blessed, as I expect you are, to know all my children feel the same way about Thanksgiving. Whatever your favorite food may be, I hope you are surrounded by family and friends.

From my family to yours, and as Henry David Thoreau once said, “May your Thanksgiving be perpetual.”

Grandma Kay

She was a beautiful, 88-year-young woman whose quiet dignity belied her life’s experiences and gently commanded respect. ”Grandma Kay” — Kathryn Nilon — was a proud member of America’s greatest generation.

She served in the Women’s Army Corps during the Korean War. As a private first class, she and other women witnessed the sometimes-horrendous casualties of World War II combat, not on the battlefield but at the base hospital at Fort Lee, Virginia, where some of the most severely wounded soldiers were sent for medical care and treatment.

And like my dad, Larry, who served in the Marines during Iwo Jima and Korea, “Grandma Kay” did not like discussing her military experiences.

Although not blood-related, when first introduced to us by family friends, no other name seems appropriate. It’s always been “Grandma Kay.”

There are never enough words or praise we can bestow on those who serve in our military. “Grandma Kay” and several other women were recently honored for their wartime service in Sacramento. She also recently went on the “Honor Flight” to Washington, D.C.

We lost “Grandma Kay” last week. To her family, thank you for treating her like the national treasure she was.

And thank you “Grandma Kay” for being an incredible inspiration to my family and to our country.

Email contributing columnist Steve Flores at floressteve32@yahoo.com. His work appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are his own.

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