A grumpy older man who lives in seclusion after the death of his family receives a Thanksgiving dinner invitation from his cranky old female neighbor who hates him.
The lingering aroma of roast turkey with stuffing, green bean casserole, homemade cranberry sauce, apple stuffing, and, most importantly, the hearty laughs of Thanksgiving get-togethers were a few things Victor despised.
So as he walked through the aisles of the supermarket that evening, shopping for groceries, he cursed himself for not doing it earlier. Because everywhere he looked, he saw people shopping for Thanksgiving supplies.
The smiles on those people’s faces and the happiness in their eyes awaiting a Thanksgiving gathering with their loved ones irked Victor, but more than that, it made him feel depressed.
Victor, 73, had lost his family in a terrible car crash on the eve of Thanksgiving years ago. He didn’t have anyone to love or anyone who would love him.
So it had been just him and his peace and quiet for years after losing his family. He never talked to his neighbors or spent time with them. He was always at home. Indoors. Feeling terrible and lonely.
But that year, something strange happened. Victor received an invitation for Thanksgiving dinner from Poppy—the cranky old lady who lived next door and hated him…
“And there you go again!” grumbled Poppy as Victor bumped into her accidentally at the supermarket. “You old man! Those eyes of yours… they don’t work anymore, do they?”
“I’m sorry, Poppy!” Victor said tightly. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need those beans from the shelf!”
“Oh, I’m not moving from here until I’m done! And don’t even think about picking a fight with me!”
“You’re awful!” he sighed.
“Look who’s talking!” Poppy said with a smirk. “You’re the one who never leaves his house and hates people! They call you a recluse, Victor, and I can see why!”
Hate paralyzes life, whereas love liberates it from pain and suffering.
“Well, that’s all thanks to you, Poppy!” said Victor, irritated. “Nobody would have called me that if you hadn’t spread those rumors! What else did you tell all the neighbors? That I killed my wife and daughter?”
Poppy cleared her throat, knowing she was at fault. “Yeah, whatever. It’s not like we’re wrong! You don’t have any family! You’ve been hiding inside your house since you moved here, watching people pass by through the drapes in your living room. How do you explain that? You need to get a life, Victor! It’s not like you’re the only one who has lost a family!”\
Victor couldn’t stand Poppy anymore. “I hate you!” he grumbled. “I wish you had died instead of my family! I hate you so much!” he said as he walked away.
Poppy, who usually fought until she had the upper hand in the argument, was standing like a corpse, watching Victor leave. For the first time, she didn’t go after him, yelling and proving her point.
Victor, on the other hand, finished his purchases quickly and exited the supermarket without even looking back at her. But as he sat alone that night, he couldn’t get Poppy’s words out of his head: “You’re not the only one who lost a family.”
The next morning, while eating breakfast, Victor noticed his neighbors were already welcoming their families, which made him feel terrible. He had moved to a new city, a new neighborhood, after losing his family, hoping his life would change. But that didn’t happen.
He never fell in love again and could never step out of his seclusion.
So, like every other Thanksgiving, Victor decided to visit his family and spend time with them that day. He’d buy flowers from the shop close to the cemetery and sit beside his wife and daughter’s graves, talking to them about how much he missed them.
But that evening, as he was about to leave, Victor heard a knock on the front door. He looked at the time and wondered who had come to see him. He never had any visitors, and on Thanksgiving, it was definitely strange.
He peered through the living room curtains and was surprised to see Poppy on his front porch.
“What is she doing here?” he grumbled. “I’m not going to open that door!”
But Poppy caught him looking at her, and she started yelling. “I know you’re in there somewhere, old man! Open the dang door!”
“Get lost!” said Victor. “Aren’t you done irritating me all these years? I have to go visit my late wife and daughter!”
“I’m not leaving until you answer the door, Victor!” she said. “I have something important to say! I won’t take much time!”
For illustration purposes only. | Source: Pexels
At last, Victor opened the door. “What’s your problem?” he asked. “Why can’t you just leave me alone?”
“Come to my house after you’re back from visiting your family,” she said shyly. “I—I’d like to invite you to Thanksgiving dinner…”
“You what?” asked Victor, shocked.
“This is precisely what annoys me about you. For God’s sake, didn’t you hear me? I’d be grateful if you could join me for Thanksgiving! In an hour would work just fine!” And off Poppy went to her house.
Victor was flabbergasted. He didn’t know what to say. The woman who couldn’t stand him and despised him so much that she spread rumors about him had invited him to Thanksgiving dinner.
“Should I go?” Victor asked himself, not knowing what to do.
But somewhere in his heart, there was a voice that told him maybe he should.
“I’m sorry, darlings,” he whispered to his late wife and daughter. “I’m afraid I won’t be able to visit you today.”
And an hour later, Victor was standing on Poppy’s front porch, about to have his first Thanksgiving dinner since losing his family. But he was hesitant to knock. He suddenly thought of turning around to leave, but before he could do that, Poppy appeared on the doorstep.
“Come on in,” she said quietly. “You think you’re the only one who can watch people through the living room window?”
“Oh… well… thank you.”
As Victor stepped inside, he saw a huge table set with the most scrumptious Thanksgiving treats—roast turkey with all the stuffing, mashed potatoes, apple pie, and so much more—but there was not a single person there except him and Poppy.
“Your family isn’t here?” he asked. “I thought they’d be here.”
“They didn’t have the time,” said Poppy sadly. “They don’t care about me anymore. Is that how it feels to be lonely? Aren’t we in the same boat, Victor?”
“I guess not,” he said. “My family is dead. You can still invite yours for next year.”
“Third,” she said in tears. “This is the third year in a row that they didn’t turn up. My children and grandchildren said they just don’t have the time. I spent hours putting this together, you know. I made the apple pie too. My grandson loves it.”
Victor felt bad for Poppy. Seeing her sad, he realized she wasn’t really a cranky woman; instead, she was a lot like him, someone who craved the love of a family.
“Well,” said Victor after a pause. “I love apple pie, too! Is that why you invited this old man over?”
“I felt bad for you,” she said. “You didn’t buy anything for Thanksgiving yesterday. You never do… I haven’t seen you celebrate a single occasion since you moved to this neighborhood, nor have we neighbors tried to invite you…”
Victor sat at the dinner table and said, “Well, that’s because of your rumors, isn’t it? Listen, Poppy, how about you put everything aside, and we enjoy all of this food? I’m a bit hungry, to be honest.”
“Thank you,” Poppy said, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Thank you for accepting my invitation. I felt terrible when they declined me… I miss my kids so much! And I feel bad for those rumors… sorry. But I did it because—”
Victor smiled. “It’s OK. How about you have a seat and continue the story?”
Poppy did that. She wiped her tears away, sat down, and served them food.
“I noticed you as soon as you moved to this neighborhood,” she continued. “I was delighted to have someone move in next door. You see, your house had been empty for a long time. I was so happy to see you that I baked a pie and decided to pay you a visit. But you old man! You literally slammed the door in my face! ‘I don’t accept things from strangers!’ That’s what you had said in your grumpy tone!”
Victor couldn’t stop himself from laughing. He hadn’t laughed so heartily in a while. “Did I do that?” he asked.
Poppy smiled. “Yes, you did!” she said. “You did!”
“Jesus! No wonder you hated me all this while!”
“Who said I hated you?”
“You never hated me?” asked Victor.
“HATE!” she corrected him with a silly smile. “I STILL HATE YOU, old man! I will never forgive you for shunning yourself from everything! You could have moved on, Victor. I invited you over because I felt bad for you! Look at you now, happily eating all this food.”
“The turkey is amazing!” replied Victor, his mouth full. “Do you have ice cream? Let’s have apple pie with that!”
Poppy laughed. “You’re worse than my 8-year-old grandson! I have vanilla ice cream. Will that work?”
“Perfect!” he said. “That’s my favorite!”
“Also,” she said quietly. “If you don’t mind me asking, what happened to your family? It’s alright if you don’t want to tell me…”
The smile on Victor’s face faded, and he took a moment before he could reply.
“Accident,” he said eventually. “My wife was driving my daughter to school when their car crashed. It’s been years, but I still feel like it was only yesterday when I lost them. I held their funeral after I moved here. I think I left my old house just two days after it all happened. I didn’t want to live in the city which had taken my daughter and wife away.”
“I don’t know if someone’s told you this, Victor,” said Poppy gently, “but you’re one of the strongest people I’ve ever seen. You were brave enough to face life alone. After my husband died, I lost hope to live, but my daughter encouraged me. I had her, but you… you didn’t have anyone, yet you didn’t give up. I’m proud of you, old man!”
Victor smiled. “Victor,” he said. “I’d like you to call me that. I’m not that old!” and Poppy smiled back.
Overall, the dinner made for a pleasant evening, and the best part was that Victor and Poppy no longer hated each other. In fact, a deep connection, one of love, blossomed between them soon after, and they realized they needed each other.
Six months down the line, that feeling turned into something more beautiful. And Victor and Poppy exchanged wedding vows in an intimate ceremony, promising to continue their sweet and sour arguments with each other until God called them home.
Poppy made Victor realize that life was all about moving forward. Starting fresh and moving on didn’t mean disregarding the loss of loved ones. And well, that did help Victor in healing from his loss and Poppy in finding someone who loved her and would never leave her alone.