This is my favorite holiday. By far and away, Thanksgiving is the best time of year. Don’t get me wrong, the meaning behind Christmas is the most important holiday. But when it comes to family, Thanksgiving takes the cake. There are no presents to be a distraction. There are no office parties or neighborhood gatherings. It is just you and your immediate family. At least that it is the way we always had it until school, sports and your partner’s families changed the trajectory of things.
We always tried to get together in the main house on our farm. We had, over the years, purchased five farms, all with houses and outbuildings to boot. My mother liked keeping the houses going, renting them out to people in town who wanted a more rural way of life. They were far enough apart you couldn’t see them, so you really got that rural secluded feeling. We stayed in the first one we bought in the early 1970s. The table was not that long and didn’t really hold everyone. We sometimes had to have a ‘kid’ table to get all the adults on the same one. The wine would flow, and every now and again the tears would flow as well. But at the end of the day, we were all on the same team and left the table wearing the same jersey. No harm, no foul.
I look back with special fondness to our last big Thanksgiving in 2018. It is now three years later but we had almost everyone there that could be there. I had flown in from London with my wife. My brother and sister were living in Chicago, so they were close. We all descended on the family farm. You see, this was going to be an extra special Thanksgiving. My younger brother, Mark, had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer and his days were numbered. He knew it, we knew it. But for a few days we were going to get together and put fun back on the front burner again. I was 53, he was 51. He was married to a wonderful woman. I put them together on one of their official first dates when I visited my brother during his junior year at the University of Indiana. They have three wonderful kids all either in college or just out of college. My sister, her husband and two kids made it as well. My mother was the matriarch who was going to preside over all the proceedings. She did a fantastic job. It was hard to watch my brother in such a state of decline. He was a proud man, and it was everything that he had in him to make sure that he was there for that day and able to take part. He did fantastically well. He brought up a special bottle of wine that he had been saving for more than 10 years to drink on an extra special occasion. This was going to be that occasion. I say this with massive sadness in my heart. He was the other bookend in my life. We complemented each other as well as competed with each other. We were one year apart in school. I was the catcher on the baseball team and got a bird’s eye view of him earning a scholarship to play baseball as a pitcher at the University of Indiana. He was a defensive end in football, always had my back as we played right next to each other as I was a defensive tackle. He stood by me as he helped me get the opportunity to play football at the University of Colorado. As I write this I am overwhelmed with feelings of thanksgiving. I got the opportunity to hang out with this kid my entire life until the age of 53. I still get the urge, and sometimes make the motions, to send him a funny meme I got on my cell phone or text him the last best joke that I was forwarded. We had the same sense of humor. We thought it was elevated but my family agrees to differ. Oh well. You know what they say to those that can’t take a joke.
My brother made it a further 10 weeks until he passed in early February of 2019. They say that only the good die young. They are right.
He was celebrated this year and every year as well as my father and my own daughter. This is a great opportunity to celebrate life and all the things that we are thankful for. While we have had our fair share of grief, we definitely are aware we have a lot of good too. These 10 things were sent to me earlier this week. I do not know the author, but they are so good I need to pass them on.
Things I am Grateful for
1. Early Wake Ups = Children to love
2. House to clean = Safe place to live
3. Laundry = Clothes to wear
4. Dishes to wash = Food to eat
5. Crumbs under the table = Family meals
6. Grocery shopping = $ to provide for us.
7. Toilets to clean = Indoor plumbing
8. Lots of noise = People in my life
9. Endless questions about homework = Kids brains growing
10. Sore and tired in bed = I’m still alive!
I thought that this was so perfect for this time of year. No matter how bad or uncomfortable things may get or seem, there are some silver linings in something very near and close to you. We just have to pick up our heads (get them out of our phones) and look around while smelling the roses.
I write a lot about the state of public policy and most of the time I am critical. I need to let everyone know that this is the greatest country in the world to live in. I lived outside of it for 16 years which taught me just how great this place is. I don’t think that it needs to be ‘fundamentally reformed’. It can always be made better and improved but it doesn’t need to be torn down and rebuilt. Why would you do that to the best place on earth? Beats me.
I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving and I wish you all the best this Christmas season.