Happy Thanksgiving

This is the first Thanksgiving I have spent away from Cindy since we were married almost 11 years ago. It is a little more difficult than I imagined it might be. I stopped on the way home yesterday and bought a Marie Callender Turkey and Dressing frozen dinner to cook in the microwave for my Thanksgiving dinner in the hotel room today and a small, individual size pecan pie for dessert. They don’t make those little pies in mince meat, my favorite holiday pie.

Are you feeling sorry for me yet? Well, you shouldn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I DO miss being with my family today, but I am SO very thankful for so many things that I count myself a fortunate man indeed.

My mother, for example, hasn’t had my dad around for Thanksgiving since he passed away almost 8 years ago. My father-in-law didn’t have his family with him for 6 or 7 Thanksgivings while he endured the torture and imprisonment of being a POW for 6 1/2 years during the Vietnam War. His family, likewise, spent those Thanksgivings without him, all the while hoping and wishing for his safe return. My sister-in-law hasn’t had her mom around for Thanksgiving for the past 17 years, following her death in a commercial airline crash.

While I enjoy my frozen dinner today, there are people in this very country who will have nothing to eat other than what they may scavenge out of a garbage can. Some won’t even have that and will go to bed hungry. What I have would seem like a feast to some in the world.

I have the love of a woman who is the heart of my life and the soul of my being. Every day, I thank the fates that brought her into my life and gave me her love. I never expected it and know that I never deserved it, but she came into my life and made me happier than I had ever been. I try to show her how much I love her, but fail miserably at every turn. Yet she still lets me stay around. I am so thankful for her.

I have a daughter who is still my “princess”, even though she is a parent herself now. She makes me so proud every single day because of the kind of person she is. Despite my horrible example, she grew up to be a person of kindness, integrity and dedication. Her husband, my son-in-law, is one of the finest men I know. He does me the honor of allowing me to call him “son” and calling me “dad.” Their children, my grandson and granddaughter, are the lights of my life. As the old bumper sticker says, “If I had known grandchildren were this much fun, I would have had them first.” Having all of them in my life makes me extremely thankful.

My mom, even though she faces some health challenges, is able to live in an extended care home that gives her help, assistance and care she could not get anywhere else, while allowing her to remain close to her friends and her church, which is important to her. I am very thankful for that in her life.

My 2 step-children have somehow managed to grow on me over the years. I have watched them grow up, hurt when they have hurt and laughed when they were happy. They are an important part of my life, and not just because they are my wife’s children. I have admired them and the way they make every attempt to live their lives in a forthright manner. Growing up and living in this world is never easy and there’s always someone or something waiting to cut you off at the legs, but I have watched them persevere and prevail. I am thankful for their presence in my life.

My wife’s parents are the absolute best in-laws there could ever be. If someone said, “We need to design the perfect mother-in-law and father-in-law” I would say, “No need, here they are right here” and point to mine. Just being around them and seeing their example makes me strive to be a better example to others. That’s the kind of effect they have, not only on me but on others as well. To give you an example of what they are like, here’s part of what they wrote in an e-mail to me yesterday: “Tomorrow there will be an empty chair at our house and we will miss the person who usually sits there. You are such a part of the fabric of our family. Not only will your little ones miss you, but your big ones too.” I am extremely thankful for the kind of mother-in-law and father-in-law I have in my life.

I’m thankful for technology that allows me to talk to my wife several times a day, to share e-mails throughout the day and to see my grandchildren on webcams and talk to them over the computer. Those things help when you’re away. And I’m thankful that, while I AM away and separated from my loved ones, it’s nothing compared to how those who are half a world away serving and fighting in a foreign country are feeling on this day when they are separated from their families and friends. I’m thankful for their service.

And I’m thankful to you for reading this. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

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