Saturday, November 17, 2007


In a comment I left elsewhere, I pointed out that I have only two real traditions in my life: my birthday plans and Thanksgiving with my parents.

Thanksgiving with my parents has been a tradition only interrupted by my living in California for 9 years and Montana for less than one. Victoria and CJ look forward to it as much as I do. My mother cooks: turkey, beef, ham, corn, green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing, yams, cranberry sauce, biscuits (usually burned as is our family tradition - unintentionally I might add), and minced meat pie for dessert...with Cool Whip. It usually takes two plates of food to actually sample everything.

But it is not just a time to break bread with my parents. We visit several times a year, Easter, the 4th, Thanksgiving and we try at least one other time. It is a holiday. A rekindling of something that existed when I was a kid and we sat as a family. It is seldom that we are joined by anyone else, but both my sister and brother often stop by sometime during the day or evening. Dinner is early 4ish or so as it always has been. Leftovers and dessert are usually saved for later in the evening. Despite her best effort, Mom usually has more than enough leftovers for the several days of our visit.

I am often reminded of the fact that my parents are still here, and that my relationship with them, strained as it has been on occasion, is as good as any I know between parents and their adult children. Both my parents are in the mid 70's and generally, in good health. My father has had a heart condition that has always been dangerous and it will eventually take him. Still, Thanksgiving is precious time with them and I try not to waste it.

Every visit has an evening or two of discussion of the family and our history. My parents, my Dad especially, often hear things they did not know, or claim to know. Last year we talked about how we as kids knew we had the best parents in the neighborhood, it was obvious and most of the kids in the neighborhood agreed. I have told my father on a couple of occasions that my love of science fiction is directly the result of his taking me to see two movies when I was 10. My love of country is a directly result of the second movie of that double feature. The movies were 2001 and The Green Berets. My love for golf came about because he introduced me to the game and played with me well beyond the point that I could beat him.

My mother loves to read, and she made sure she encouraged my reading growing up. I received dozens of books for Christmas every year. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys were staples. We also spent a lot of time cooking, and I still love the kitchen, especially with her in it with me.

We each take after one parent more than another. I take after my mother, but there are things that are unique about me that are no doubt from my father. Both of my parents have a wanderlust and a willingness to explore new things. It should be no surprise then to learn I am a first generation American. My parents, both born in Ireland, left their birthplace to raise a family here. They raised American children, not Irish-American children. I do not miss an Irish heritage, I have an American one, one that I am proud of and hope to pass on to our daughter.

My father is an only child. He and my mother attempted to visit Ireland once several years ago by my father's health did not allow it. My mother did get a chance to visit England a while back and saw her sisters for the first time in decades. My father's birthday is November 11th. My youngest sibling, Elizabeth, shares the same birthday. My dad served in the United States Army, part of his process towards becoming a citizen. I served in the Air Force, part of my process towards becoming a citizen. Yes, I was born here, but becoming a citizen is not about birthright, it is about a conscious decision to accept both the rights, and the responsibilities that are part of that title.

On Thanksgiving I am thankful for my parents. For their travel to this country, for raising us American. I am thankful for each time I get to spend with them, and for the time our daughter, their youngest grandchild, gets to spend with them. I am thankful for the example they set: willing to take risks, willing to work hard, willing to dream for their children an impossible dream.

None of their children grew up to be Senators, or CEOs. Only I have completed college, although several others have some college. My brother spent 24 years in the Air Force; his only son serves in Iraq today, his second tour there. We are middle America.

I have immense wealth, opportunities and access to resources incomprehensible to over 5 billion other people on the planet. I have a wonderful partner, an incredible child and the best parents I have ever met.

I may not think about it every day, but on Thanksgiving, I am reminded why we celebrate by sitting down with the two people that made it possible and important, for me, to be thankful.

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