Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Unpatriotic?

Let me be 100% politically incorrect and probably viewed as unpatriotic by many. This past Memorial Day I did not give the United States Armed Forces even one iota of a thought. That certainly wasn’t due to the media’s lack of trying. I quickly became desensitized to the numerous commercials, airing on television, and the print advertisements, found in the local newspaper, honoring those who have served in the United States Military. To me, Memorial Day is a time for enjoying some burgers on the grill and then gorging on several bowls of homemade ice-cream afterwards. It’s also the day I intentionally set aside each year to remember all of the people I’ve lost throughout my life.

Of course, I think of them many times during the year, but on Memorial Day I purposely attempt to envision their faces, one at a time, as I reflect on their unique personalities. I try to recall precisely what each individual meant to me while they were present on this earth. I fondly remember my grandma, two grandpas, two great-grandmothers, and a father-in-law. I think of my great-aunt, my great-uncle, some very special relatives, from my wife’s side of the family, a few acquaintances, and a friend. I believe only one of the aforementioned had ever served in the U.S. Military, but they all deserve to be remembered nonetheless.

The way in which those who have ever enlisted in the military are praised, in today’s society, is difficult to ignore when there’s multiple days, imprinted on every calendar, honoring those who have served their country. The annual designated days of celebration includes Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day, Independence Day, and Memorial Day. Presidents Day and Flag Day were specifically designed to salute our past presidents and “Old Glory,” but somewhere along the way both days were erroneously converted into observances for our nation’s military. In recent years, even Thanksgiving Day has become somewhat distorted into a day that appears to be more about recognizing our armed forces than anything else. I’m referring to those publically aired messages, during the day’s football games, sent home from our military personnel overseas. We are bombarded with their greetings, to their families, which suggests Thanksgiving is at least partly about our U.S. Soldiers. Some holidays just aren’t about (nor should they be about) honoring our armed forces.

However, for anyone who does not think we have enough days throughout the year, for celebrating our military, the entire month of May is National Military Appreciation Month. I’m all for giving credit where credit is due although I do not believe all military personnel are heroes. There certainly are some, who are deserving of the “hero” title, but many are not (E.g. Bowe Bergdahl). Simply enlisting in the military, or becoming a police officer or a firefighter, for that matter, does not automatically make one a hero (contrary to popular belief). These people absolutely should be commended for their service to the rest of us. Undoubtedly, there are possible risks involved, with those chosen professions, but I would think the rewards would be even greater. Not many professions can offer an unfailing sense of pride, throughout the duration of one’s career, as does the previously mentioned occupations.

The word, hero, is greatly overused (and misused) these days when describing both organizations and individuals (E.g. Bruce…I mean Caitlyn Jenner). I think the adjective has become so diluted that its meaning has lost all significance. True heroes can be ordinary people who rise to the occasion to help their fellow man in need. Heroes can be those who rigorously fight hard to overcome adversity. Heroes can also be loving parents who’ll do whatever it takes to keep their family unit strong. Heroes surely are amongst us, but they’re not necessarily wearing uniforms. Remarkably, Jesus has less days of honor than the U.S. Military, stamped on our calendars, yet He is undeniably the greatest hero of them all.

I think the Fourth of July is the day to celebrate anyone who has ever served in our country’s armed forces. Independence Day is the foundation in which all other days of military observances are built upon. Every Fourth of July I proudly display the American flag, and I cannot help but discern an overwhelming sense of appreciation, more so than any other time of the year, for those who are willing to protect our freedom whenever called upon. I’ve also been known to listen to Stryper’s version of the “Battle Hymn Of The Republic,” on our nation’s birthday, and tearfully watch the pertinent Mel Gibson flick, The Patriot, in recognition of those who’ve ever served. Of course, I do devour grilled hamburgers, and homemade ice-cream, on Independence Day as well. So, am I unpatriotic? I don’t think so.


An Unusual Thanksgiving

My most unusual Thanksgiving occurred in 2003, when my mother-in-law offered to treat her daughter, grandson, and charming son-in-law to an all-inclusive Caribbean cruise. Offer accepted! My mother-in-law was in charge of making all of the arrangements, so all the rest of us really needed to do was to prepare our bodies for swimsuit weather if we so desired. Toning my body for the month of November was a foreign concept to me. Iowa’s fall and winter months typically were designed for letting one’s self go because coats and sweatshirts did a nice job of concealing one’s extra body fat.

My son was already primed for the occasion since he was fortunate enough to be a lanky teenager, but my wife and I had a little bit (okay, a lot) of work to do if we wanted to look impressive on the exotic islands. I think both my wife and I realized the cruise was probably going to be a once in a lifetime event, so I worked extremely hard at developing four-pack abs (I’m not quite sure how one acquires a six-pack). My lovely wife was determined as well, so by the time we set sail she was looking, as today’s youngsters would say, “hot!”

The cruise ship was gigantic. Of course, I had never seen one in person before, so actually it could have been small in comparison to others. What do I know? I’m just assuming the ship was enormous because it had a movie theater and an auditorium on board. One evening I watched the critically acclaimed and Oscar nominated film, Lost In Translation, and as the title suggests something went awry, from the time the intended message of the movie left the screen to the time it entered my brain, since I’m still not sure eleven years later what the film was trying to covey. I almost forgot where I was, during the overrated movie, except the subtle but constant rocking back and forth kept reminding me I was out to sea. I suppose I should be grateful The Poseidon Adventure or Titanic wasn’t playing in the theater, or that assuredly would have been nerve-racking with the gentle swaying motion underfoot.

I did have one unsettling moment aboard the ship during the seven day cruise. One afternoon I made the mistake of going out on deck and surveying the horizon. I’m not exactly sure what I expected to see, but what I found was quite alarming. No land in sight! Every direction I looked there was only blue ocean. No mountains, no islands, no nothing. There wasn’t even another ship in sight, for as far as my eyes could see, to keep me from feeling so isolated from the rest of the world (and from dry land). I realized at that precise moment how vulnerable I truly was to Mother Nature, and I did not like that feeling one bit. Previously, the ship had mostly been traveling by night, from port to port, so I wasn’t fully aware of the eerie situation at hand.

My family and I had many activities planned (on safe, dry land) for whenever the cruise ship docked. On each island we partook in something fun and unique. We went horseback riding, parasailing, snorkeling, and even engaged in an activity called snuba (a cleverly named combination of snorkeling and scuba diving). Still to this day I feel somewhat guilty about my snorkeling experience. We had been warned by our instructor not to touch the delicate barrier reef in our midst when exploring its surroundings. The natural wonder was an astonishing sight to behold; however, it was also easily susceptible to damage caused by clueless people such as myself.

I completely ignored his wishes…but not on purpose. I was wearing the mandatory life vest, provided by the instructor, but that did not prevent my legs from sinking and grazing the top portion of the fragile coral reef. Me in the water is like a fish out of water. I cannot swim, float, or tread water all that well, so I was entirely out of my domain. Afterwards, my shins were noticeably scraped up. I’m positive it was obvious how the scratches got there, but thankfully nobody around me said a word. I most-likely would’ve lied about it anyway to avoid the embarrassment of forever being known as “the barrier reef killer.”

I possibly was already known as “the guy who eats a lot” on board the ship, and clearly that’s not a very flattering title to have acquired. There was an ice-cream stand aboard the ship, open several hours a day, and I took full advantage of the situation. Remember, I was on an all-inclusive cruise, so all of the meals (and ice-cream cones) were free. Well, they were free for me at least. I’m quite certain my mother-in-law paid a hefty price, when she booked the cruise, to keep her family (including her adorable son-in-law) happy.
When Thanksgiving Day arrived, sometime during the cruise, I had another opportunity to cement my newfound title in stone. It did not seem like the holiday I was used to, but it was “turkey day” nonetheless.

I found myself in an awful predicament come dinnertime. On the evening’s menu was the choice of either a traditional Thanksgiving Day feast or a spectacular lobster dinner. On the one hand, I’m a traditionalist in almost every aspect of my life, so not eating turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving just seemed wrong. On the other hand, I had the opportunity to be presented with a lobster dinner. Lobster! Oh, what to do …what to do. The friendly waiter, sensing my dilemma, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. He told me I could have both meals if I would like. I absolutely would like! When the Caribbean cruise sadly came to a halt I wobbled off the ship at least 10 lbs. overweight. My “four-pack” was lost, and I unfortunately have not since gained it back (and probably never will). My weight gain was not that unusual, since I frequently overindulge, but my 2003 Thanksgiving was definitely unusual.


Thanksgivings Of Old

As a child I knew of only one way to celebrate Thanksgiving. My Thanksgivings of old always meant piling into the family station wagon and taking our annual trip to Joplin, Missouri, to spend the holiday with my father’s parents, his siblings, and other assorted relatives. Typically, on the Tuesday before “turkey day” my father would prepare the Ford wagon for travel. He’d check the tire pressure, top off the fluids, and clean the old, wood-paneled vehicle inside and out. Meanwhile, my mother spent her Tuesday baking desserts for the “big day” and gathering the necessities for the upcoming eight-hour jaunt. On Wednesday morning my father would neatly load up the back of the station wagon in a precise, well thought-out manner as the rest of us scurried around trying to meet his requested 9:00am departure time. Many times a piece of forgotten luggage would be discovered, halfway through his packing process, and more often than not my mother would send one of us four children out to the garage to deliver the bad news.

At that point, my father apparently felt like he had to remove every single item from the back of the station wagon. He would then start his meticulous packing all over again, but this time he did so with teeth clinched and whilst exuberating a perturbed breathing sound for everyone around him to hear. Normally, we weren’t on the road until about 10:45am which obviously was well past my father’s desired time for leaving Iowa. He eventually stopped setting a departure time (or at least he refrained from saying it out loud). I presume the omission of a set time was intended to spare the rest of the family from my father’s inescapable disappointment each year although it wasn’t too difficult to notice his dismay as the minutes continued ticking away. Once we were finally out  on the open road it was pretty much smooth sailing, for about 20 minutes or so, until someone’s bladder needed emptying.

For me, Thanksgivings in Missouri meant reconnecting with my male cousins. It was always a little awkward in the beginning, like a first date, but before our initial day together was over we’d be right back to where we had left off the previous year. Before I knew it we were up to our menacing ways as we wandered around our grandpa’s farm. The boy cousins would play football and explore the nearby woods during the day, and at night we would play games, wreak havoc on the girl cousins’ activities, or just sit around telling exaggerated stories to one another. Somewhere in between we would gorge on our grandma’s traditional Thanksgiving Day feast. Well, most of us anyway. My favorite cousin, who was just one year younger than me, ate like a bird. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, the predictable small portions of food on his plate, and the delicate way he picked at the turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes with his fork drove me absolutely nuts.

Maybe the reason for my irritable manner was due to my cousin’s accusatory glances aimed at me while I was devouring my third piece of pumpkin pie (whipped topping included). I no longer had to worry about those looks as I grew older because as an adult, with a family of my own, I had the freedom to explore other Thanksgiving Day opportunities. Most of the time we remained in Iowa, and spent the day with my mother’s side of the family. Once in a while we instead chose to have our holiday meal at a restaurant with my wife’s side of the family. On the rare occasion we did decide to venture back to Missouri, for my traditional childhood Thanksgiving, I usually found myself reverting to some old childhood ways as well. All of us “boy” cousins were back to being menaces, and wreaking havoc on our grandpa’s farm, in no time.