Thanksgiving — a time for friends, football, food and family.
It’s that last “F-word” that is going to be absent from my Thanksgiving festivities this year, but to be fair, Thanksgiving has not felt the same to me for quite some time.
Growing up, my grandfather Auldus — to a large degree the patriarch of the family — made sure each major holiday was celebrated as a family. At least six of us and usually more would gather at his house and spend the day eating, telling jokes, discussing and more of the time arguing about sports.
Thanksgiving was no different. We would pack the house early on in the day. I can still smell the tenderizing aroma of a moist turkey and celery stuffing. Auldus would do most of the cooking, although the older I got, the more I was able and willing to help out. It was a chore. He would rise before five to start on the bird and the stuffing, making sure everything was prepped for a fun day all together.
As with most families, we had our traditions. We would play football in the street during halftime of the morning game. As far back as I can remember, it was usually a Cowboys’ game, and they were usually losing pretty badly by that point, which gave us more time to throw the pigskin around.
We also had a game we invented called “roof ball” (patent pending). My grandfather had a fairly old house on the top of a hill in La Jolla, CA. The beauty of the house was in the backyard, it was contoured so there were two perpendicular section of room right at the entrance to the backyard. The roof was horrible shingled. All the shingles were sticking out, ill-fitting. It’s not the type of roof you would see in “Better Homes and Gardens”, but it made for the perfect “roof ball” roof. The bounces were unpredictable.
Most of the rest of the day was spent on the couches watching the games while occasionally sneaking into the kitchen to steal a preliminary taste of the main event of the day — the meal.
Around two or three in the afternoon, we would gather around the table for the event. It was definitely an event. SO. MUCH. FOOD. As I have mentioned before, as a younger man I was fairly girthy around the midsection, and I could pack it away.
Evening naps followed the epic meal, and at some point, my mom would scrape my dad and I off the couch so that we could go home and devolve into a food-coma.
Every year was essentially the same, with a little wrinkle thrown in here and there. Gotta keep the family life exciting. It may sound boring, but I miss the consistency.
When I went away to college in 2008, I had no idea that none of the aforementioned events would ever happen again. I suppose I would have cherished the moments a little more. I would have savored the turkey, sunk in to the conversation and appreciated every second of it.
My grandfather passed away in October of 2008. The meaning of the word “family” has diminished to me ever since.
It’s sad to say, but he was the great organizer. He stayed in touch with all sorts of family from around the country in a way my father and uncle are incapable of keeping up with.
He had a big heart, really the biggest heart I’ve ever seen. He would have and did give me everything I wanted, and while he would love tough at times, everything he did was out of love.
I miss him every day, but especially around this time of year, when I’m away from home and cannot be with my immediate family. To be fair, even if I was home it still would not be the same, but the wound not be quite as gaping.
All I ever wanted to do was to make him proud. He pushed me on a daily basis to be the best everything I can be — person, son, friend and worker.
I continue to push myself in his memory, hoping that one day I can do for my future family what he did for us.
I love you Papa. Happy Thanksgiving.