Thanksgiving memories

Just before my mother would sit down at the Thanksgiving table she’d take one last look over the feast and say, “I guess that’s everything” and then when she did sit down she would turn and say, “Dad.”  My father would clear his throat and begin saying grace, “Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts…” and within less than ten seconds the bowls of mashed potatoes and green beans and sweet potatoes and that lime Jello salad with the shredded cabbage would begin their journeys up and down and back and forth across the table.  Like clockwork year after year it was always the same until the year Mom told us that Aunt Ruthie and Uncle Dan would be joining us for Thanksgiving dinner since Bobby and Judy had moved to Texas.  My mother just couldn’t bear the thought of two people eating Thanksgiving dinner all alone.  I always liked Aunt Ruthie and Uncle Dan.

“Sure smells wonderful in the kitchen” and “How big a bird did you get this year?” and “They say that you’re not supposed to stuff a turkey” and “I’m so hungry I could eat the whole thing” finally came to an end when Mom told me to tell everyone to sit down at the table.

When she came in and said, “I guess that’s everything” she did something that will be long remembered.  My dad was ready but instead of saying, “Dad” she turned to my Uncle Dan and said, “Dan, would you like to say grace?”

With that Uncle Dan smiled and waited for all the commotion at the table to stop before he started. No, “Bless us, O Lord…” for Uncle Dan.  He started with thanks for the wonderful meal and for everyone who was at the table and then for those who were far away and then for those who had died including the dear souls who had gone to their reward fifty years before.  A little story about Uncle Myron who died in 1934 was delightful until you realized that there was no longer steam coming off the mashed potatoes.

The thanks continued on and on including thanks for the farmers who grew the potatoes and the turkey farmers and the men who work at the power plant so we can have light and thanks for Texaco which made the gasoline so everyone could get to this wonderful dinner.  I could feel the tension growing at the table as a thin skin started to form on the gravy as it cooled.  I think that what caused my mother to step in with an “Amen” was Uncle Dan’s thank you for the people in the Macy’s parade on TV who entertained us including those who held onto Snoopy on what seemed to be a very windy day in New York.

Nobody ever said a word about the delay to that Thanksgiving dinner.  The next year when Mom said that Aunt Ruthie and Uncle Dan were coming again she just gave us a smile.

“I think that’s everything” Mom said before she sat down next to Uncle Dan who had just folded up two or three pages of what appeared to be notes but before she was done sitting she turned and said, “Dad.”  Within five seconds my father had completed grace leaving Uncle Dan sitting there stunned until somebody asked him to pass the cranberry sauce.

I believe they flew to Texas the next year.


This Thanksgiving

I’ve been to a lot of sporting events and seen a lot of tributes and color guards and large flags and fly-bys and heard Kate Smith sing “God Bless America” dozens and dozens of times but something happened yesterday that was truly special.

At halftime during the Browns-Steelers game the two teams, on the way to their locker rooms, turned and lined up facing the flag at the end of the stadium, tucked their helmets under their left arms and stood at attention as the announcer came on.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please stand and remove your hats” and the crowd came to its feet as snow off of Lake Erie swirled on the field. “This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving Day when the nation gives thanks for the blessings we have received.  Today and Thursday let us remember those who cannot be with us, let us think about the courage of our families and friends and loved ones who are away from their homes at this special time of year and let us honor them in our thoughts and prayers.” The crowd stood there silently in the blowing snow as the nose of the Goodyear blimp appeared over the west end of the stadium with its illuminated display coming to life. “Let us think about those brave men and women knowing they are out there in the cold wind and blowing snow and pouring rain waiting in line for the doors to open Thanksgiving night or Friday morning for Black Friday specials” and with that the blimp’s display showed that Target has at 32” flat screen for $129.00.  That’s a pretty good deal.

I’m telling you I got a chill.

Here’s what you do

Not on the end of the charger cord and not on the kitchen counter.  Not in the bathroom and not on my dresser.  Maybe it’s in the pocket of my jeans, the jeans I threw in the wash last night.  That couldn’t happen, there’s no way that could have happened, no way, and as I look in the washer I’m relieved to see that it’s empty and that my cell phone isn’t taking a swim but then I hear a knocking in the dryer and realize that my precious iPhone might be taking a tumble because it’s already been through all of the washer cycles. And there are my almost dry jeans and there is the lump in the pocket the size of my black 5s that cost me a bundle and there’s the phone that didn’t need the insurance policy because I don’t multitask phone calls and bathroom visits.

I’ll just Google “wet iPhone” to see if there are any tips on how to recover a cell phone which has been dropped in water (I guess I must not be the only genius out there who has sent his phone through the Kenmore). The secret seems to be rice. “Fill a bowl with rice and bury the phone in the rice for five to six days. If you’re lucky the rice will pull the moisture out of the phone and you’ll be back in business.” Sounds like it’s worth a try.

No phone for five to six days.  No calls, no texts, no emails, no pictures for five to six days while it’s in the bowl of rice and then out of the bowl after six days and no calls, no texts, no emails, no pictures so back to Google which tells me my best option is ½ cup of chopped onion, salt and pepper, 2 cups of chicken broth and a couple of bay leaves to create a delicious rice pilaf with just the slightest hint of a Downy flavor note.

There’s always a silver lining.  Thank you, Google.

Bon Appétit


Hey, a little help here

My wife and I have been going through some pretty rough financial times lately with constant calls about late mortgage and car payments and now we’ve got the county calling about delinquent property taxes and threatening foreclosure.

I thought maybe I should talk to my boss about a raise but then I heard that the company is looking at eliminating my department and sending the work to India or Sri Lanka or someplace so I guess that’s not going to be an option.  Maybe getting a job at McDonald’s is the answer but I just can’t see myself handing Chicken Mc Nuggets and Happy Meals to my neighbors—how humiliating.

There I was tossing and turning in bed, staying awake all night worrying about what is going to happen to us when it came to me.  Why not tap into a resource that I have painstakingly built over the last few years?  My 401? No, LinkedIn. Why not send out a message to all of my LinkedIn contacts?  All of these people who have been pestering me to link to them should be willing to send a little something to a dear LinkedIn friend; after all, we’ve been so very close.

So I jumped out of bed and after linking up with the latest batch of requests fired off this message.

Hi, LinkedIn friend,

Hope everything is going well for you and yours.  How is/are your wife, husband, kid(s), dog(s), cat(s) and girl and/or boyfriend(s)?  Been getting in much golf, fishing, bowling, boating, reading or other hobbies?

You know, I was sitting here thinking about all of my LinkedIn pals, looking at their pictures (or silhouettes) and I thought about you.  How long has it been since we linked anyway?  Seems like just yesterday.  We really should try harder to stay in touch.

Things at this end have been going alright at work but are getting a little troubling on the home front what with the state of economy and all.  When I started to think about what to do I thought about turning to those closest to me for a little help and I thought about you. With all that you and I have been through together I was wondering if you could spare ten or twenty or fifty bucks for your old LinkedIn pal.

I’ve always been here for you and have invited your LinkedIn friends to be my LinkedIn friends.  I hope that you’ll be here for me and maybe PayPal a little something my way.

I look forward to hearing from you real soon.

LinkedIn forever,

If this plan works I’ll get in touch with all my closest Facebook friends for all the “likes” I’ve posted.  If it doesn’t I guess I’ll be linking up with McDonald’s.

My retirement plans

Recently I realized something.  I realized that I’m not 24 anymore.  I guess I saw the clues but just decided to ignore them.  Pretty, young girls don’t smile at me because I’m cute, they smile at me like they smile at their Grandpa Herb.  The Indians never called about a pitching tryout, my friends are getting older and some of them are retired and I can’t remember the last time that I did something for a stranger and heard, “thank you, young man.” And the biggest clue? My oldest son is 38.

There were other things too, like the mail. More and more AARP mail: would I like to take a tour of a lovely assisted living village, have I thought about a preplanned funeral and what about some type of marble memorial?  I noticed that my magazines were changing too.  The ads all seemed to be about arthritis, high blood pressure and diabetes and other afflictions so bad that rather than suffer with the ailments people are willing to take medications with side effects which may include a loss of hearing, blurry vision, death or worst of all, an oily discharge.

Ads for retirement planning and management were all over the magazines and TV:  Senior citizens walking along the beach hand in hand or sailing off of Cape Cod or strolling in their lovely vineyard on the side of a hill.  I remember when we got married and an insurance man asked Jeanie and me if we had thought much about retirement.  How much did I think we will need?  What long range planning had I done other than next weekend?  Why for just $1.37 a day, through the magic of compounding, we could retire and enjoy our golden years the way they were meant to be enjoyed.  I can’t remember any of the things that I bought with all those $1.37s but it was a good idea then and it’s a good idea now except now I’d have to salt away around $2300 a day to get to that same place. That’s probably not going to happen.

So I started to think. What is it that I like to do?  What is it that I could do that would give me satisfaction and maybe make some money for myself and my bride while not chaining us down to a strict routine in our golden years?

I started thinking about a story, a pretty good story that I’ve had in my head which could be turned into a book and possibly a major motion picture. It’s the story of a young boy who had a paper route and then went to high school and then to college and then got a job.  I was getting excited about seeing my story come to life and then I thought, oh no you don’t, I’m not getting trapped into that talk show circuit.

Then I thought about something else. I’ve always wanted to take up painting.  You know, buy some oils, some brushes and canvasses, just see what blossoms and maybe put some of the works in a gallery. I was almost out the door heading to the art supply store when I thought about my sister in law. She’s an artist, some would say she’s fairly good, and she would probably get ticked off if I pulled the art spotlight away from her.

What is it that I can do to take advantage of my talents and also, make a little money?  What is it that I am really good at?  What do I like to do?  I like to eat and sleep.  I kept rolling that over in my mind, eat and sleep, eat and sleep, eat and sleep, sleep and eat.  Sleep and eat, that’s it, open a bed and breakfast. Find a fixer upper, paint it up, build some quaint furniture, order some appropriate apparel from L.L. Bean, put out a sign with a catchy name and open a bed and breakfast.  How hard could that possibly be?  I would buy the place for a song, completely gut and remodel it and Jeanie could make wonderful meals. What a great idea. If the house had 35 bedrooms the first year we could clear between 450 and $600,000.  Not bad.  Any house I could afford would only have 2 or 3 bedrooms but you’ve got to start somewhere.

I could see it all in front of me. Early in the evening, after the dinner hour, because we would only serve breakfast, cars would start to pull up out front.

“Welcome to our (enter catchy name here) bed and breakfast”. I would introduce myself and Jeanie to the guests and they would “ooh and aah” and ask about our establishment.

“So tell us about your place”

“Well, it was built in 1848 by Marvin Fulton, the son of Robert Fulton, the inventor of the steamboat. We’ve carefully restored the house by replacing everything. It’s all exactly like it was in 1848 except for the flat screen TVs and the electric lights and the plumbing and the windows and the heating/cooling and the furniture and the mattresses.”

The guests would meet one another and then we would all sit in the parlor and have wonderful conversations about books and authors.  Maybe we would discuss international finance or I could tell them about the time I fixed the lawnmower. Then the guests would retire to their rooms and Jeanie and I would be off to the kitchen to prepare part of the breakfast.

The next morning the smell of her coffee and pancakes on the griddle would bring the guests down to the dining room.

“Something smells good”, they would all say.

“Light, fluffy pancakes with a chutney”, I would reply. “We grow our own chutney, you know.”

Soon the meal would be over, the guests would pack up and leave and we would sit there looking at the dirty dishes and linens that need to be changed and rooms that need to be cleaned and toilets that need to be scrubbed to get ready for tonight’s guests.

Well, I’ll be damned if I’m going to wait on these people hand and foot.  Just who do they think they are? To hell with them.

Maybe I need to put a little more thought into this whole retirement thing.  I’ve got to go to Walgreen’s to get batteries for the remote (a four pack of AA batteries is only $1.37 with a coupon) and then maybe I’ll head on over to the library and pick up a book about running a vineyard.