I was all set to write a column on another subject — a weighty, thought-provoking subject — when it occurred to me that this is Thanksgiving week.
And so I changed my mind.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.
To me, it’s Christmas without the stress and superficiality.
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There’s no worry about finding, buying, and wrapping costly presents for people who don’t need them and probably won’t like them. No hustle and bustle.
It’s just a time to get the family together.
On Thanksgiving Day, my extended family, about 20 of us, gather at my house. Liz, my wife, bakes a turkey and mashes potatoes. Others bring side dishes, drinks or desserts.
We hang out and eat until we’re stuffed and crack jokes about each other and swap stories about relatives who’ve gone on to glory. We watch football.
Each year, I’m reminded of how untelling life can be.
I remember going to my grandparents’ Pulaski County farm on Thanksgivings. I was a little kid. Back then, it was my grandma baking the turkey and mashing the potatoes. My parents would have been, oh, in their 30s, just kids themselves, really.
That seems as if it was about 10 years ago.
But it was half a century.
My grandparents have been gone for decades. My parents grew old and died, too.
And now, somehow, I’m the oldest one left.
This Thanksgiving, my grandchildren will be romping around the house, stealing bites of pumpkin pie and giggling and fussing.
Someday, no doubt, their grandkids will jostle through some kitchen in some as-yet unbuilt house. My grandchildren, by then gray-haired and stoop-shouldered, will tell them tales about their sweet old Papa Prather, who was a preacher and lived in Mount Sterling. At least I hope they’ll say I was sweet.
To my grandchildren’s grandchildren, I’ll be nothing but a name floating on the air, unreal and barely imagined, like a character in a Sunday school story.
So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut would say.
Every Thanksgiving, I do pause to give thanks. For me, the holiday isn’t just about turkey and football and mortality.
Yes, like everyone else who survives very long, I’ve suffered my share of losses, setbacks and sicknesses. I’ve lost my grandparents, my parents, my first wife and close friends.
I battle diabetes and a half-dozen other ailments. Some days, as an acquaintance said of himself, pretty much anything that doesn’t hurt doesn’t work.
Sometimes it’s easy to dwell on the losses and the aches.
That’s another reason I enjoy this holiday so. It calls my attention toward the good in life, toward the countless things I’m grateful for. It reminds me life is worth living for as long as you have it, in whatever season you find yourself.
I’m thankful to still be walking under my own power. I’m grateful to have a wife who loves me and usually laughs at my jokes. I’m grateful for my son, daughter-in-law and grandkids. I’m grateful for my church.
But I’m also thankful for the opportunity to share my faith, feelings and observations in this newspaper. I’m thankful you take the time to read this stuff, and that many of you comment on what I’ve written. I’m thankful that mostly the comments are favorable.
I’m thankful that for most of my adult life I’ve been able to make a living doing exactly what I enjoy — speaking, reading, teaching, writing.
I’m thankful I’ve gotten to travel to colorful and interesting places, and been blessed with eyes to see them.
I’m thankful for all the wonderful people I’ve met of every religious and irreligious tradition, and for the scholars and pundits, too — for all those folks who’ve broadened my understanding of the universe, myself and God.
I’m thankful to live in a country where I can express any fool idea I want to without fear of the secret police kicking my door down.
I could go on. And on.
Once you start naming your blessings, it’s hard to find a stopping place. I suspect that most of us, if we really think about it, have more to be thankful for than to mourn.
I’m thankful for Thanksgiving.
Paul Prather is pastor of Bethesda Church near Mount Sterling. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.