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This year has been full of ups and downs.  Sagas of old and new.  However, with Thanksgiving showing up tomorrow, I am remiss if I don’t stop to think about ALL that I am thankful for.  I am thankful first and foremost that the good and gracious Lord has allowed me to see another year.  Next, I am so very thankful for my wife, who without question loves me for all my goods and bads, faults and qualities.  Then I have 3 kids who love me even though sometimes I have to play the tough and mean role of father.  Finally is our 7 year old pooch who gets me.  She’s just one of those dogs who just gets a human.  No doubt!

However, this year has been tough for a lot of reasons.  Mostly from a medical standpoint.  Surgeries and procedures, testing and treatments and lots of things in-between.  We’ve seen our medical bills rise to a level that a family should never have to see.  And all because of greed as I know sure as hell that it doesn’t cost $40K to remove kidney stones in a 1.5hr procedure.  Been there, done that, twice before and those two combined didn’t cost that damn much.

But as tomorrow dawns, I am also thankful for the two who are pictured with my blog.  My mom and my Paw-Paw, her daddy.  They are both gone.  He at 73, her at 46.  He was larger than life to me.  The picture of him and me was taken 4 years prior to his death.  Had I known that then, I believe wholeheartedly I would’ve never left Greensboro, NC to go to college.  I’d have stayed.  But God had different plans for me.  I got to college and that is where I met the love of my life and we later got married and had a family.  He was my hero.  Although he never sought attention, never spoke loudly, never spanked me or punished me.  He believed in “sparing the rod and spoiling the child”.  He was a WWII vet.  I think that had the most to do with it.  He firmly believed in the fact he’d seen too much hell and saw too many people die in that war when he was in France and Germany to ever make life hell for anyone.  It just simply wasn’t worth the trouble or shit that came with it, nor was it fair for anyone to suffer.  I know that because he felt that way about my mom when she was sick those 10 years.

To her-she I thought my entire life that she walked on water.  She was somehow sitting in a 4th throne if you will near Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit.  All her life all she did was love us kids.  Treated us all with love.  Did so much for us.  Worked to give my siblings money to have in college.  She died before I could get to high school.  It was a blow.  But on Thanksgiving we were either at mom’s house or Paw-Paw’s.  One or the other.  And it was either momma or Nanny cooking.  Paw-Paw did the cooking and making at Christmas.  That was his deal.  The meal in November Nanny handled most years.  I can remember it being at my house twice.

There was a lunch that dear God, it would make Golden Corral blush.  Turkey, ham, creamed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, fresh veggie tray, corn, giblet gravy, Parker House rolls, cakes, pies, cookies, tarts, green beans, cranberry sauce, cheese and cracker tray.  Name it and it was there.  Lemonade, tea and coffee and soda.  For us grandkids there was Chek soda-from Kroger in the 2nd frig in the backyard in the storage shed.

It would be my family, Nanny and Paw-Paw, their dog Pepper and my Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Wiley and their kids and when we all got a little older grandkids on both sides.  Paw-Paw’s momma was with us until June of 1996 so we had her too.  There were so many of us.  But, there was always room.  And if you were single, but had a girlfriend or boyfriend, bring them too!  My siblings always had theirs.  I never did that until my senior year in high school.  I think the reason I didn’t was I wanted my time with my family to be “MY” time.

Looking back, it is those times that I ache and yearn for.  That I miss.  I wish I had back.  As I get ready to hit another 40-something birthday coming, and we have our oldest bordering on teenagerdom, I am wondering and thinking about how it will be coming up for us.  In a few years I expect our oldest will have a young man at my table at some point over Thanksgiving.  In 15 years or so I figure I may have a grandkid roaming around my home on Thanksgiving saying “Paw-Paw, play with me.”  Those words will melt me.

My mom unfortunately never got to hear the name Nanny or Grandmother.  She died before then.  She did get to meet her first grandchild.  Tomorrow, if she were alive, I feel certain she’d be at my house, at my table with us and her 3 grandkids from my family.  She loved kids.  My wife and her would’ve gotten along great.  Mom would’ve had lots to talk about with her.  And quite frankly, she and my wife would’ve had some things in common.  I wonder sometimes honestly if she sends my wife little messages via birds or butterflies that just drop down out of the sky from nowhere.

In October and the latter part of September we had a butterfly that lived outside our kitchen and dining room.  People may think I am crazy to think it was the same one for all those weeks.  But the colors and markings were the same and each time I’d venture out, it would show up.  When we’d eat, it would hang outside the window of the dining room.  I know it isn’t going to happen tomorrow when it is 43 degrees, but I’d love nothing better than to see that butterfly tomorrow come and hang out.