The boys have just left, and Thanksgiving is officially over for another year. As usual, it went by far too quickly. Before I lapse into a post-feast food-induced coma, I’d like to share a few thoughts about the holiday, a few memories of past events, and maybe a hope for future times spent with family. Sharing is generally a good thing. Except for buttermilk pie. I rarely share that.
My wife, Jocelynn, and I have three sons, all of them grown, all of them far smarter than me. Two have graduated from college, one a scientist with a degree I can’t pronounce, much less explain. He works for a company engaging in DNA-type activities, the kind of thing that causes the problems at the beginning of sci-fi movies. I wouldn’t know a DNA from a NHL. Another of the boys is in graduate school, and will probably end up with a doctorate. I guess I’ll have to call him doctor one of these days. The third is a junior in college. Or maybe a senior. They grow up so fast.
So, your typical late-life, late-middle-age scenario, complete with too infrequent phone conversations with the kids, too frequent phone conversations with creditors, and rare quiet moments to actually sit down together and visit with family. Those moments come too few and too far between, so I’m thankful that we were able to get together with the boys for Thanksgiving this year. There’s never a guarantee, at this level.
As the boys transitioned through high school, and began to leave home, Jocelynn and I saw this current lifestyle coming. We were pretty much wrapped up in our kids’ lives, involved in their activities, just as most of you are, or have been, with your offspring. And we weren’t really looking forward to the ‘empty nest’ thing. Empty nests are for the birds.
Years ago, I began telling Leret, our youngest, that when he left for college, I was going with him. We would laugh. It was a joke. One of those silly things we say to our kids, without even remotely meaning them. And then, when Leret left for college, I went with him. All the way to Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. Every young man’s dream, to have his parents go to college with him.
Jeff Foxworthy says you might be a redneck if you walk your son to school because you’re both in the same grade. I actually drove my son to college for the first time, and we were both in the same grade. And if you’re going to be a redneck, Arkansas is a good place to do it. They have a graduate program in redneckedness.
I actually went to college, a little bit, when I got out of high school, but didn’t get a degree, which I blame entirely on Abilene Christian University. They expected me to go to class, but some of the classes were really early in the morning, like eight o’clock, and the rest were at inconvenient times, like when I had planned to play my guitar, or Space Invaders. College is pretty easy, when you don’t go to class, but it doesn’t last long that way.
So instead of being empty nesters, Jocelynn and I pretty much completely changed the direction of our lives. Holidays have always been a juggling match with extended families and obligations, but now they seem to be even more difficult. My only problem at Thanksgiving used to be squeezing time out of my busy hunting schedule to eat with the family. As we age, our priorities change. The older I get, the more valuable it seems to spend time with family, and the less time there is.
This year, luckily, our three boys were able to come spend the day with us. Two of them brought fiancées who will become wives this spring and summer. So we had a lot to be thankful for, and in the future, we will have more juggling to do with the schedules, trying to carve out time together. Days like today may become even more rare, and more valuable.
But today was a good day. We fried venison, the traditional holiday meal in our family, because it’s way better than turkey. I made up a story about that, claiming one of my uncles once put a live, wild turkey in my grandmother’s wood stove the night before Thanksgiving, and she built a fire the next morning, and there was a smoldering, angry turkey running around the house. We told stories about when the boys were little, for the benefit of the girls. We made plans for Christmas, and talked about wedding plans for the spring. We ate too much and complained that we’d eaten too much. We never turned on a television, because our time together is far too valuable now to waste.
Jocelynn and I have a lot to be thankful for. Our lives seem strange, being at college and living in Arkansas and missing Texas. Maybe the familiar things, like having venison at Thanksgiving, make us more nostalgic now, since our lives are so different from what we expected at this point. It seems the more inevitable change becomes, the more difficult it is.
We hope you had a nice Thanksgiving holiday, with plenty of whatever food you celebrate with. We hope you got to watch football on television, or attend a parade, or whatever it is you like to do on Thanksgiving. Most of all we hope you were able to spend the day with family and other loved ones. Because time is the most valuable thing we have to share with one another.
And buttermilk pie. We hope you had plenty of that . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who is thankful you read his column. Write to him at [email protected].