Many callers spoke of someone who had died in the past year, often a beloved grandparent at whose home the family would always meet for the holiday. Naturally, I began thinking about my dad, who died a year ago Novemer 30th (the feast of St. Andrew, patron saint of golfers, aptly enough). But I soon realized that I had virtiually no memories of Thanksgiving with my father. My parents were divorced when I was in second grade, and I don't recall if we ever spent time with him on Thanksgiving after that, although I remember we generally did on Christmas Eve until we began moving out of the house on McClure and starting our own families. Eventually Dad moved to Florida and we rarely saw him for any holiday, Thanksgiving or otherwise.
So Thanksgiving isn't a bittersweet nostalgic holiday for me that it seems to be for many others. Instead, I've learned in the past year that far simpler things can jolt my memory and freshen the sense of grief and loss: the smell of a leather baseball glove; the sound of a cardinal's call in the morning; the taste of fried potatoes that aren't quite as good as Dad's; showering off sweat and sawdust at the end of an afternoon in the shop. My father had his own perculiar blend of faults and virtues, and he wasn't perfect by any means, but I'm grateful to God for all my father taught me, and for the ways he tried to love us as best he knew how. So it seemed perfectly appropriate to be thinking about Dad on a Thanksgiving afternoon while I shaped wood on the bandsaw he bought for me, and clamped a bench vise to my table with a Jorgensen clamp he taught me to use, and listened to big band music while I worked, just as he always did. Dad may not have been at the Thanksgiving table, then or now, but I can always find him in the shop.