My Dad, Your Dad…Thanksgiving Reflections
by Bill McCusker
Massive platefuls of turkey and the works; apple AND pumpkin pie, thank you, very much; a few beers (ok, more than a few); and football, family, football, friends, and football. A day like no other.
And a perfect day to recall what we are thankful for, in keeping with the holiday’s real meaning. For me, that includes recalling the debt of gratitude I owe my parents for the values instilled, lessons taught, and sacrifices made. My mom was smart, outspoken, loving, volatile, and a marvelous teller of hilarious stories from growing up in the ethnic stew of Newark, NJ. My dad was quieter, tough, hard-working, athletic, and an Army officer turned business guy with an acute sense of right and wrong. Both came from very humble beginnings. They were charitable, patriotic, religious, and scrupulously honest. While disciplinarians, they loved their kids unconditionally.
My dad mellowed with age, though his BS detector stayed well-tuned until he passed on ten years ago at 91. His role of disciplinarian had long given way to that of counsellor. Issues on work, family, kids, career – he had a way of listening, gently offering a wise perspective, and giving much appreciated reassurances. My mom is in a nursing home where, despite her Alzheimer’s, she still recognizes and enjoys the company of the family members who visit her every day.
I am a product of both of them. Increasingly I see the need and the opportunity to choose how to amplify the strengths they gave me while minimizing the weaknesses. I’ll think more about that on Thanksgiving day. I’ll think about what I am passing onto my kids, how well I play my various roles as a dad, and what they will be saying about me after I no longer occupy a place at the dinner table. And I’ll think about all those kids today who don’t have the two loving parents I was lucky enough to have. Or a dad who taught them how to throw a football, how and when to fight, how to be honest and respectful, why being charitable is important, when a kick in the ass is well-deserved, and why we should give thanks every day for all we have.