I miss my dad more at Thanksgiving than at any other holiday. You might think it would be Christmas, or his birthday in July, or maybe the anniversary of the day he died, which was late in the month of January, 1998.
It's not that I don't think about him at those times of year, or all of the other times of the year, for that matter. I like to think we were pretty close and even though he's almost twelve years gone I still think about him a lot. I believe - or at least hope - I've become someone he would have been proud of, most of the time anyway, and it seems to me most young men (and women too, for that matter) look for the approval of their fathers.
I look back on most holidays from early in my marriage as kind of a blur. My wife and I moved around a lot; we called seven diferent places home in our first eight years as a married couple. Most of the holidays from that time were pretty similar, too - a drive either north or south, depending on where we were living at the moment, to southern Maine, which was where both my parent and my wife's parents lived.
We would hit her parents home and my parents home and maybe one of our siblings' homes for good measure, in kind of a Thanksgiving or Christmas marathon of well-wishes, dinners, desserts, presents and then drives back north or south. Needless to say it was not exactly what you would call particularly restful or festive; mostly it was hurried and harried.
But one thing I actually do remember about Thanksgiving at my parents' house is the walks I used to take with my dad after eating dinner. He was a guy who loved being outdoors, and after enjoying the obligatory cup of coffee following dinner, we would grab the dog and head outside for a walk. Depending on the weather conditions that walk would take place either through the woods behind their house or on the road around the neighborhood.
Sometimes everyone would go, other times it was just me and my dad, but we always did the walk. It might be sunny with temperatures in the mid-fiftes, or it might be spitting snow and in the thirties, but was always went for the walk.
I'm not exactly sure why I miss that so much. It's not like we had any deep philosophical discussions or came up with the cure for cancer or even solved the problems with the Red Sox starting rotation. But it's what I remember, and it's what I miss. Most of the time we took the walks at Christmas too, but then it was usually too cold to enjoy as much as Thanksgiving.
Now that my kids are getting old enough to actually be away and return for Thanksgiving, I think I have a better understanding of how much it meant for my parents and my wife's parents to have us back, even if it was only for a few hours. The idea of everyone gathering in one place to commemorate a holiday is really special.
Happy Thanksgiving, and don't be shy with the hugs for the people you love.