Happy Thanksgiving. I hope yours is as full of joy as mine is this year. We have an abundance of family gathered around. Too many people in too little space, but we'll manage.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It doesn't involve gifts or differing religious outlooks. It's just lots of great food and an opportunity to say thank you for all the good things we've been blessed with in the past year.
I spent much of my childhood on my grandmother's small farm in southern West Virginia. Grandma had a contract every year to deliver 1,000 turkeys to the Bluefield Sanitarium in time for Thanksgiving dinner. For us, the holiday was the culmination of months of caring for what I considered some of the dirtiest, dumbest creatures on the face of the earth. By the time we'd delivered the last bird to the hospital ready for roasting, we were in the mood for ham.
My grandmother was never able to enjoy retirement. She worked until she couldn't work anymore and then she took to her bed and my mother and many aunts cared for her until she was gone -- a matter of weeks. In retrospect, it wasn't a bad way to go.
After her death, we cleaned up the house in preparation for the funeral. My mother dragged all my grandmother's things she considered junk to the trash pile, poured kerosene on it, and we watched until it was nothing but ashes.
The sisters argued over the things that were left -- mostly inconsequential possessions because Grandma never had anything that was worth any money. Years later, there were still bad feelings. My mother went to her grave angry over a cherry pitter that her sister claimed. Their bitterness put an end to family gatherings for years.
This Thanksgiving -- before the kids leave -- I have a retirement planning goal. I'm going to ask each one of them and their significant others to tell me which of my belongings they want when I'm gone. I'm going to put that list in the file next to our will where it'll be easy to find. That way, when I die -- which I hope will be a long, long time from now -- they'll be able to find it and divvy things up accordingly without surprise or anger.
It's my wish that my kids to continue to gather for Thanksgiving, appreciate each other and give thanks for the good times.