Thanksgiving will never be the same

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This Thanksgiving-themed Six Pack has ran in some form since 2013 when I started publishing Six Pack in the newspaper where I worked for 20-plus years. I modified it each year for any changes in my life.

This year, I added a lot to entry No. 1 - family. As some of you know, my brother Mike passed away this June. I often included him in Six Pack, sometimes as the butt of a joke, but often as a large influence to me. He is five and a half years older than I am, and it is safe to say, he was, and still is, my best friend.

He was my best man in my wedding and I was in all three of his, working my way up from Good Man, to Better Man and finally to Best Man for his final and best marriage. I always told him I was the good luck charm there.

Mike loved Thanksgiving for two reasons - food and family. I can’t remember a Thanksgiving without him, from the 1978 Moving Day (a weird day to move but never let it be said that the Six Packs aren't a bunch of weirdos) to the 1990 unceremonious ending of the traditional playing of Fort Apache, a bizarre game of cowboys and Indians that we created using rubber bands and plastic toys. My mom moved out of that house in 1992 after my dad died and the Thanksgiving tradition faded into obscurity, minus the occasional mention of it. Last year, we even joked about going to the house to see if the Verklers, the current owners, would mind letting us come in and relive the old times. Of course, neither of us would have been able to get back up from the hallway floor, so maybe it was a good idea to just reminisce about it.

But I will have to start celebrating the holiday without him. No more bad jokes; no more trying to out-eat the other; no more asking about his Christmas lights and keeping ComEd in business.

I don’t know how I will feel on Thanksgiving around noon when we all sit down. I am going to try to be happy, knowing that I got to spend 48 Thanksgivings with him, but there will be some sadness knowing that my kids had fewer than that with their Uncle Mike and that his grandkids have to spend their first one without their Papa.

Cherish your time with your loved ones, readers. It might not seem like much today, but now that it is gone, I look back and see that it was truly everything.

The annual Thanksgiving Six Pack appears below, with this year's modifications.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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Six Pack doesn't know when it happened, but Thanksgiving became the forgotten holiday, wedged in between Halloween and Christmas.

I am as guilty as anyone. My Christmas tree is already up, and in an attempt to listen to the 200 Christmas CDs I own, I started listening on Nov. 2. (don’t judge). Somewhere in the mid-'80s, Thanksgiving undeservingly got lost in the Christmas mire.

But Thanksgiving is special on its own, so this Six Pack is dedicated to what makes Thanksgiving the great holiday that it is.

Thanks for reading Six Pack and have a happy Thanksgiving!

6) WKRP In Cincinnati's Turkey Drop episode — Google it and watch several times. "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly" … that could very well be the best line in sitcom history. Richard Sanders (Les Nessman) and Gordon Jump (Arthur Carlson) deserved Emmys for that episode alone. Best sitcom Thanksgiving episode ever, even better than It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's "The Gang Squashes Their Beefs" episode.

5) Vacation time — Six Pack worked retail for 11 Christmases and hardly was allowed any time off around Thanksgiving to prepare for Black Friday. Now that I am thankfully out of the business, I actually enjoy the holiday by overeating until I am miserable. When I worked as a reporter, I used vacation time around Thanksgiving to make up for the lost time of those 11 years.

4) A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving — The most under-appreciated of the Peanuts holiday specials, Charlie Brown and the gang assemble at his house for a Thanksgiving dinner of popcorn, jelly beans and toast. They eventually get the turkey meal at his grandmother's, and Snoopy and Woodstock get their turkey meal after everyone leaves. (Does that make Woodstock a cannibal?) The highlight of the show is Snoopy's fight with the lawn chair. Still makes me laugh after at least 50 viewings, including more than a few this season (my kids love it!).

3) Football — One of the three F's of Thanksgiving, football is a Turkey Day institution, although probably not as high on the list as it once was. Maybe if the Bears ever were good again … Still, it doesn’t seem like Thanksgiving without the Lions and Cowboys in the background.

2) Food — Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy (for the turkey, not the mashed potatoes), sweet potatoes, dinner rolls, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie. That sounds like a good start. Six Pack has begun his prep, eating just enough to stay alive until noon on Thursday. One theory says to overeat to stretch your stomach, but Six Pack goes with the tried and true starve-yourself-and-turn-yourself-loose on Thursday approach.

1) Family — The last "F" is the most important, and even more this Thanksgiving. Fifteen of us will gather at my mom’s, with two notable absences. At some point, my mom and I will think of Thanksgiving 1991, the day my dad went into a coma. He passed away on the Sunday after. I think he would enjoy our little get-togethers, especially with the grandchildren he never has seen.

This year will be the first without my brother, who probably enjoyed Thanksgiving as much as anyone. His passing will leave a large gap at the table (Mike was a big man with an even bigger appetite) but an even bigger hole in our hearts. I hope he enjoys his first Thanksgiving with our Dad in quite awhile. Mom and I will hold down the fort down here.

But when the prayer is said, I know both will be there in spirit, ready to battle for a drumstick and fight for the good chair. Dad will disappear to the bathroom when it is time for dishes and Mike will nestle in for the afternoon nap in the comfy chair. Man, what I wouldn’t give for one more Thanksgiving with them. I miss them so much.

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