Thanksgiving always has been one of my favorite times of year.
I have so many fond memories of family gatherings that not only brought relatives together from far and wide, but also showed us all how blessed we truly were.
As the years ticked by, though, the number of settings at the dinner table diminished as loved ones passed on. Now, only a small handful of relatives, most of whom live great distances away, remain.
The memories of the past still burn bright for me, however, as I choose not to have a large gathering of friends, but instead pay quiet homage to those who have gone before me.
This Thanksgiving - and entire holiday season - I will remember the tremendous and old-fashioned values my parents and family instilled in both my brother and I.
I'll remember all the holiday follies and mischief, including the time our faithful dog shimmied onto the kitchen counter and ate an entire chocolate cream pie.
I'll remember the one Thanksgiving we spent away from home - at my Aunt Rose's - when the turkey was so dry there wasn't enough gravy in the world to make it palatable.
I'll remember all the trips to my grandparents' house for the second Thanksgiving dinner where we all stuffed ourselves until we ached.
I'll remember all the times we stayed up late on holiday evenings sharing stories about family members of the past.
I'll remember my parents sharing their humble upbringing and not knowing if there was money enough to have a special holiday meal.
I'll remember that first cup of coffee on Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings with my father at the kitchen table. After all, nothing can happen without coffee.
I'll remember the good times and game-playing - Yatzee - during each year's gathering.
I'll remember my first Thanksgiving away from home when I moved off to college.
I'll remember all those years helping my mother prepare the holiday feast we all so enjoyed.
And, I'll remember gathering around the kitchen table, hand-in-hand listening to my father or mother say grace.
Thinking back, I'm not sure the meal or the many festivities really meant as much to us all as the time we got to spend together.
The holidays indeed are a time for family, togetherness, reflection, charity, good food and fellowship.
This Thanksgiving, put forth considerable effort in taking stock of the things in life that truly are important - like family and friends. Life is entirely too short to not cherish and count each and every blessing.