When I left southeast Missouri three years ago — first to move to Nebraska and later here to Powell — I had a feeling I wasn’t going to be getting home for Thanksgiving that often.
A few years ago, that would have made me sad. Now, I’ve not only learned to live with it, I have actually come to enjoy it.
As I was growing up, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday; the food was great, the parades were exciting to watch and there was a lot of football on TV to watch. And it also meant the beginning of the Christmas season, holiday specials and, come Dec. 24 or 25, gifts.
Things started to change after my Grandpa Buhler’s death in April 2010. In a quiet, subtle manner, Pop was the bedrock of the family, especially on Thanksgiving. He was always the one who cooked the turkey and made the cornbread dressing — and he was often the one who hosted the dinner. Thanksgiving without Pop isn’t the same. It’s not been bad, but it has been different.
Ironically, in the 8 1/2 years since Pop’s passing, I’ve spent Thanksgiving dinner with my family just three times — 2013, 2014 and 2016. But there have been some good times on Thanksgiving just the same.
In 2010 and 2011, I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner at Three Rivers College in southeast Missouri, where I helped lead my church’s college ministry. In an ironic but beautiful twist, some of the students in that group have become like family. We now might be hundreds of miles apart, but those bonds are still strong.
The following year, I was working for Times-Sentinel Newspapers and living near Wichita, Kansas — a bit far to make it home for Thanksgiving. So I accepted an invite to have dinner with my managing editor, Travis Mounts, and his parents. Add in good food and good football (the Lions and Texans went to overtime, while the Cowboys lost), and it was a good day. Better yet, I still count many of my Times-Sentinel Newspapers colleagues as good friends, especially Travis and Editor and Publisher Paul Rhodes (who I still call “Boss” to this day).
When I was in Nebraska, making it home for a Thursday dinner and back to work Friday morning was a non-starter. But that didn’t stop me from making some good food and starting a couple of fun traditions. First of all, I learned how to make a pecan pie and a French fry casserole (trust me, it tastes better than it sounds!). Second, I went on Amazon and downloaded “Turkeys Away,” the legendary Thanksgiving episode of WKRP In Cincinnati (sorry Mr. Carlson, turkeys can’t fly!). And of course, there was football. There is always football.
So what was my Thanksgiving like this year?
Well, I liked last year’s pecan pie and French fry casserole so much that I made them again this year. And while the casserole was in the oven, I made sure to watch “Turkeys Away,” then (of course) watched a lot of football.
More than that, despite being solo, I wasn’t alone. Thanks to 21st-century technology, my family and good friends are just a phone call, text or Facebook message away, something I made sure to take advantage of Thursday.
And better yet, there were no turkeys “hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement” (apologies to Les Nessman).