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Growing older, I’m thankful for different things
By the time you read this, myself and other large people around the country will be just hours away from reveling in our favorite holiday of the year — Thanksgiving.

I’ve spent past Thanksgivings in this space making a case for why it is perhaps the greatest of our holidays in America.

The food put on the table at my sister Jane’s house is legendary and probably shouldn’t even be legal. After all, most things that are good are either illegal, immoral or will kill you.

But this year, I will try not to mention how I almost drank a quart of her gravy through a straw one year until my mom intervened. Or how it was proven that it is apparently impossible to get sick from eating too many sweet potato-based products (soufflé and biscuits).

We’ll also try to avoid the annual debate I have with my friend John over how fasting prior to Thanksgiving actually makes you eat less ... of course, “fasting” in our case means simply cutting back to what a normal family of four might eat for dinner.

All that stuff is great. Not to mention the family football games [Bean Bowl XXVI!], talking about past Thanksgivings, and just plain ol’ taking it easy without the stress of shopping (unless you participate in Black Friday).

In the midst of this centuries old tradition of celebrating with food and fellowship, though, it is always good to follow the cliché and consider — even if it’s just for a few minutes — all the things for which you have to be thankful. Even if you are in the most dire of straits, just being able to read the words on this newsprint is a blessing. {Editor’s Note: He means the ability to see and/or read. Not to get the content of this column. Really.]

I’ve noticed such a change in the way I consider what and how thankful I am. The things I was thankful for at age 8, 18, 28 and now 38 are most certainly miles apart. In order they would be: hoping the Tar Heels never lose another basketball game; thankful that I’d never have to do junior high again; thankful that I’d never had a procedure that involved a probe of any kind; and thankful that there are a lot of diaper coupons in the Sunday paper.

I expect they will be quite different again at 48, assuming I can survive having 2.5 teenagers living in my house at that point.

With that being said, I’d like to share a list of things I’m thankful for this year. It is certainly not comprehensive, as I’ve certainly received more than I deserve. But, it’s a start. I encourage you to make your own list. You don’t have to share it with anyone, but you’ll probably be surprised about how long it is once you start writing things down:

•I am thankful for how long I’m able to hold my breath during the children’s sermon at church when I see Holly’s hand go up to offer a comment.

•I am thankful for the moments delivered by my 2-year-old son Kent, most of which don’t seem appropriate to put in the newspaper. But there was this from last week at Nashville’s fine Mexican restaurant, Mucho Mexico:

Kent: [walks in, sits down, starts perusing the menu] “Does this place serve pizza? I like pizza. I don’t need a high chair Daddy, I’m a big boy. Hey, are we going to get chips and salsa? I like chips. I want to dip them. I want some salsa. Can I get my own bowl? What’s Holly going to eat?”

Me: “Uh, what do you ...”

Kent: “Wooooo, this salsa is good. I need another chip. Woooo, I need something to drank. That salsa hot. I like that salsa. Daddy, get me another chip. Let me have some big ones. They are my favorites. Daddy ...”

We’ll skip the play-by-play of the potty episode, but it did involve the comments, “Daddy, what you going to do about a stool,” and “Ahhhh, I gone fall in! Ayyyyy!”

•I am thankful that in an area where there’s allegedly “nothing to do,” I had the chance to see two of the greatest live musical performances within the last two weeks. After seeing J.D. Crowe & the New South and then Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder it became even more obvious that nothing beats good bluegrass music.

The amount of money I was set back for both shows with great seats was less than what one show at a particular Triangle venue would have cost — only without drunks spilling beer on me, or the interesting aroma of those funny looking cigarettes, or the girls who figure to about 15 cursing like sailors (no offense to our Navy veterans).

•I am thankful that I am getting old enough to be offended by people spilling beer on me, people smoking funny looking cigarettes and that I think young girls dress way too skimpy. It is surely the beginning of becoming an old curmudgeon — which beats the alternative to not growing old.

•I am thankful that me, and my wife and kids were able to stay out of the hospital this year for anything but the birth of #3. I am thankful that the birth of #3 did not result in any injuries to me inflicted by my wife as happened with #1 and #2. I am thankful that the same #3 who caused a lot of stress by not gaining much weight in his first couple of weeks has become a little tub of goo who will fight you over a jar of sweet potatoes.

•I am thankful to make it through another year in business and another year of the Soapbox. And, I’m thankful that maybe more people are starting to recognize that while the Internet is cool and all, there really is no substitute for a good old newspaper in your hand, that buying local is generally a better deal than you realize and somebody made Birthday Cake an ice cream flavor.

•I am thankful for all the readers who I run into in stores, or at ballgames or shows who mention something about a column — whether they liked it or not.

•I am thankful that I’m old enough to still think the Andy Griffith Show was the greatest television show of all time, but young enough to be able to operate an iPod.

•I am thankful that I’m dumb enough to not realize that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks; that music teachers are either the most patient people in the world or gluttons for punishments; and that there are many things in life you don’t have to be good at to enjoy.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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