On Thanksgiving Day in 1995, my wife, Cheryl, gave birth to our twins sons, Ross and Ben. That remains my most joyous, most-memorable and only gravy-free Thanksgiving ever. Will came along in 1999 on an April day special just because it brought us Will. On every Thanksgiving since my wife and I became parents, I've used this column as an annual outpouring of thanks. Thanks for your indulgence.
In the past year, we are thankful for:
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The way Ross pushed for an earring for his 16th birthday; I countered by suggesting we get matching ones so people will know we are "the coolest dad and son combo ever"; and Ross is thinking up his counter to my counter as I write this.
The realization that even though Ross and Ben have elicited a few gasps from the passenger seat as they rack up the hours driving on their learner permits, they still are better and safer drivers now than I was at 16.
Will's surprising interest in his middle school's robotics club that led to a newfound appreciation for programming and unexpected success (the best kind) in a competition that included lots of high school kids.
Ben's haunting oboe solos and late-night piano concerts.
The throat-saving discovery that getting the attention of teenagers who constantly listen to music through their earbuds doesn't require more shouting, just a flick of a light switch.
The way all those wonderful moments when we parents are able to listen and our kids are eager to talk can erase those memories of hectic nights, grunts and eye rolls.
The independence and show of good sense that led to Ross and Ben's first parentless concert to see Kanye West in Milwaukee.
The confidence we have in Will that lets him take a friend to a Cubs game at Wrigley without any adults.
The way Ben composed some music for Ross' latest film.
The smile on Ross' face when the audience responded to his disturbing, yet well-done, first-place film festival entry with stunned silence until our family friend, Charles, started the polite applause.
The way Will knows when a little encouragement can help a teammate, brother or parent.
The way the boys endured 104-degree heat while traipsing around Washington on our family vacation, and willingly posed next to statues and monuments even though they were disappointed that we didn't get to visit with President Obama during our White House tour.
The way Ben's longtime relationship (since seventh grade) with Sophie still seems fun now that they're sophomores.
The feeling we get that, with our kids' help, we'll somehow find a way to pay for their college.
The memory of skiing together as a family before I blew out a knee and broke a bone on my rookie run down Schoolmarm.
Concerts and games with Grandma Jean.
Baseball, soccer and basketball and the way Will handles undefeated championships, heartbreaking defeats, thrilling victories and plain old bad seasons without boasts or tears, but with an ever-present quest for fun.
The joy that comes from watching each of our sons feed his passion.
The way that the boys' memories of Uncle Bill and Grandpa Willy make Grandma Lois smile.
Grandpa Paul's insistence that Ross and Ben's driver's education include some time working the clutch of the manual transmission on Lumpy, his 1935 Auburn with the rumble seat.
The way my beautiful wife manages our boys' sporting events, music lessons, midnight film shoots, pie sales, baby-sitting jobs, homecoming, 2 a.m. carbon monoxide alarms, bills and today's Thanksgiving with 14 diners (12 sleeping over) with the cool, motherly grace that magically appeared 16 years ago and seems to grow stronger every year.
And the good fortune that has us employed, healthy and happy.
I could write a hundred more thanks and not be close to done. My family hopes your family can compose a similar cornucopia of thanks.