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A little over a week ago, I sat high in a tree stand on a piece of property that some friends and I lease in Kansas.
As I passed the time watching more deer than you’ll see in an entire season here, and waiting for the right one to come by, I began to think about how fortunate I was to be there, because most hunters will never venture outside of their home territory to pursue their favorite game.
Over the course of my time there, I marveled at the size of the many deer that I came into close proximity with and wondered what many of the hunters back home would think if they could see a doe that was as large as the majority of the 2-year-old bucks in South Carolina.
When I took a few shots at less than 20 yards of a 3-year-old eight pointer that would push the scales at nearly 300 pounds, I couldn’t help but laugh to think what some of the guys at home would say if they knew I was shooting it with a camera instead of my bow that was resting on a hanger by my side.
They would surely call me crazy but, as large as it was, that buck still wasn’t what I had traveled to the state known as “the land of the giants” for. They get much better than that one.
I had a handful of turkeys roosted over my right shoulder one morning and thoroughly enjoyed listening to their vocalizations from the tree. Even though they had to have seen and heard me as I made my way to the stand in the early morning moonlight they didn’t seem to pay me much attention.
After fly-down they meandered around in front of me without spooking despite my many movements done in an attempt to see how much they would tolerate.
On another day, I had several dozen pheasant rambling around at the base of my tree. It’s always fun to get to see creatures that don’t inhabit the area where you’re from.
And, even though we do have them here, it’s a rare occasion when we actually see a skunk in the woods. I don’t know if it’s because they have many more of them than us or what but that’s a fairly common occurrence out there.
It was during those many hours of hunting that week and reflecting on how lucky I was to be there that I first began to give some thought to this week’s Thanksgiving column which has become my annual list of all that I’m thankful for.
I realized then and there that the rundown for 2012 was going to be a short one. This is not because I don’t have plenty of reasons to be thankful for a huge catalog of things. Lord knows, I do. Sometimes, however, the most important things need to be placed “front and center.”
This year I’m thankful for my family. More specifically, I’m thankful for two key members of it that are having quite a rough year.
Back during the summer, my uncle followed me when he became the next member of my immediate family to hear a doctor say that you have cancer. Now, I realize that there are many out there that don’t consider an uncle to be part of the “immediate” family but those folks obviously don’t know mine. We’re more than just close.
In fact, it’s nothing for us to pack more than a dozen into a beach house for a week so that we can all spend our vacations together. That might not seem odd if my tree had branches spread all over the country that rarely see each other but we all live in fairly close proximity and gather at my grandparents’ home most every Sunday.
We all spend our Saturdays in the fall tailgating and cheering on our Tigers at Clemson and we see each other during the week for all kinds of other reasons that don’t run on some sort of schedule.
During the decade of the 1990s, I lost both my Uncle Pat and my Uncle Ed to untimely deaths. It was immediately after that second funeral that I told my Uncle Jim that he had to take care of himself because he is the last uncle that I have.
Though he had no way of controlling whether or not he got cancer, he has kept his word to me by bravely taking on this battle and fighting back with all that he has as he endures round after round of the not so pleasant treatments that I’m all too familiar with and I’m extremely proud of him.
It was during my own experience with the disease that I witnessed a number of people that basically just gave up after a doctor gave them the news. Uncle Jim hasn’t. Instead, he’s worried more about my Aunt Marsha and the rest of the family than himself.
Back in August, my father found himself taking an unexpected ambulance ride that resulted in a weeklong stay in the hospital. His doctors determined that a traditional surgery to correct the cause of his heart related problem was far too risky for him but that a newer procedure would take care of things.
As always seems to be the case, there was a catch. This newfangled technique would require an approval from the FDA for him to receive it and it wouldn’t come until late September.
As we prepare to sit down for this Thanksgiving meal, we’re still waiting. My dad has had to bear several miserable months of weakness and an inability to do much of anything without struggling for breath. It’s almost like being on house arrest.
We pray every day that this situation will be resolved soon but everything seems to move at a snail’s pace when in the hands of the government. It’s a prime example, I believe, of why they have no business trying to manage the healthcare of America but it looks like we’re going to get it anyway.
So this year my Thanksgiving thoughts are completely focused on them. After all, these are two of the people that have affected my own life the most — a life that started, oddly enough, on Thanksgiving Day of 1967.
They’ve raised me, molded me into who I am today and loved me for all of these 45 years. They’ve celebrated my successes, comforted me through my failures and taught me more life lessons than even they realize.
For all that they’ve done and all that they will do, I’m thankful. And, for their very existence, I thank God because I love them dearly and just can’t imagine a life without them.