Am I blue?

Hey, it’s Thanksgiving, time to express our gratitude and appreciation for all the wonderful things we enjoy as Americans. I know, I know, with the recent election results, at least on the national front, liberals probably aren’t feeling too damned thankful this year. I would guess that they’re feeling a little blue. Come on liberals, buck up. Look at the upside. David Letterman has another four years of solid material, and Michael Moore has a sort of reciprocal mandate (if Bush has one, why not Moore?) to crank out more of his smart-aleck docudramas that seem to really upset the right-wingers. In fact, I predict things are going to get so bad that average Americans will stop fretting over gay people threatening the sanctity of marriage and start thinking about real threats. Like the accelerated degradation of the environment sure to come under President Bush; or the increasingly strong vice-grip big business will wield on national policy. Think Vioxx, baby. Average Americans will also come to scratch their heads and try to remember what this whole Iraq war thing was all about. “Tell me again,” they’ll say. “Why are we there?” And as gas prices and unemployment skyrocket, Americans will begin to wonder if it’s wise for so many of us to drive to Wal-Mart in vehicles that get seven miles per gallon and patronize a corporation that is crippling the American working class.

Me, I’m thankful for a lot of things. I’m thankful that I’m not headed through my midlife-crisis years in a purple convertible GTO, like the guy I saw sitting at a red light on East Avenue last Sunday. I’m thankful I have a job that allows me to spew this crap to thousands of potential readers. I’m thankful that Ohio State defeated Michigan. (Once again, a red state triumphs over a blue state.) I’m thankful that I have a pretty cool son and a pretty good home life and I’m at a stage in my life where I actually worry about crabgrass spreading in the front yard. Can you imagine? I’m thankful for little things like the Army-issue shovel I have in my possession. It was my dad’s and it’s short and you can fold the blade back over the handle. When I was a kid I liked to imagine my dad trudging through Germany near the end of WW II with this thing fixed to his back. For all I know he bought it at an Army surplus store sometime in the 1950s. But it was one of those cool things he passed down to me—all right, one of those things I snatched after he died before my siblings could grab it. Or the 1933 German coin with Hitler’s head on it. The Leica camera he got in a trade for a carton of cigarettes from a hungry—and apparently wanting a cigarette really bad—German citizen.

I’m thankful for all the Saturdays spent with Dad working on some household project—removing the corroded iron water pipes in the old house and replacing them with copper; building rock walls from the old barn stones; stretching cyclone fence taut around metal poles sunk in concrete just to house Happy the bloodhound. I remember Dad telling me as I attended each job, knowing my buddies were playing football or basketball or riding bikes at the very same time and having way more fun than I was: “[Grandfather] Abe never did this kind of stuff. He never taught me how use tools and fix things. One day, you’ll thank me for this.”

And I’m thankful that he was my dad. He died five years ago this month. Unbelievable. My siblings may not agree on much, but we all strongly believe he was the best dad ever. You want proof? Listen to this: My dad didn’t just read us books at bedtime, he made up his own stories about the mice that lived in the basement and walls of our hundred-year-old farm house. Great, imaginative stories like the tale of a mouse who rode a motorcycle and cut a Ping-Pong ball in half to make a helmet for his little head. How the mice that lived in our basement, the country mice, would make regular visits to the church mice who lived a half-mile down Kungle Road in the little white Grill Church. Every night we would get a new chapter. This from a cop, a World War II vet, a child of the Depression, a law-and-order conservative (the non-Christian variety). A man born and raised, like me, in a red state.