As both of the avid readers of this column will no doubt recall, I gave you my proverbial two cents’ worth in this space last month extolling autumn. Well, I’m not done extolling. This go-round, I want us to turn our attention to the latest AP poll, which reveals that, for the 12th year in a row, Thanksgiving retains the top spot among all holidays past and present – including Elizabeth Peratrovich Day, which, apparently, is cause for some pretty raucous celebrating in Alaska every Feb. 16th.
I realize that Christmas generates the lion’s share of the buzz, and rightly so, given its spiritual foundation AND the fact that we have to have some holiday during which we can pay Mel Torme his due. And, make no mistake: Christmas is pretty special when you have young children and/or absolutely no yearning to find a parking space at the mall on Dec. 23rd.
But one of my contentions is this: Thanksgiving is Christmas without all the pressure. In both cases, you will welcome Aunt Lena and Uncle Buster into your home, but this month, you won’t fret over the notion that she might already have chartreuse slippers and that he really didn’t seem to appreciate receiving a Three Stooges tie last year. This month, you can gather in bunches sans a bunch of presents – and pretense. You’ll simply hug, visit, laugh, and, in many cases, pray, which is kind of the point of the fourth Thursday in November.
My prayer on the fourth Thursday of this November will focus on that for which I’m personally grateful: my family, my friends and my fantastic fortune (which, it is important to note, has nothing to do with how much money I have in the bank).
You see, the fourth Thursday of this November marks my 12th Thanksgiving among the living following an ordeal that occurred on the first Wednesday of August 2006 that nearly killed me. For roughly a fortnight, I lay in a bed in the intensive care unit of a local hospital in a medically induced coma after a tooth infection went terribly awry, leaving the aforementioned family and friends to call on a higher power to save my life.
Dr. Daniel Dugan was not that higher power. He was just the oral surgeon who carried out the Hippocratic Oath, while saying a few prayers of his own, to miraculously manage to get me back on my feet again.
I visited his office the other day, as he was called on to take care of a tooth issue with which my wife was dealing. He came into the waiting room, hugged me, and showed me a picture of a man he had treated just a week earlier. “His case was just like yours,” he said. “He’s only the second patient I’ve ever lost. I was afraid you would be the third.” We embraced once more.
And now you know why I decided to continue extolling.