I’ve been enjoying this Thanksgiving weekend immensely.
Part of living abroad for so long where no one really has a clue about the holiday, is that I learned to not miss it.
Once some of my British kids tried to do a “real Thanksgiving” for me. From my eyes it was a disaster. They all thought it was a rousing success. Of course it was me who had to drive three kids to emergency on three separate trips . . .
I was living in Mayfair and had to go to the Westminster Emergency. The duty nurse thought I should rent the cubicle where we had to go through the rigamarole, Part of my ability to forget abut Thanksgiving was that a year after my wife and son passed away the day after Thanksgiving my mother called me, sobbing and in tears. My step-father had had a great Thanksgiving, the next morning he woke up, sat at the kitchen table and died. I had Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s family’s but I gather he’d gotten drunk.
My step-father was a raging alcoholic. My mom was the classic enabler. “He’s not a drunk, he’s just a heavy drinker!” “He has to drink because of the terrible pain in his knee!” (He’s had a knee injury. Nowadays the operation to fix it takes about an hour and has a 99% full recovery rate. Some guys are playing less than a month after surgery, back then they botched these things a lot. Look at the careers of Gale Sayers, Dick Butkis and Mickey Mantle.)
He was a drunk. I still don’t understand why but my mother loved him deeply. He never hit my mother. He saved all of his physical and mental abuse for me. He was always very sweet to her even when off on one of his drunken escapades. Some of them were funny, I guess, but I lived with him so I never saw the humour.
My mother was horrified that she’d been speaking to him for she didn’t know how long before she noticed he wasn’t just ignoring her. Something he did often enough.
I had to go over to the house and deal with the mess that a death at home brings; cops, coroners etc. It was pretty cut and dried. My step-father was told that if he didn’t stop drinking he’d be dead within 90 days. Thanksgiving was day 90 after he’d gotten that report. I’d suspect that in his mind he figured he’d won by living through it. He’d just turned 60. I had no deep feelings when I looked at him dead. I was concerned that my mother was going to be alright. She’d keep showing a brave face but when she thought no one was watching she’d break down and force herself to recover.
There were about 100 people at the funeral. About 300 attended the wake. I thought this was a low turnout but I don’t think there’d be that many for my funeral. The NFLPA sent a guy. He did well, telling my mom how the NFLPA would take care of the funeral expenses and important stuff like that. I knew a few of the others by sight but they were all my step-father’s friends and were trembling waiting for the first drink of the day.
I was a bit startled by how many of them seemed to be hitting on my mother but maybe that’s because I’m an only child and too sensitive to that stuff.
When I looked at my father I was glad I stopped drinking years before. He was a stuff athlete, a champion QB but now his nose blood vessels were so broken up his nose looked like it was badly crafted from morticians wax and badly stuck into the approximate middle of his face. His body was bloated, not exactly fat, he drank more than he ate but it looked unhealthy. If he’d been 80 he’d have looked the same.
No one from his NFL team or his college team showed up.
The next day I made some pretty horrifying discoveries. My mom didn’t know how to write a check, much less read a simple bank statement. She was a housewife and no skills at all. She was a terrible cook, always was but she could wash clothes, grocery shop and keep the house clean. That’s about it.
This stunned me because when I was little I thought she did a grand job of running our lives. I thought she was an independent career woman! She was if the career was working at the refreshment stand of the local drive-in.
They were deep in debt. They had no cash. I realized how bad things were when I took out the garbage and saw that instead of a dozen Chivas Regal bottles my step-father was drinking generic scotch, you know, the plain bottle with the white label, the blue stripe and the only printing on the label was SCOTCH.
My mom was to get about $600 a month from the NFL pension fund. That was enough for food and the house payment, barely.
She limped by for a year. I did what I could. The very next year I took her out to the Los Feliz Inn for for Thanksgiving dinner. I never liked the place but it was her favorite.
Me liking it wasn’t much of the point. It spared me from cooking and more importantly it spared me from enduring her cooking. Every Thanksgiving we always had about 30 dinner guests. I don’t know why really, my mom was a terrible cook. One year I remember she had the inspiration to boil her stuffed turkey . . . a lot of people converted to vegan that day, maybe that was her intent. I got my love of animals from her.
She talked about my step-father, tried to convince me that he loved me! I didn’t point out the things he’d said to me, like I won All-State as a RB and he said it was because I wasn’t smart enough or gifted enough to be a QB, or tough enough to be a Tight End or a Full Back. Being an RB was a dead end because everybody knew the blacks had taken over the position. How he would throw knives at me at the dinner table if he didn’t like my table manners or just decided he didn’t like me. How all my girl friends must be stupid whores to go out with someone as ugly as me.
I don’t think she heard him then and I was certain she wouldn’t hear me then either. She told all of her “funny” stories about him, how they’d met and all. She was happy.
She died the next morning. Her neighbor called me. On the Friday after Thanksgiving, exactly a year after my step-father.
The coroner said it was congestive heart failure. I figured that it was medical jargon for a broken heart.
See, no matter who you are or what you are there is always someone out there willing to love and treasure you. I loved my mom. She encouraged me, she kept me sane, she loved me and she loved a man who I considered a monster. I spent a lot of years being so consumed with hatred for him that I was careful not to let myself become him, not to turn into the thing I hated.
But the person I loved most in the world loved him more than she did herself.
Last week I beat my friend’s picks by 12-4 versus 10-6. Once again proving the superiority of men, careful planning and deep analysis. I patted her gently on the head and reminded her that some things are just male par vue. She was defensive enough to point out that she still lead in the season by 2 points. Its amazing the depths a poor loser will sink to!
As usual my picks are in bold.
Tennessee at Detroit – This Thanksgiving the NFL gave us the worst slate of football ever imagined! Starting with this turkey. This is the first time I’d gotten to see the Lions play, well, not play so much as show up. It was a disgrace. I can’t see the Lions winning a game this year. While the Titans are a powerhouse team they did lose to the Jets who got whomped by the Raiders!
Seattle at Dallas – Another disgrace of a game. I can see Seahawks HC Mike Holmgren canceling his retirement rather than have this pathetic team as his final legacy. The Cowboys didn’t look that good. The Seahawks looked that bad.
Arizona at Philadelphia – Okay. I decided to ignore the fact that the Cardinals only win at home. I focused more on how dreadful the Eagles have looked these past weeks . . . I was wrong, oh boy was I wrong. The best game of the day and it was about a 2 on a scale of 10!
Indianapolis at Cleveland – Now that Brady Quinn is done for the season maybe the Browns will rise up angry and play their hearts out! Or Peyton Manning will continue to will the once written off Colts into the playoffs. I like Derek Anderson, not least because of his involvement with shelter dogs. Manning is looking like something from another planet. It looks like Manning doesn’t really even need teammates. He’ll win them alone if need be!
Carolina at Green Bay – Both teams are coming off of pretty humiliating losses, of course nothing
was as humiliating as the pasting the Saints laid on the Packers in Prime Time. The Panthers looked pretty anemic against the Falcons but at least they weren’t blown out in the first half. Still, the Packers play better at Lambeau field and need to rebound for their own self esteem. The Panthers have not impressed me all year.
Miami at St Louis – What better place for the Dolphins to get back to winning then against the Rams. Even if Steve Jackson does return for the Rams the team is mired in self loathing. They’ll put up a token resistance at best. Their only hope is that Dolphin Chad Pennington is, well, they really have no hope.
New Orleans at Tampa Bay – The Buccaneers are heavy favorites at home today. Their defense is for real. They’ve already thumped the Saints. I think that Dru Brees is wily enough to not make the same mistakes against them. With the return of Reggie Bush, even if he’s at 75% this should be a different game.
New York Giants at Washington – I don’t like the Giants style of play. I don’t know why. You can’t deny they’ve looked like a juggernaut. I don’t think the weird antics of Plaxico Buress are going to be enough to sway them. The Redskins look solid but not good enough to pick.
San Francisco at Buffalo – Last week the Bills looked incredibly impressive against a bad Kansas City team. Singletary has gotten the 49er’s nearly rebuilt into a smash mouth team. They were not humiliated against the Cowboys. I’d figure them to improve and for the Bills to fall back into their shells.
Baltimore at Cincinnati – The poor Bengals. Every time they take a step forward they get their feet stamped on. The Ravens need the playoffs. You can see it in their demeanor and in their play. I’d like to see the Bengals compete. Maybe they will but I don’t think it will be enough.
Atlanta at San Diego – This is the most interesting game of the week. The Chargers are not as bad a team as the 4-7 record indicates. Two pivotal bad ref calls cost them 2 wins. The Falcons are for real but on their first trip to the west coast. If the Chargers haven’t written off the season they match up way too well offensively and defensively. They should win this. It will really depend on their attitude and heart.
Pittsburgh at New England – Game of the week! Okay, Bilichik just might be a genius. Instead of managing games he has Matt Cassel winning them. The Steelers Secondary and Troy Polomanu against Randy Moss and Wes Welker will be a special sight indeed. With no running game and with Willie Parker running scared Ben Rothlisberger will face pure heat from the Patriots front 7. Its going to be a good one and not just because both teams desperately need to win to stay alive for the play offs.
Kansas City at Oakland – Cruddy game of the year! I’m taking the Raiders for no real good reason. They can play a little bit better on defense . . . and that’s about it. It should be close but who cares.
Denver at New York Jets – The Bronco’s Jay Cutler against legend Brett Favre. I think thats a closer matchup than you’d think. Sadly the rest of the Bronco team absolutely stinks.
Jacksonville at Houston – What happened to the Jaguars this season? This is a real cruddy game of the week contender. I still think Jack Del Rio is a better coach than Gregg Landry. The match ups favor the Jaguars in all areas except intangibles and home field advantage. Some how I don’t think that will be enough to put the Texans over the top but when you’re dealing with teams that worked hard to be 4-7 anything is possible. If no one watches will the score still count? ESPN got really burned with this stinker for a Monday night game. They should get a refund.
Chicago 27 at Minnesota 24 – A gam of the week contender and in prime time! Brian Urlacher versus Adrian Petersen! RAH! The Bears won’t much miss Brian Vasher. He’s not been a force at all this season. The Vikings don’t throw the ball that well anyway, just enough to try and keep other teams from stacking 8 men into the box. The Viking defense will feast on Forte and Kyle Orton but the Bears offense either gets blown out or pulls off the miracle play. This should be good.
When I was a little kid the big kids used to play football cards. The cards cost you a buck and you had to pick 10 winners to win twenty five bucks. Thing is that sort of parlay was really worth about 500-1 odds. Which is what I figure your odds are if you read these picks of mine with any other intent except laughing at me . . .