I've never done Norman Rockwell style Thanksgivings, but in my defense, I grew up in a family that didn't do Thanksgiving well at all. I'm not proud of that. It's just how it was. We learn what we observe, right? And I learned from people who struggled to have the traditional Thanksgiving of crisp white linens and sparkling crystal and good China set on a table heavily laden with turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce and marshmallowed yams that nobody in our family would eat, or even taste.
Here's an unusual thing: South Dakota legislators haven't seriously debated a state income tax in 40 years, yet the thing still has traction in political campaign commercials that try to scare voters. During the recent campaign, Republican Kristi Noem hit Democrat Billie Sutton with the issue. Her campaign took a snippet of audio, something Sutton said at a meeting about financing schools or teacher pay, I gather. She used it in a campaign spot to paint Sutton as an advocate for a state income tax.
Like most people, I talk to myself. I've done it since I was a kid. I used to pretend to be talking with imaginary friends instead of myself. That's because even a child knows talking to oneself is a sign of something odd. For some reason, I figured if someone caught me talking to talk to a friend who wasn't there, it would be less unusual than if I were talking to myself.
On Veterans Day in 1961, with his presidency less than a year old, John F. Kennedy spoke with hope that the world might learn to solve differences without wars. Kennedy, who would be assassinated two years later and who lies in Arlington National Cemetery, knew something of combat. He skippered a torpedo boat, PT-109, in the Navy during World War II. He and his crew saw combat in the Pacific and had their vessel shot out from under them.
Because I was weary of thinking about, talking about and writing about politics and elections, I spent last evening pondering the business of wallpapering. Yes, I know it was election night. And I know elections matter. I voted. I studied the candidates and read the pamphlet with the explanations of the ballot issues. Then I voted. From time to time last evening, I interrupted my recorded programs and checked election results.
Last weekend, author and Harvard University professor Tom Patterson used a word that seems to have gone out of favor in today's overheated political climate. The word is "forbearance.'' One dictionary definition is "the action of refraining from exercising a legal right, especially enforcing the payment of a debt.'' Patterson, talking in Pierre about the extreme partisan nature of politics these days, used the word in terms of restraint. An example of political forbearance would be to have political power or control but to exercise that power with restraint, perhaps even civility.
I'm old enough to remember when the bigger kids talked about going around on Halloween night tipping over outhouses.
Probably because autumn was the time when we had few chores on the farm and spent long afternoons tromping through the lakebeds and low spots, I've been feeling these days a strong nostalgia for the land. I know many grown-up farm kids understand what I'm feeling. In spite of hard work and hardship, a lot of us look back at our days on the farm with affection and a wistfulness that is impossible to describe to someone who doesn't have the experience in their background.
It never occurred to me growing up on the farm that my family was anything but rich. And we were, I suppose, in the sense that we were all relatively healthy with plenty of food for the body, books for the spirit and a fair amount of land for wheat fields and cattle pastures. We wanted for little that we really needed, and if that didn't make us wealthy, at least it made us fortunate.
One of the things I have never liked about being a father is how, when the kids are around, a dad must pretend he isn't afraid of anything. Like the dark, for example. I've been afraid of the dark for as long as I can remember. When I was young, that didn't matter. A lot of kids are afraid of the dark. Even as a young adult, it was something I could mention to a close friend. I'd be ridiculed, sure, but it wasn't the end of the world. But a father simply can't let a child see that he is frightened by a dark night or dark house.