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My hands get so cold as I prepare the turkey. The cold water rinse doesn't help. You have to dig inside to find those hidden parts: the neck and the extra stuff (Yuk!) wrapped in plastic. It gets to a point where my hands need relief-throbbing back to sensation as I run a little warm water over them.

It falls to me now to continue this annual Thanksgiving ritual of cooking a turkey and all the various and sundry side dishes. My wife is brilliant at many things, but cooking completely eludes her. It is a running joke with us that all heaven and earth better beware if she grabs a pan or a pot.

This morning I awoke with a tangible sense of my past. All those by-gone Thanksgiving meals, cooked by my mother and father, or the lavish feasts cooked by "granny," these were special times. I was just a kid, who knew nothing of life's ways and means, that very impatiently waited for what seemed forever to dig into all that glorious food. The turkey leg, eaten like Henry VIII, was my favorite.

But so much more importantly, all those who used to have a seat at those celebrations-they have departed. Parents, grandparents, step-father, aunts and friends: people who used to love and care for us, they are all greatly missed.

Now, at 55, I carry on this tradition. It is no burden. I feel like I am calling upon their spirits to acknowledge and signify my role as the keeper of this holiday.

It's usually just the two of us, but friends may stop in to eat, just to drink some coffee or enjoy each other's company.

That's the real message-enjoy our time together. If it takes a giant turkey to get people to slow down enough to talk to one another, then so be it.

Be grateful, look around you, take in the present moment and realize that all you see is a gift in some odd and undefinable way. Despite any or all shortcomings that life deals us all, allow some happiness.

Even if it's the trytophan doing most of the work.

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