| With the Irish clan and the Germanic horde again descending on our home this Thanksgiving, the week preceding their arrival threatens more action than the following weekís three-day, four-night holiday cruise on the SS Club Guebert.
Iím not complaining because, lucky for me, I adore most of my family, am partial to more than half of the lovely Catherineís family and even enjoy one or two of the several castoffs from other peoplesí families that end up breaking bread and Waterford at our Thanksgiving feeds.
This yearís Wednesday-through-Sunday fete, however, requires more, shall we say, family planning than past holidays. Since we moved from the big, white houseís five bathrooms, four bedrooms, two futons, a sleeper sofa in the second living room and the overflow room that was my office to our newer, smaller, three-bedroom home, only one visiting couple can spend the weekend on our tab and in our sheets.
Who will the lucky, semi-permanent residents be? I havenít a clue: the raffle for that honor - with its required $50 per person tickets - will be held shortly after the turkey hits the table.
Before that blessed event, though, other preparations must be completed.
For example, the week prior the invasion I must prepare a hideaway in the backyard outbuilding (which means I need to get electricity and a recliner into it and the raccoons and ladybugs out of it), hide the 15-year-old single malt (the outbuilding?), and remove the yardís many birdhouses so nephew Machine Gun Matt doesnít paintball them all into colorful toothpicks.
In between, I must drain the downstairs refrigerator of precious Guinness so it can be restocked with delicious Schlitz for the in-laws, catch some fish - 3,000 or so should do - for the usual bust-a-gut-Friday-after-Thanksgiving fish fry and build the yet-to-be built bar in the basement.
Other, relatively minor jobs will have to be fitted into the schedule, too. Little jobs like carpet the family room, restain the deck, replace the kitchen counters, install a second oven, retile the main foyer, paint the front door and, if time permits, help cook pancakes and sausage for 300 Lutherans, find Amelia Earhart and solve world hunger.
Before all that giving begins, however, I should beat the rush and be thankful now. Thankful for lifeís simple pleasures, like the long, hot move from town this summer resulted in only three herniated disks, not four.
Thankful that a minor camping injury recently (minor: just nine stitches) was to the one part of my body, my head, that no one or nothing has ever deeply penetrated.
Also, Iím quite thankful that the familyís three cars, with 472,000 collective miles on their rusting frames, did not so much as hiccup this year.
Iím thankful that I didnít drop Peteís 14-volt drill into the lake while rebuilding my rickety dock two months ago and, instead, only cut one of his sawbucks in half while building a set of bookshelves for the office.
Iím thankful I played only four rounds of awful golf this year. And yes, I only played four rounds of golf this year.
Iím thankful the North American Free Trade Agreement allows fat, juicy Canadian night crawlers to be exported to central Illinois.
Iím thankful that our new neighbors are like our old neighbors - warm, funny, caring.
Iím thankful that daughter Mary Grace finds her third year of college the most challenging yet.
(And Iím really thankful sheís in cheaper, closer South Bend now, not expensive, distant Rome like last Thanksgiving.)
Iím thankful for son Paulís patient kindness, a wonderful, unteachable trait that several of his teacher colleagues have complimented his mother on.
And Iím thankful that my work on the farm taught me dignity and self-reliance as well gave me the smarts to fix a car, wire a barn, watch a moonrise, hang a door, repair a roof, listen to nature.
And I am very, very thankful for the laughter, love and loyalty of friends and family.
Of course Iíd be even more thankful if theyíd leave after three or four days next week.
Published in the November 16, 2005 issue of Farm World.