This Thanksgiving Holiday marks my 50th. I turn 50 years old in December, and since my first Thanksgiving happened before my first birthday, I am about to celebrate my 50th Turkey Day.
In honor of that fact, I am going to share 50 things I am thankful for…by the year in which they occurred.
1. 1962—Diapers. Cloth diapers to be more accurate. My mom used them and I wasn’t traumatized too awfully much.
2. 1963—My first dog, Sugar. She stayed with me until I was 17 years old, and was my loyal companion and confidant. It still hurts a little when I think of her…still miss her.
3. 1964—Rides on my dad’s shoulders. I remember him carrying me on his shoulders as we would walk the nine blocks north on Hackley Street to Heekin Park.
4. 1965—Guiding words from my dad. As he held me one night: “Mike, the most important thing you can ever do in your life is to love God.” Those words have stuck with me ever since. I wish I could fully fulfill them.
5. 1966—Saturday morning cartoons. A ritual that continued for another ten years or so.
6. 1967—Roller skating with my friend Cheryl. Gibson’s Skating Rink held lessons, and my friend Cheryl and I used to go every week. I’m still frustrated by the fact that I never learned to skate backwards.
7. 1968—My brother, Freddie. He gave me a red stuffed dog from the Delaware County Fair. He was 19 years older than me, and was a good big brother until his death in 1969. Also, that year: A red Schwinn Stingray bike…I had that bike until middle school. I wish I still had it. It would be worth some money now.
8. 1969—My mom. It was a really tough year for her with my brother’s death. It took her a long time to get through the grief, but eventually she emerged on the other side. She’s been gone for eight years now.
9. 1970—Collarbones. In August of 1970, I was racing my buddy Jerry down the alley on my bike. I looked over at him and when I looked back, I was headed off the alley path toward a bush. I hit my brakes, slid sideways, and hit a concrete post. I can remember flying through mid-air, doing an aerial somersault, and landing on my shoulder. I snapped my right collarbone. My neighbor, Emma Ogletree came to my rescue.
10. 1971—Glasses. My dad took me to get my eyes checked. I didn’t know I had a problem with my vision until I put my new glasses on. Oh, wow! I could see so much detail that I had been missing! My folks were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to get me to wear them, but that was not an issue. Maybe they would have helped me miss that concrete post the year before…hmmm.
11. 1972—Baseball. I discovered the Cincinnati Reds and the sport of baseball. Johnny Bench became my hero, and I became determined to be a pro baseball player…a dream that stuck with me until my fourth year of being cut from the team when I was a sophomore at Muncie Southside High School.
12. 1973—California and Amtrak. My mother, my grandma, and I made a journey by Amtrak from Indianapolis to San Jose, California and back to visit my brother Bob and his family. It was a fantastic trip worthy of its own blog post.
13. 1974—Minnie Alice Terrell. She was my grandmother and the only one of my grandparents that I got to meet. She passed in 1974, but we became very close prior to her death. I have wonderful memories of her living with us for the two or three years before she died.
14. 1975—Star Trek. Thanks to my friend, Jerry, I discovered the moral teleplays known as Star Trek. It became my afterschool ritual to watch the exploits of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy as they solved the problems of the universe. I once had a poster that said “Everything I need to know in life, I learned from Star Trek.” As crazy as that sounds, when you read the list the poster gave, it kind of makes sense.
15. 1976—Mike Runcie. He was the youth minister at the Fairlawn Church of Christ. In October of 1976, he baptized me on a Monday night. I was incredibly nervous and self-conscious.
16. 1977—Erector Sets and the ultimate mouse trap. This is another story worth of its own post. (Between Star Trek and Erector Sets, I was headed toward a role on The Big Bang Theory, but I was saved by the next year.)
17. 1978—Toni, my first girlfriend. What she could have seen in my goofy personality, I’ll never know, but she took a liking to me. We are still friends to this day, and I very much appreciate that fact. Another item from that year: Drivers License….Oh, yeah! Freedom!
18. 1979—The Fairlawn Church of Christ Youth Group. My closest friends in high school weren’t actually at my school. My closest friends were part of my church youth group. This group helped me overcome a number of personal insecurities. It gave me a place where I could experience the responsibility of leadership in a way that built my confidence. A special “thank you” to Neil Parsons, the youth minister who pushed me to be a leader in the group.
19. 1980—Williamstown Bible College. If I had it to do over again, I don’t know that I would go there again. However, this place holds so many formative memories and experiences that I have to be thankful for it.
20. 1981—Nancy!!! I met the woman who would become my wife in the fall of 1981. I was home for a weekend from college, and after church I saw this lovely girl with long, curly, dark hair. Flirtations were required. Over the next year, we became great friends…despite my initial flirting.
21. 1982—Home. After two years away in West Virginia, I came back home again. Not just to my folks and their house, but also to my friends and to my home church. At the end of 1982, I had my first official date with Nancy.
22. 1983—Great friends. I picked up a couple of new friends, and developed some that were already there. Rick Anderson. Sheridan Wright. Phil Dargo. My friend, Jim Wilkinson was in and out with trips to India…at least I think that was true that year. Also, it was in March of this year that Nancy agreed to “go steady” with me.
23. 1984—Bearings, Inc. I got a job so that I could have money to go out on dates. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was to become the beginning of my lifelong career. Also, Nancy agreed to marry me. Hurray!
24. 1985—Marriage. Nancy and I tied the knot and began our life together. We started out in a small house on East 14th Street in Muncie that we rented from my friend, Phil.
25. 1986—Columbia, South Carolina. We moved there in August so that I could become a ministry intern at the Shandon Church of Christ. It was the start of our love for that state; a state that we will likely return to one day. Also, I met another of my key friends that year in Columbia, Bill Buffington.
26. 1987—Calvin Conn. He was an elder at the Shandon Church of Christ, and even though I never got to know him as closely as I would have liked, his example is one I reflect on from time to time today. He passed that year from colon cancer.
27. 1988—Diet Coke. I started drinking diet soda that year, and between that and the exercise I was getting at work, I lost almost 50 pounds!
28. 1989—Angela! My first daughter came into the world in July of that year. If you have no children, it is impossible to imagine the joy you feel when you hold your first baby. I am very proud of the woman she has become.
29. 1990—My first promotion. I had returned to Bearings, Inc. when we moved back to Indiana in late ’87, but it wasn’t until this promotion that I began to climb upward in my career. The promotion took us back to Muncie where I worked as an outside sales representative.
30. 1991—Steve and Tammy Martin. They came over to our house every Wednesday night after church to watch Quantum Leap with us. It was such a blast!
31. 1992—Andrea! My second daughter was born. I worried beforehand that I wouldn’t be able to love her as much as I loved Angela. However, from the moment I held her tiny body in my hands, I understood the capacity for love that the human heart holds. As with Angela, I am very proud of the woman she is becoming. Also in this year, I received my second promotion and was moved to Columbus, Indiana to become a branch manager for Bearings, Inc.
32. 1993—My third promotion. Bearings, Inc. sent me to Indianapolis to become the branch manager at one of their two Indy locations. It was here that I finally started making enough money to be dangerous.
33. 1994—California with the Krebs. Nancy and I flew to San Francisco with our good friends, Steve & Brenda Krebs for a nice little vacation before we attended a conference in LA. We toured the Wharf, we had a cookout with my nephew David and his family, and we drove down the coastal highway. When we reached LA, we visited Hollywood and drove around the Hollywood Hills. We were there when O.J. allegedly murdered his wife, but didn’t know about it until we were home.
34. 1995—Sanibel Island. This was a tough year for me, and I was feeling quite depressed on our 10th anniversary trip to Florida. That was tough on Nancy. As tough as it was, I enjoyed the natural beauty and the pleasant surroundings of Sanibel. It was soothing to say the least.
35. 1996—David returns. The one person that has been the closest to me my entire life is my nephew David. For a few years, he lived in the Bay Area of California, and I missed him a lot. During this year, I flew out to help him drive his possessions home. He and I drove a full-size Ryder truck towing a trailer with his minivan all the way from Tracy, California to Indianapolis, Indiana.
36. 1997—The ole homestead. Thinking about this year reminds me of the house I grew up in on Hackley Street in Muncie. Mom & Dad moved to an apartment in 1997, and we sold the old house. David and I worked together to get the place ready for sale. There are memories for me in every corner of that house, and even today when I drive by, I feel like I ought to be able to stop, walk in the back door, and plop down on the front sofa.
37. 1998—NSK Corporation. After over 13 years of service with Bearings, Inc./Applied Industrial, I decided to make a jump to a new position with a new company. It was a great move for me, my family, and finances. Also that year was a fantastic family vacation to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, San Diego, and Disney World.
38. 1999—Dad. This was my last full year with my dad. He and mom moved in with me and my family in January and we got to care for him and enjoy his presence in our lives for a whole year. He passed in early 2000.
39. 2000—Catalina Island. Nancy and I took a cruise for our 15th anniversary and the highlight for me was waking up just off the coast of Catalina. It was a beautiful sight from the balcony of our suite on the Carnival ship.
40. 2001—The United States of America. Obviously, this was a pivotal year in the history of the United States. It just proves how precarious life and security really are, and it makes me thankful to live in a land where freedom is still a cherished possession.
41. 2002—The Indianapolis Mini-Marathon. For the first time…and only time in my life…I ran a mini-marathon. My wife had been running in it for a few years already, and I wanted to be able to say that I’d done it. So, here I am saying so. I did it. I was in great physical shape after that event and the 70-mile bike ride I finished a month later, but I never had much interest in running 13 miles again. I can say the following things about that event: I never stopped, I never walked, and I ended up losing a toenail.
42. 2003—Mom. My mother passed away in early December of that year, but it was all the stuff that occurred prior to Thanksgiving for which I am thankful. She fought throat cancer and beat it. At 81 years old, she finally began to look toward God, and I baptized her in my friend Brian Holeman’s garden tub in August. It ended up a tough year, but mom’s turn toward faith made it all worthwhile.
43. 2004—Grace. In 2004, I rediscovered the healing power of the Grace of God.
44. 2005—Arizona Raft Adventures. The year started tough with a herniated disc in my neck, but by late July, Angela and I were rafting down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon on a trip organized by the AZRA organization. It was a father/daughter adventure for the two of us and an adventure of a lifetime. By the time we were done I was also thankful for hot showers, beds, and air-conditioning.
45. 2006—Yellowstone National Park. Three friends and I took a week-long adventure to South Dakota and Wyoming that culminated with three days in Yellowstone. What a magnificent place! Magical!
46. 2007—Hawaii. We took a family vacation to Maui and Oahu for some fun in the sun. Technically, this took place after Thanksgiving that year, but another thing I’ve discovered is that I don’t have to be legalistic about everything. Hawaii is going to see my face again. I don’t know when, but I’m going back.
47. 2008—Salmon, Idaho. Andrea and I took a father/daughter trip also. We toured around south central Idaho, southwestern Montana, and Yellowstone National Park. One cool place we stayed was The Greyhouse Inn in Salmon, Idaho.
48. 2009—The eldership. In late 2008, the Southeastern Church of Christ expressed their confidence in me and asked me to serve the church as an elder. I have never felt up to the task, and I often feel very undeserving, inadequate, and unqualified, but I am honored to be of service to my church and my God. I began serving in January of 2009.
49. 2010—Being able to walk. In late 2009, I tore my right Achilles Tendon and had surgery to repair it. I spent 2010 trying to recover. In fact, I’m still working on getting my abilities back. When you are stuck in a chair for hours, or have to hobble around on crutches, it gives you a new appreciation for mundane things like just being able to walk or run. I’ve always said that I hated to run…now, I kind of wish I could run.
50. 2011—An empty nest. It is a joy to see your daughters grow up and begin to spread their own wings to take flight in their own lives. It is also a joy to have life take you back full circle to where it is just you and your spouse again. Nancy and I have been enjoying our time together, and the freedom to go places and do things again without needing to consider the school year or kids’ activities.
That represents 50 Thanksgivings in my life. I have lots more to be thankful for, and many more friends I could have mentioned. As I worked my way through the years, I did have a few where it was tough to find something to be thankful for, but if I thought long enough and considered things carefully, I could always come up with something. God has been good to me.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful Christmas season!