Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
Family, friends, food, football, my old hometown, sleeping in the afternoon, wood fires after hunting and much more make these four days each November a slice of life I look forward to all year long.
Times have changed, though. My father has assumed the head of the table where his father used to sit. In fact, both of my grandfathers are gone. But the children’s table has grown in recent years. Our family has two new babies just this year. The cycle of life is apparent in our family, as I’m sure it is in yours.
So I’m cognizant of how fortunate I am to still have the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with two of the most important people in my life, my grandmothers. Virginia Butler is 86, and Dorlis “Dee” Kurpis is 85.
Each has been important in my life. They both helped prepare me to be a father of daughters and an open-minded sportsman.
My Grandma Kurpis especially played an important role in shaping my perception of women in the outdoors. You see, I don’t even remember being a fisherman without her involved. In my most formative years, both she and my grandfather took me fishing. It was the three of us, a family affair.
Because of her constant involvement, I prefer to fish and hunt as a family.
It’s amazing how we become a product of our experiences. Since my Grandma and Grandpa Kurpis filled my life with family fishing experiences, it is my nature to want to include family in all I do.
I’m so thankful for their early lessons and that I have reached a point in life where I clearly recognize this gift.
I was 8 the first time they took me to Wisconsin on a weeklong fishing trip.
We went to Yellow Lake.
Even though this was nearly
30 years ago, I vividly remember the experience.
I remember where we stopped for food, the hotel we stayed
in and excitement of finally
pulling into camp.
I remember the first night when we went out trolling for northern pike, and the incredible fight the first one put up as my little arms cranked away pulling the 5- or 6-pounder to net.
Grandma bought me as many candy bars as I wanted and protected me from grandpa when I frustrated him by tangling my line or making some other childish mistake.
While he tried to make a little man of me, she hugged me and loved on me and made sure I remembered to be a kid.
To this day, there is no one who can make me feel more loved or more secure than my grandma does when she hugs me and tells me with the deepest sincerity I’ve ever known that she loves me.
I’m so thankful to still have opportunities to feel her sweet embrace as she wraps her arms around me.
I may be a middle-aged man who towers over her, but in Grandma’s arms I’m taken back to being a little boy. I am so afraid of the day when those
hugs will end and her words will fall silent.
Each of us who loves the
outdoors likely has many people from the past to thank for
making us who we are today. I’m proud to say two of the most influential in my life were my grandmothers. I’m so thankful to still have them today, and so I can sit with them on Thanksgiving and catch them up on all that is happening in my life and watch with joy as they light up each time they see my daughters, their great-granddaughters.
They smile, and their eyes
twinkle as they admire their legacy in bloom.
Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving.
See you down the trail.