November 28, 2013


Standing at my front door, fumbling for keys after a wonderful evening, I look down at the cooler at my feet. It is old, stained, and creeks loudly when it is opened. It is mine, but not really. It is a relic of family, and that is some of what Thanksgiving is about.

I showed up at my brother and sister-in-law's house, cooler in hand, stocked with a variety of microbrews. As a single guy, I am (rightly, generally) relegated to bringing beer and ice to parties. My sister in law asked that I bring the beer, and the last couple of years geeking out on beer knowledge has finally become useful. I spent a good half hour at Total Wine picking out beers of different types, beers that were interesting, but not so obscure that they would be intimidating or confusing.

The cooler belonged to my former father in law. Though the beer that I filled it with today may have been worth more than the cooler, and the cooler itself has certainly seen better days, I have seen no reason to replace it. Part of it may be the tenuous connection to a man I barely knew, but respected, but it is mostly because it still works and there is no reason to throw it away. Knowing what little I know about the man, I think he would respect me for either reason.

The top is stained with two rust marks, but they do not leave a clear picture of what was put away wet and left after one of his trips. He was a man who worked with his hands, and it could have been any number of tools, or simply a scattering of lead weights. The cooler itself probably held very little beer in its former life, and was more likely filled with fish. He may have even made use of the measuring sticks stamped in the lid to verify if the catch was legal, in both Imperial and Metric gradations.

Like so many others in my life, I wish I had grown to know him more, that I had pressed against the relationship resistance. I am so surely blessed with the family that I have, but the ones I have lost make me pause on this day of thanksgiving. My older brother and I spent twenty minutes working on his garbage disposal that had been jammed with some fragment of metal during the meal preparation. There is that part of me that misses working with my hands, fixing things that need to be fixed, and wishes I had shared that one commonality I had with Fred when I had the chance.

Today is a day of giving thanks, not dwelling on regret. I am thankful for my amazing family and my wonderful friends, and I am thankful for those strange moments, looking at coolers, that remind me of how I want to do better in the future.

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