Many years ago I sat down to write one of those Thanksgiving columns. You know, where you list all the things for which you are thankful. I started with my little family, and before I finished telling about them I had filled up the entire column space.
Since then I have set aside this day to get a little self-indulgent and remind myself what an extraordinary group of people are kin to me.
Since that day years ago when she decided to pursue a career of helping others, my wife Katherine has used her talents as an artist to brighten the lives of people with mental illnesses, teaching them to draw and paint, both to express their joys and sorrows and to give them a feeling of accomplishment.
Her boundless compassion continues to amaze me.
Tammy and Boyce
It’s an exciting time for daughter Tammy and son-in-law Boyce. Moving from Zachary to Long Beach, Mississippi, has turned them into part-time beach bums, but they still have time for other interests. Tammy works at home as a medical coder for Ochsner, while Boyce, a retired fire chief, is pursuing his love of baseball by working for the Biloxi Shuckers minor league team during the season, and his love of cooking by manning the kitchen at the Sandbar, a downtown Biloxi pub.
Thomas and Nicole
Son Thomas, aka Tommy, aka Pokey, a retired deputy fire chief, is still safety director at Lane hospital in Zachary, and Nicole is still the coolest hairdresser in town. They’ve moved out to a country place and are even raising chickens. Talk about Green Acres!
Grandkids and greats
Tammy and Boyce’s two girls, Katie and Mandy, are doing fine.
Katie and husband Glen live in Lafayette, where she’s in insurance and he’s in offshore oilfield supplies. They stay busy with their two kids (our great-grandkids), Ethan and Emma. Ethan’s a basketball player and New Orleans Pelicans fan, while Emma wants to be a princess when she grows up.
In Diamondhead, Mississippi, grandkids Mandy and husband Corey are commuting nurses in a Slidell hospital. They’ve just moved into a new house with their three children, Leah, Macy and Noah. Leah’s a soccer player and cheerleader, Macy’s also a cheerleader, and little Noah has been nicknamed “Bam Bam” by Maw-Maw Tammy, for some reason.
Thomas and Nicole’s family is still growing.
Daughter Tayler and husband Adam live in Zachary, where she’s a radiology tech in the Lane hospital’s cath lab, and he’s a firefighter in Baton Rouge and Zachary. Little Austin, another of our “greats,” is a fan of trucks, tractors and cows.
Son Ron got his education degree in June from Louisiana College, where he was a southpaw pitcher on the baseball team, and is currently in firefighters’ school at LSU. He’ll graduate in December and then join the Zachary department. His brother Clint is already a firefighter in Zachary, and the proud dad of little Aidyn, our seventh and newest great-grandchild!
Louis and Jane
Little brother Louis and wife Jane live in Oakdale, where he’s a Kubota tractor dealer and she became a Master Gardener after retiring as a high school guidance counselor. Son Judd and wife Stacy are in Reno, Nevada, where he’s a physician. Their twin boys, Jakob and Justin, are eagerly awaiting ski season. Jason, the middle son, is a New Orleans attorney, living in Metairie with wife Marian, also an attorney, and sons Jackson and Colin, both handsome lads. Josh, the youngest son, is in the oil business in Houston. He and wife Melissa, a nurse, have the only daughter on that side of the family, lovely little Vanessa.
Valeri, Katherine’s sister, travels the country as a marketing consultant in Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Arizona. Her oldest son Wil, a computer whiz, just moved to a vice-presidency post with a firm in Long Island, New York. He and wife Jen are proud parents of two little blonde beauties, Arabella and Aliana. Wil’s brother Wes is a research analyst with a Chicago architectural firm, and he and wife Michelle are also parents of a sweet little girl, Nola.
On special occasions like Thanksgiving the family always pauses to remember the one who’s not with us — my grandson Landon, who for 15 years kept us both inspired and amused before his spina bifida finally got the best of him.
I think of him every time I see a kid in a wheelchair, or see a teenage boy flirting with a pretty girl, or hear the cackle of laughter as some youngster pulls a prank on an adult. He was a funny kid in a very unfunny situation, and sometimes the tears we shed for him were tears of laughter. We miss him, and always will.
Have a good day
I just hope you’re able to be with your family on this day — even that uncle who tells corny jokes, that aunt who creates salads with Jell-O and marshmallows, and that brother-in-law who’s an Alabama fan. ...
Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.