This year's Thanksgiving seemed to be just the same as it always had the previous 20 or so times I remember participating in the festivities. Thursday early afternoon was the traditional Thanksgiving dinner with the maternal side of the family. Large bird, tons of mashed and sweet potatoes, trimmings and, of course, pies.
The meal always feels short-lived compared to the amount of time that went in to prepare it, but I guess that's just the way it is. Just as always, we retired to the basement afterwards to witness another pathetically hopeless Detroit Lions vs "X-Team" game only to slip into food comas. This year we jazzed things up a little by going to see the new Australia movie. A good flick for a date, but not something for a guys night out.
Friday morning the paternal side spiced it up and went paint-balling. Good times. We laughed, had fun, played games, told the same stories for bajillionth time. That evening we ate leftovers, played poker and watched football. For the most part every thing felt the same, but as I sat at the poker table with a King and 9 of Spades watching the flop come down, what had been bothering me all day finally came to fruition.
I missed my grandfather's last Thanksgiving. I was with a friend in Alabama because I couldn't afford the plane ticket.
I felt sick. I became nauseated and light headed. My uncle said: "Action to John" bringing back my focus. I looked at the board. Two spades hit the board on the flop. I now had four Spades- only one more for a flush.
A diamond came down on the turn. Nothing. My heart was pounding. I call the next bet. The river card comes down ... it's a Spade. I now have my flush. My cousin goes all-in and I call her bet. She has two pair- not quite good enough.
In the end, I was lucky. This was only a play money game. No real hard cash, but it shows the concentration and focus needed to be successful at the poker table. One stray thought can be the difference between a profitable night and a disastrous one.
I didn't sleep much that night feeling guilty about not being there for what turned out to be my grandpa's last Thanksgiving. You start playing the whole "if I had only done this instead of that game" game again. If I had stayed in that one night instead of going out to the bars with my friends. If I had not spent that $40 on a new dress shirt, maybe I could have afforded that plane ticket.