Long before Tom Petty sang the now famous words, “The waiting is the hardest part,” I, well, me and my siblings, sometimes some cousins, were living, and groaning, through the reality of those words on Thanksgiving Day.

The work for the massive feast started early and the air was filled with the aroma of what was to come… eventually. The better part of a day is a long time for a little kid.

I remember my mom splitting the beaters from the electric mixer, that had all been but shaken clean off, with my sister and me. Pie filling and real whipped cream just whet our appetite and made the longing even worse.

The smell of the turkey, gravy, beans, stuffing, and bacon that went into my mom’s famous baked beans, had everyone’s mouth watering. The pumpkin, apple, cherry, pies and my dad’s fruit salad, that was more whipped cream than fruit, tortured us through the longest day of the year.

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After surviving the molasses of a day, one of the secret baked beans ingredients, we’d finally hear those two beautiful words, “Let’s eat!” They didn’t have to be said loud, we were within earshot. We’d be hovering close by like a pack of wolfs waiting till it was safe to move in for the kill.

It didn’t take long to figure out that the “Let’s eat!”, didn’t mean we were actually going to eat. It meant that we were one step closer to the magic moment that our bellies were grumbling for.

There was one more step. And that step could be a time consuming one. Because the next words were automatic, “Let’s say blessings”, my dad would say. It didn’t matter where we were, our house or someone else’s, my dad was the official family thanks giver.

“Heavenly Father,” is how he always started his prayer, Thanksgiving or otherwise. When it came to praying, my blue collar dad was always genuinely grateful for God’s provision and protection… and his prayers reflected that fact. He wasn’t an economical prayer.

No sir, when it came to praying our dad was an opulent prayer. Not fancy words, but real ones, straight from his heart. And he wasn’t in a hurry.

That’s where he was different than us as kids. We endured the prayers, like barbarians, ready to tear into the feast like Tasmanian devils. I wasn’t the only heathen that opened one eye to make sure the food hadn’t gotten away. I’d spot one or both of my brothers, on occasion, my sister too sneaking the, if not illegal, immoral peek.

I haven’t heard my dad pray in going on ten years now. And all I can think of from those early days of life and Thanksgiving are the words my dad prayed. I realize now that those words were infinitely sweeter than any dessert, including his fruit salad, I’ve had since then and will have on this side of heaven’s curtain.

I guess I’ll never measure up and be the prayer my dad was, but I’m proud of that fact. But if you ever hear me pray, which I do on many occasions, because I’m usually the appointed thanks giver, you’ll hear remnants of my dad.

“Heavenly, Father…” is how I start every prayer… Thanksgiving Day or otherwise.