A week from today is Thanksgiving. In terms of family love, respect, honor and values, it is the most dangerous time of year. Yes, including Christmas.
I learned this as a cop. Before then, I thought it was just my family who posed a threat to the world by forcing us into one room for a meal long after we had all deliberately fled one another’s company.
Clan gatherings are always risky. Old, festering wounds reopen. Grudges resurface. Worse is the moron who doesn’t realize that the family pecking order has changed.
When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was fairly benign. We moved so often that we rarely had more than the seven of us there for the big meal. That meant the table was usually small enough that our father could reach all of us.
The worst trouble then was if I tried to force-feed one of my younger brothers the broccoli the Old Man said I had to eat.
If my brother hadn’t started crying, I would have gotten away with it. The Old Man told me that if I wanted any pie after dinner, I had to eat the broccoli myself. Since it was pie at stake, I managed. I could even get it all the way into my stomach with the help of a pool stick.
That’s about as bad as Thanksgiving ever got at our immediate family level. It wasn’t until I became a cop that I realized Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving dinner was a lie.
I once rolled on a family fight call Thanksgiving Day. There was a half-cooked turkey in the middle of the street when I arrived and what looked like mashed potatoes smeared on the inside of the window.
Turned out the fight involved three sisters who could not agree on how their deceased mother had prepared buttered rolls.
The kitchen looked like a grenade had gone off in it. Food, dishes and hanks of hair were everywhere. All three husbands and the kids cowered in the backyard.
On another day of thanks, I was dispatched to a call in which a drunk guy had fired a 12-gauge into the oven because he was ready to eat and his wife had told him no because the turkey was “practically still alive.”
He went to jail, and I went to the emergency room with a dislocated finger. I don’t know what the wife did with a turkey full of birdshot.
Maybe the most memorable Thanksgiving incident was the young kid about 9 years old I found walking down the street and crying.
When I stopped and inquired, he just kept walking, weeping and saying how he hated being forced to eat squash. It made him gag. I told him to come with me and I’d help him out. He refused.
Him • “You’ll just take me back home. How’s that help?”
Me • “I’m the police. I can shoot whoever makes you eat squash.”
He stopped walking and looked at me. I explained how I had already shot two people that day, one for peas and another for stuffing. It was easy.
When he was in the car and we were driving to his home, he said I didn’t have to shoot his dad. I offered to fire a warning shot into the ceiling — if he wanted.
“No,” the boy said. “It’ll scare my mom.”
We agreed that I would just talk to his dad. No gunfire, pepper spray, police dogs or snipers. Just talk.
The kid went into the house without saying a word. Mom, Dad and I chatted on the porch. I told them the story about broccoli and a pool cue. They must have felt better. I stayed for pie.