In the 24 years of my life, this will be the first Thanksgiving I won't spend with my family.
Not being able to make it back home for the Thanksgiving gives me time to reflect on all the memories I had with my family during this holiday.
A majority of the memories that stand out in my mind weren't spent around the dinner table. The memories were spent out in my grandpa's field hunting pheasants.
When I was a younger, there was no doubt where Thanksgiving was going to take place. It was at Grandma and Grandpa Timmerman's house. Their farm is located just north of Gann Valley, S.D., which is about 30 miles south of Miller, S.D.
My mom's two sisters lived within 30 miles with my Aunt Dawn living in Miller and Ronda in Wessington Springs, S.D.
Grandma and grandpa's house was the place to be. Everyone from my mom's side of the family was there. And everyone was ready to go pheasant hunting.
When Thanksgiving dinner was placed on the table, there was visible angst to get started. After a prayer was said, my uncles and other cousins turned into vacuums and always had one eye fixated on the window. Once dinner was over, my grandma would ask "Who wants dessert?"
Everyone said they were full, but
not full enough to go out hunting. They quickly got up from the table to get their hunting gear on and were out in the field in a blink of an eye.
Before I was old enough to hunt, I had the job that every little kid that goes pheasant hunting has -- go and scare up birds. I hated that job. It was nightmare.
As a kid, I got scared easily. I mostly blame it on the clown from the movie "It." One of our VHS that was supposed to be "Benji" got taped over.
So, I was startled from the beginning and having unsuspecting pheasants fly up in my face made matters worse.
When I got older and I was able to hunt, my dad gave me a single 20-gauge shotgun. He told me, "All you need is one shot and that's what everybody in my family learned on." I will never forget the first pheasant I ever shot. My grandpa, Ralph, gave me the big hug and my dad gave me a pat on the back and said "Great job!"
As I continued to get older, my grandma and grandpa started to have health problems and the last three years we didn't spend at their house. Despite not spending Thanksgiving at my grandma and grandpa's house, we still met in Wessington Springs for Thanksgiving last year.
When I look back on it, I wouldn't trade those memories walking the field with my dad, grandpa, uncles or cousins for anything. They were memories that I'll have forever.
Now that I won't be able to go back, it makes me urge people that are able to spend time with their family to cherish that time. The time together might fly by, but the memories of sharing laughs, hugs and stories will carry on.