Monday, November 19, 2012


We’re going to miss Tom 3 and little Collin, the fourth generation Brennan man child, who will be in Missouri with Meghan’s family on Thursday.

And Jenny Radelet. She’ll stay California tending to her new job in radio.

But the rest will be here in Harbor Springs. Breathing the crisp North Michigan air. Catching up. Remembering.

Remembering the year Dad rented a bus and drove all around Lansing. To the hey ride. To play touch football. Out to dinner. Wherever.

Remembering the house on Park Lake Road and the magical Pookie room at the bottom of the back stairs, where little cousins became logo architects and lifelong friends.

Remembering the poster in the stairwell that said everything they needed to know about life they learned in kindergarten.

They’ll be here on Wednesday. Thirty-four places at the turkey table.

Our six children, none of them children any more. Seventeen grandchildren, two great grandchildren, assorted in laws and a gentleman friend of Katie’s whose metal will surely be tested by our raucous crowd.

The election, thank God, is over.

Heated debate will give way to a few benign zingers.

A time for healing in America has come and our clan will rejoice in it.

We’re all Catholics – some more American than Roman – sharing a common denominator of faith that undergirds a kaleidoscope of liturgical preferences. But time and living have pushed us all in different directions.

I shake my head in wonderment at the diversity of higher education that will be represented at dinner. Polly and I met at the University of Detroit, both living at home, riding the bus or streetcar to school.

But the next two generations fanned out across the land. Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, Dayton, Colgate, Boston College, Holy Cross, Marquette, Michigan State and the University of Michigan, Wake Forest, Georgia, DePaul, Illinois, Northwestern, Detroit, Williams, Columbia, Washington and Lee, and the Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few.

Whatever the divergence of experience and loyalties may be, there will be one point of certain agreement.

Our family has been blessed. Blessed beyond expectations. Beyond statistical probability. Beyond the fondest hopes and dreams Polly and I shared at the altar sixty-one years go.

And so we will give thanks. Not just for health and home, for the laughter and the love, for the handshakes and the hugs.

But also for the incomparable good fortune to be citizens of the United States of America.

Sometimes we forget to do that. There’s so much about our beloved country that needs fixing, so much that is out of sync with the vision of the founders.

When George Washington established the Thanksgiving tradition, he declared that “it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”

Abraham Lincoln urged his fellow citizens “to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

The incumbent President has been careful to keep his proclamations more secular in tone. Still he has acknowledged the need to thank God, if only by way of quoting Washington and Lincoln.

So maybe we should thank God that we Americans are still encouraged to thank God.


  1. As always, I truly enjoy your posts. I recall sending you an email some years ago while feeling quite discouraged and, in your reply, you really challenged me and lifted me up. Count me as a grateful man.
    I thank God for your life well lived and the wisdom each moment of pain and joy provided you with. I further thank God that we, who no longer have our grandparents with us physically, are able to sit down and read your posts.
    God is good.

  2. A beautiful tribute to what is best about America--families like yours. Well done, Judge Brennan. You have done so much in life which will endure through time, but without a doubt your greatest legacy is, and will remain, your wonderful family. Yours is a true Thanksgiving, the meaning of which centers around our good God and family, the greatest treasures of all.