Thankful to be able to write this Thanksgiving column

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Sometimes an idea for this column comes easy. Sometimes I struggle to come up with an idea.


There are weeks—like last week—when I realize how much I’m annoyed by the way local TV news stations exaggerate the first signs of winter weather, and a column is a breeze.


Thankfully, most weeks bring forth some idea or another. I believe some columns are stronger than others, but hope you enjoy them all.


I’m grateful for the opportunity to write The B-Side. And even though I promised myself I’d pass on the traditional Thanksgiving-themed column (it’s a bit passé) that ‘s what you’re getting this week. Be grateful.


After all, I recently turned 50 and declined to write the standby “I Just Turned 50” column. You don’t care that much, do you? I don’t feel any different, any older.


But when yet another member of my elementary school graduating class died just days after I celebrated that birthday, I realized that I’m slowly but surely heading into that stage of my life when people I know will died with some regularity.


I didn’t pay much attention to the phrase “you have your health” when I was younger, but let’s face it, without good health all the other stuff sort of takes a back seat.


I’m grateful for my parents. Both passed away in the last two years, but the longer they’re gone, I realize what huge influences they were. Former Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann once told me, shortly after my dad died, to continue talking to him. It makes sense.


Oh, how I wanted tell my dad the Cubs hired or Joe Maddon or listen to him scream and swear about the pitiful Bears team, but I’ve got the memories from other years. So thanks to you both.


Naturally, I’m grateful for my wife, Annette. Again, it’s damn tough to explain why. But in an era when even longtime married couples are getting divorced, I know that any fight, any disagreement with my wife will end and be forgotten. No hard feelings, no grudges. We’ve been at this for 23 years. Thanks, Annette.


The kids obviously are next in line. The idea, when they are little, is to teach and guide them. What I didn’t know years ago is how much they’d teach me.


My oldest son, Bob, and I battled for years. I could write columns about our tough times. Now, he calls me every week. We actually talk without either of us feeling awkward. I don’t dare ask him what led to the change. But I am beyond grateful that it happened. 


My younger son, Mike, has had a rough year. I’ll leave it at that. But despite the many challenges he’s faced—most entirely of his own making—he seems to have dusted himself off, learned some valuable lessons and is ready to go forward. Throughout it all, we never lost touch. Ask anyone in the office how many times Mike calls me each day. Too many, especially if I’m busy. But I wouldn’t want the opposite. He wants to tell me stuff, get my advice. Thanks, buddy.


Then there’s Brigid. Fifteen-years-old. My youngest child and only girl. The girl who goes everywhere, does everything with her daddy. Always has. She’s mature, she’s thoughtful and not much like her brothers. A sophomore at Mother McAuley High School, she and her classmates recently chose uniform kilts for their junior and senior years.  Upperclassman, I thought. Two more years and she leaves for college. I’ll save that emotion for another column. I am extremely grateful for my baby girl.


OK, so I got family out of the way. What else to be grateful for?


I can’t forget my close friend, Chuck. He was my best man and I’ve known him for more than 30 years. As recently as last week (though he’s done this hundreds of times over the years) I was steaming about some crappy comment made to me. I’m a bit thin- skinned. Tend to let things fester. Chuck listened and then responded with some remark that had me laughing. He’s done that for years. Thanks, you’ve made some bad situations tolerable.


I’m grateful I can write. Well, at least I think I can write. My entire career (save for some substitute teaching) has been connected to writing and editing. And most of the jobs, this one included, have been pretty enjoyable.


The heat in my car only works when I drive. When I arrive at a red light, I immediately feel cold air. Still, I am grateful for a car when I pass people standing at bus stops or walking through the community. And, I know my car will start every morning. Not everyone has that guarantee when the weather is cold.


I’ve worked jobs that caused me to be tense and anxious on the drive in. I never knew what the day would bring or the boss’ mood. If it was bad, watch out. Not so here at the Reporter. There’s nothing quite like the newsroom atmosphere, and I’m thankful to be working in one. We work hard, laugh a lot and put out a good production every week.


There’s a lot more for which I am thankful for, I am sure. These are what came to mind first. Happy Thanksgiving.