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Last night I was giving thanks by opening a beer seconds after putting my kids down, I felt gratitude that they most likely won’t wake for 10½ hours. I am so lucky to have sleepers.

As I sipped, I thought about gratitude. It was a Hallmark Channel moment. And I was reminded: the many ways I’ll be giving thanks this (and every) year is to my mom…for making me a dad.

I write about her in the past tense. Several years ago, she died unexpectedly from a cardial arrhythmia. Doctors said it’s the way we all want to go: one second you’re here, then you’re not.

Several people told me, “Ohmigosh, you’re an orphan!” (a label that never occurred to me til it was pointed out.) But there are worse tragedies in the world than my personal situation. Much worse. But in our culture, 32 is young to be parent-less.

Thanks to our close relationship where nothing was left unsaid, I wasn’t bereft. I was sad, but I’d be ok. That’s a tribute to her.

And to my surprise, her passing freed me.

Prior to her death, I suffered from indecision endemic in my generation. I hemmed and hawed about my direction, my choices and my purpose (and…no small matter…my sexual orientation.)

But after Mom’s passing, “life’s too short” hit home. I couldn’t feel beholden to social convention or my mom’s expectations (imagined or not) for my life. So I chose to be happy. And my partner made me happy.

Then we got a dog! I mean…monumental commitment for me.

And I always knew I’d have kids. I might have wrestled with identity, but I knew kids figured into my future.

With my new independence and happiness, fatherhood seemed possible. And then, Because of Mom’s planning, I inherited an unexpected chunk of money. It didn’t catapult me into the 1%, but it allowed my partner and I to afford the expensive process of surrogate pregnancy.

I know the world is full of children in need of adoption. But my extended family is so small, I can count all aunts, uncles and cousins on eight fingers. It was important to me to pass on my genes, along with my name.

Even though Mom felt dubious about my life with another man, she inspired me to eschew insecurities and choose happiness.

And thanks to…well…her prudent financial investments, she gave me kids.

And I’m so grateful to laugh (and complain) about them, here.

Thanks to my mom’s example, I know how to be a good dad, a good partner and a good man. I know her joy for my family would be unconditional and irrepressible. I sure as hell wish she could read “I Stink” with them, take over playing Thomas, criticize me when force-feeding my stubborn 18-month-old, or console me during toddler tantrums.

But she’s with me every single day. The proof is in the whining, giggles, diapers and spontaneous, “Daddy, I love yous.”

My kids don’t understand the concept of giving thanks, yet. But I look forward to making eyes roll as I lecture them that “Thanksgiving isn’t about school breaks, football, or irrepressible little boy farts caused by gorging on turkey and Brussels sprouts.”

Nope. It’s the non-denominational, non-political, non-nationalistic day to feel gratitude.

And damn it: they WILL eat those Brussels sprouts.

Thanks: Mom.

Don’t forget to lecture and annoy your kids about giving thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving.