Did you know that on Oct. 3, 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November to be Thanksgiving and recognized it as a national holiday? In 1863, Americans were not watching parades and football on television while shopping online deals from their smartphones; however, there is one constant that has not changed — sitting down with family, friends, neighbors, even opening our homes to strangers for Thanksgiving dinner.

As you read my article, it is almost Thanksgiving Day. Like many Americans, I will sleep late, check out a few minutes of the Macy’s parade, and get ready to watch the Bears play the Lions. Sometime before the Bills take on the Cowboys, I will be heading to my aunt and uncle’s home for a huge family gathering that at some point during the meal will include going around the dinner table and talking about something each of us is thankful for.

My grandfather greatly enjoys this tradition and asks that the grandchildren do not simply state the obvious such as “I am thankful for my family” which I absolutely am. Instead, he asks that we dig deeper and look for greater meaning in our year. In honor of my grandfather, I share with all of you what I am thankful for.

I am thankful for the Brooklyn Nets, specifically Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. As I am a die-hard Brooklyn Nets fan, their decision to both sign with the Nets over other teams such as the Knicks was one of the happiest moments of my year. Their signing validated my fandom and won me a few bets with my friends. Watching Kyrie Irving score 50 points in his Nets debut was my favorite Nets moment and will only be unseated by our impending championship with Kevin Durant.

I am thankful for the block schedule that the high school implemented this year. I am even more thankful that seniors have an open campus all year. I mean seriously, two frees back to back means almost three hours of no class time and we can come and go as we please. Of course, we are tremendously respectful of this privilege and never abuse it. I would not be a good son on this day of thanks if I did not mention how thankful I am for all the amazing home-cooked lunches my mom makes me on those days I happen to come home from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

In all seriousness, I am truly thankful for my family. However, one family member will be missing from our turkey feast for the second year in a row. My first cousin is on active duty in the United States Navy. He, like many other Americans, has chosen this life which means putting our country ahead of family and making many personal sacrifices. Today I salute him and give thanks to all those in our military who protect our freedoms here in the United States and abroad.

Happy Thanksgiving, Wilton!