Ed Ugel (@edugel) is the author of I'm With Fatty and Money for Nothing.
Growing up, Thanksgiving meant football, hanging out with my siblings, and watching Dad and Pop-Pop bicker over who got to carve the turkey. Using an ancient family recipe of guilt and passive-aggressive bullying, Pop-Pop usually got his way. In a show of childish one-upmanship, Dad would refuse to eat Pop-Pop's carved bird. Instead, Dad would spend Thanksgiving picking at the turkey's carcass—making everyone that much more uncomfortable. Pop-Pop could have cared less.
It was nice to have strong, sane male role models.
I loved standing at Pop-Pop's knee and watching him carve the turkey. He would slide me little scraps of meat, pretending that it was our little secret. After a 30-year run, age caught up to him and it was time for Pop-Pop to relinquish carving duties. By that point, Dad had lost interest. I was the heir apparent.
While Pop-Pop had always been supportive of my love of cooking, he was oddly ungracious about my carving skills. In hindsight, I realize that Pop-Pop's nitpicking over my carving wasn't about me at all. It was about a proud old man facing his own mortality.
Now, at the ripe old age of 40, I, too, feel protective of my carving role within the family. These days, while Dad watches football from his La-Z-Boy, I quietly slide my daughters little morsels as they sit and watch their proud pop carve the bird.
Last Thanksgiving my 11-year-old nephew, Luca—whip-smart, handsome, and funny—suddenly became interested in learning how to carve a turkey. As I carve, I see the older, doughier version of me in the reflection of that carving knife. I wonder how much longer I have before Luca pushes me aside. Looks like another La-Z-Boy may be in order.