The big November holiday is one week away. My wife has officially bought a turkey and has initiated the preliminary planning for next Thursday.
So I think it’s high time I made my annual Thanksgiving list:
First and foremost, I am thankful for my guardian angel. My mother gave him to me when I was 2 years old by saying a short prayer. My angel is invisible. Nobody has ever seen him, not even me. But he’s definitely there. How else could I explain surviving three totalled vehicles? Also puberty.
When I was 13 years old, I named my guardian angel “Bud.” I still talk to him often, especially when it’s tax season. Although I don’t talk to him in public anymore for fear that they will lock me in a padded cell and take away my basic human privileges. I’m thankful for Bud.
I’m thankful for Jocelyn, my editor, who performed a miracle and gave me self-confidence. Who made me believe I wasn’t a hack. Who found a way to somehow polish the world’s sloppiest manuscripts, possibly by using a gasoline powered bench grinder.
And for Stephanie, also my esteemed editor. Who once tracked me down in Decatur, Alabama, just to tell me that she believed in me. You don’t forget things like that. Not for as long as you live, you don’t.
To Julie, yet ANOTHER of my editors. A woman who has, put, up, with, my, incessant, comma, usage, even, when, it, makes, her, crazy. And she also tolerates all those little annoying ellipses… I often use… They’re just so beautiful… I can’t… Stop…
For Alex. He knows why.
I am thankful for the friendship I shared with a bloodhound named Ellie Mae. She lived to 13, and died in the arms of my wife. Her loss almost ruined me. I never knew you could grieve for an animal like that. She was a main character in my life, who guided me into adulthood, and taught me to see the world from a dog’s-eye view.
And Bergie. Who taught me Spanish, and opened up a new, vibrant world to me when I was going through a very hard time. Te lo agradezco mucho, profesora.
Also, for Lyle. A guy who yanked me out of a mental gutter and helped me love my own life again when I sincerely wanted to give up trying.
For the guy who once bought my groceries when I was 21 years old after my bank card was rejected at the Winn-Dixie. I was humiliated. He stepped in and paid for my stuff like it was the most natural thing in the world. When we got to the parking lot, I promised to pay him back, but he just laughed at me.
I asked if his name was Bud, but he said no that it was Hubert.
For Bob, the older man who gave me a good job when I needed one, and paid me WAY more than I was worth. A kid like me, half-orphaned, a high-school dropout. He made me feel proud of my occupation for the first time.
And Doctor Ariola, my neurosurgeon. A guy who once cut me open and gave me a laminectomy. I was in chronic spinal pain 24 hours per day after a bad car wreck. I could hardly walk without looking like I belonged in the tower of Notre Dame. After surgery, I had my life back. That doctor deserves his own room in Heaven.
Bud, see what you can do about that.
For my mother, who taught me to love Lucy Maud Montgomery. For my sister, who showed me it was possible to make a beautiful family out of broken pieces.
To my dogs, who have no idea that I am writing about them. Who clearly need to go potty for the 1,293rd time today.
For Lewis Grizzard, who gave me something to look forward to every blessed morning, and helped me through the growing pains of adolescence with simple sentences.
For Abbott and Costello. Willie Nelson. Artie Shaw. Hoagy Carmichael. Charles Schulz. “Action Comics.” “Gunsmoke.” Mississippi John Hurt. Jerry Clower. Don Williams. Maeve Binchy. Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu. Victor Frankl. Samuel Clemens. Jesse Donald Knotts. And Andy Samuel Griffith.
For Pat and Allen, my father’s cousins. My links to the past.
For my uncle Sam, who helped me learn to be a man. Who once told me to never lie, cheat, or steal—or tolerate those who would.
For Fred. Who brought out the best in me.
For the Atlanta Braves, who gave me something to root for when the world was falling apart. For Brian Snitker. And Bobby Cox, for just for being born.
To 9-year-old, Rachel, who sent me a hand-colored picture in the mail this week. Who has no father or mother, but two foster parents. Who has somehow become my penpal.
Bud, watch over this girl.
To my wife, who married a flunky and told him that he could be anything he wanted to be. And when he said that he wanted to be a writer, she didn’t laugh at him. She bought him a notebook.
Then, she walked him into the college financial aid department and signed him up for the Federal Pell Grant Program, thereby changing his entire life. Also, God bless the Federal Pell Grant Program.
And to you. Yes, you. Every single person who is reading this. To anyone who has ever told me to keep going, sent me an email, given me a thumbs up, or an “atta boy,” or an “I love you, man,” or told me that I mattered. God bless you from the bottom of this heart.
Bud and I are thankful for you this Thanksgiving.