Thanksgiving Eve, and I am writing you. I know you’re probably with family. Maybe Granny is with you. I don’t want to interrupt.
I only wish you knew how much you’ve changed my life. I don’t know if I’ve ever told you that.
You see, I’ve been writing to you for four years. Just about every day. It’s one of the longest gigs I’ve ever had.
It started as a whim, now it’s life.
I’ve written from all sorts of places. The mountains of North Carolina, the hills of Arkansas, the Texas plains, the Arizona red rocks, the Rockies, beer joints in South Alabama.
You might not know this, but when I started this column—if you call it that—I didn’t like myself too much. And I didn’t like the pathetic jobs I worked.
I worked swinging hammers, running power drills, playing music in beer joints, and in Baptist churches. And I was tired.
But that changed the day I met you. And you can tell Granny I said that—in case she‘s reading over your shoulder.
I remember the exact day I decided to write you. I was laying tile in an old man’s house. A thought shot through my brain. It was a flash, but sometimes flashes mean things.
I thought: “What if I write a blog? Yeah, I could do that.”
Usually, these ideas enter in one ear and slide out the other. But that day I got excited about it. I went home and wrote a 250-word column. To you.
And that’s when we met.
You became everything to me. From then on, wherever I traveled, I thought of you.
I wondered which sorts of things you might care about, what kind of day you were having, whether you needed to laugh. So I tried. I tried to make you smile. I fail a lot. But I try.
I wondered if you ever felt alone, like I do. I wondered if you ever felt rejected, like I did. I wondered if you had ever lost somebody.
And after a year of writing, something happened.
People started emerging from the mosaic of life. They’d always been there, but I hadn’t seen them before. I was too selfish, and a little too blind to see them.
They were you. Good people. Strong people. Kids with cancer. Champions with cerebral palsy. Children with Down syndrome who know more about love than I ever will.
So I wrote about you. I wrote about grieving widows, the abused, and the cashier at Piggly Wiggly. Little Leaguers who were missing limbs. Dog enthusiasts. Bar musicians, prison baptisms, dying fishermen, potlucks, elderly people, Alabamians, Tennesseans, and one North Dakotan.
I didn’t even know North Dakota was real.
You became family. And you have been there for me whenever I needed you.
When I lost my job, you were there. When I wrote my first book, you were there. When I lost my thirteen-year-old bloodhound. When I accidentally walked into an elderly woman’s hotel room to find her half naked.
You are the reason I write about my father’s suicide—something I had never even spoken about before you came along.
And you wrote back to me. You were the kid who wrote me about your mother, dying in a car accident. You were the Methodist preacher who told me you were an alcoholic. The pregnant teenager.
You were with me when I visited my father’s grave after twenty-five years of nearly hating him.
You were kind. You told me I had talent, even though I didn’t believe you. You were Connie Baggett, Edna B., Jack Darnell, Tiffany Dumas, April Boone, Sarah Jane Foster, Peter Wong, Katie Huelsbeck, Tonye Frith, Dave Galloway, Lyle Sandquist. There are too many names to list.
You are the reason I’m writing this.
Right now, I envision you with family seated around a big table. Maybe you’re reading this on your phone before supper. So I’ll make this fast:
I wish I were there. I wish I could reach through this screen and hug you so hard your bones would creak.
But I can’t do that. All I can do is tell you how thankful I am for you. You turned a hopeless kid into a hopeful man. One day, when will meet on that Beautiful Shore, I will find you, hug your neck, and thank you for what you’ve done for me.
Eat a lot of food today. I love you.
Tell Granny I love her, too.
Happy Thanksgiving, 2018.