has not really inspired deep abiding thankfulness in most of us. But it benefits us in no way to forget gratitude is a real and important part of every person’s heart.
2020 is the year I lost my father. I am his firstborn son. I believe it is safe to say he was grateful for my arrival in this world. I was born in the 1950s in November. This year, my father passed away from this world on my birthday. I know you may be wondering how I can be grateful for this thing that happened to us. But I am. He passed away to bring an end to five months of suffering at the figurative hands of Parkinson’s Disease. It caused his multiple strokes over the duration of his final hospitalization, and it took away his ability to remember my name, or anything about me, or even the fact of my existence. But I suspect that the day I was born was probably one of the most life-changing and important moments in his life, just as the birth of my firstborn in the middle 1990s was for me. It began a connection that defines our whole extended family and lasted for over sixty years. I am grateful that he is now at peace. And I am grateful for every part of the connection between his life and mine.
So, I find myself alone on this Thanksgiving day.
My wife and daughter went to Florida with my sisters-in-law and their daughters while my son is working the night shift for the Sheriff’s Department of Dallas County, and so is sound asleep at this moment. I am by myself and left to my own devices, having been too ill to travel and not being willing to risk death by Covid anyway. I did not really like the idea of the mid-pandemic welcome-to-America trip to Disney World, but I certainly understand that my wife’s younger sister was able to immigrate to this country right before the pandemic hit, and I know only too well you can’t argue with a stubborn little Filipino woman who daily teaches middle-school children who are taller than she is. And besides, she knows how to breathe fire like a dragon when necessary. She’s too sterilizingly hot-tempered to ever get the virus. I am grateful that she has found happiness in one small part of this pandemic. It has been far more wearing on her than it has on me. She has diabetes, but already took care of one son sick with the virus without ever testing positive herself.
And we had a dog adventure this week.
On Monday, the day the Filipino sisters in Texas all went to the airport, tragedy struck one little dog left behind. My sister-in-law who also lives in Dallas, not one of the three who now live in San Antonio, left their little fuzzy lover-puppy in my care because I had successfully taken care of the San Antonio dog, Marley, when last a trip like this one was made before the pandemic. Monte is a much tinier dog than either my dog Jade or Marley. He is a miniature poodle-mix of some kind, covered in downy-gray curls and shaky-nervous like a Chihuahua. And I tried hard to get to know him and get him to trust me, but it came time for going for a walk, and he was still super wary of me.
My dog, Jade, was no help in the matter. Any time I petted Monte, I had to scratch her ears or rub her tummy too. She was quite jealous of the little guy. So, I walked them separately. I walked Jade first. She happily toured the green-belt park and sniffed bird poo and pooped twice herself for me to bag and dispose of . Then, when it was Monte’s turn, I was bending over him and trying to get the leash attached to his collar. But Jade kept sticking her selfish head in the way. So, I swatted at her. And Monte took that opportunity to zip out the door without either the leash or me.
We had a face-down in the yard.
“Now, Monte, I need to put the leash on. Will you come here?” I said as non-threateningly as I could.
His little black, button eyes looked at the leash, and he looked at me. He was having none of it.
I took a step towards him. He took three small steps away.
“Please, boy. You don’t want to run away, do you?”
But, he did want to. In fact, he turned around at that very moment, leaped down from the retaining wall, scooted over the sidewalk and out into the road in front of the oncoming car.
I know what you’re probably thinking. But it wasn’t what happened. I shouted loudly enough that the guy in the car slowed down and looked at me. The dog saw the car and changed direction, running East down the sidewalk. I ran after him, but the last I saw of him was his fuzzy little butt working like a trap-spring to turn him down an alley thirty yards ahead of me.
He didn’t have any idea where he was headed. But he knew he didn’t want to be with me. I searched in vain for another glimpse of him. Then I went home to get help and woke up number two son. We scoured the neighborhood. We asked everyone we met if they had seen him.
One lady in the alley where I last saw him promised to keep an eye out for him, and I gave her our address in case she did see him or heard anything from the neighbors.
Eventually we went home after a couple of fruitless hours in the cold drizzle. I kept remembering the hungry coyote that came up and eyed Jade while I was walking her in the early morning. That’s what I envisioned as Monte’s fate. I went to bed Monday night heartsick, thinking we would never see that little dog again, and how it was all my fault.
I searched again the next morning. But, of course, I found nothing. The only positive thing was… I didn’t find his carcass in the street,’
Later that Tuesday I got a call from my wife in Florida.
“Somebody found Monte.”
She texted me the address. And, sure enough, when we went there, the girl was happy to see us. She put Monte back in my hands. She told us he was a sweet and quiet little dog that her aunt found hiding in her garage.
I thanked the girl profusely. Later her aunt called. It was the same lady I had given the address to in the alleyway. She had used the address to look up my wife’s telephone number. I thanked her profusely too. I’d have given them a huge cash reward, if I wasn’t broke and bankrupt since 2017.
So, in 2020, I am thankful.
I am thankful for good neighbors. I am thankful for the gift of good dogs who love you even when you don’t deserve it. I am thankful for Joe Biden… God, am I ever thankful for Joe Biden.
And I am thankful that the end of my father’s story has given him peace.