If you're familiar with Arlo Guthrie's song "Alice's Restaurant," you might remember that Arlo and his garbage-hauling accomplice are treated to a second "Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat." This echoed the situation in our home; in the custody agreement with my ex-girlfriend, my son is always at her family's place for Thanksgiving. Therefore, I like to have a second Thanksgiving here at our home when he's here. We had one a couple of days after Thanksgiving.
Before we started eating, we went around the table and said what we were thankful for. One of the things that struck me was that my son expressed thanks for the fact that we still lived in this apartment. When he was younger, his mother lived in Humboldt Park, a drug and gang filled neighborhood. It was not out of economic necessity-- I don't know if she was trying to prove something. But she moved from apartment to apartment in that same bad neighborhood. All the while, I've stayed in this place, in North Center, a safe, stable neighborhood. I sacrificed a lot to stay here, and am glad to know that it was worth it.
This year was a rough one for us. Kim was unemployed for nearly six months. I got in what could have been a pretty bad car wreck, with my son in the car, in May. In the end, though, the safety nets held; my son and I walked away from the wreck, despite the fact that the car was totalled, and the other guy's insurance company issued me a check to buy another car with. Kim's unemployment benefits lasted long enough for her to get a job. A bonus is that she loves the job. And thanks to the COBRA insurance program the federal government had, which heavily subsidized the normallly very-expensive continuation of health insurance, we were able to keep our coverage. I have to have medical insurance to be in the nursing program.
With my semester ending this week, I was able to ponder the thanks I have to give. I'm thankful that my wife and 2 children are healthy and happy. I'm thankful that my kids are doing well in school. I'm thankful that after a financially-tough year, we'll still be able to have a nice Christmas for the kids.
Personally, I'm thankful that I'm in the nursing program at Truman College. I'm discovering, as I talk to people in the field, that it a well-respected program. I'm thankful that I'm doing well in it and actually enjoying it immensely. I enjoy every aspect of it-- great teachers and great friendships with fellow students.
Also, I'm thankful that in August, the animal who murdered my friend Mark Evans in 2006 was locked up for the rest of his life. He'll spend the rest of his life in fear, surrounded by predators who are as stupid and violent as he is. That is justice, in my eyes.
Last night, my kids, with two of their friends, continued a tradition we started a long time ago-- making a gingerbread house. After they finished it-- and devoured much of it-- my son and I watched the great 1993 D.A. Pennebaker documentary "The War Room," which was about Bill Clinton's 1992 Presidential campaign. Somehow, despite the fact that I'm a complete political animal, I'd never watched it. As I sat watching it with my son, who's as big a political junkie as I am, I realized that he was born the year after the movie came out.
It made me think to those days, around the time he was born, when I was in my early thirties. I was a profoundly unhappy person back then. I felt like I was spinning my wheels. The Replacements song "Hold My Life" could have summed up my life ("Hold my life/'Til I'm ready to use it...") As I sat there finally watching the movie, sipping a glass of malbec, talking to my son about the movie, with a house of kids, I realized that I'm a lot happier guy these days. I'm exactly where I should be. And for that I give thanks.