It was a surreal Thanksgiving.

My ex-wife and I alternate years on holidays, and it’s always strange and depressing for me when I don’t get to see my son on those days, especially when I’m reminded of the fun times we had the year before in the memories section of social media.

This year was even more downcast, given the dark cloud of covid. Whereas in previous years when I was without my son, I would go to visit family or friends, or have people over to my house, this year there was none of that. I wasn’t going to be visiting my family, nor would there be my usual open door to people to stop by and hang, partaking in the way-too-much food I would typically make for the event, chill out in the living room and have a beverage or two while watching sports on the TV all day.

Instead, the day before Thanksgiving, I started to come down sick with something, which this year is always accompanied by a sense of foreboding.

Symptoms? Little bit of a sore throat. Terrible headache. Aches and pains and tired.

Could it be covid? Not sure. Could it be nothing more than a sinus infection or just being worn down from working too hard and burning the candle at both ends? Not sure.

At any rate, after dropping my son off at his mom’s Wednesday evening, I basically went home and crashed. Slept through most of the night, other than an hour or two past midnight when I woke up and drank some water and watched a couple episodes of “Better Call Saul” in bed. Then crashed again, hoping that I would feel better in the morning and wouldn’t have to consider the possibility of this being the beginning of something worse.

And as I fell asleep, I remember distinctly having a negative attitude, in general, about my situation, about the country, about the world. This year has been terrible in so many ways, that regardless of any holiday designation, it made it difficult for me to feel thankful about much of anything, even though there was a part of me, a much more optimistic side, that realized that I did have much for which to be appreciative.

And, thankfully (pun intended), when I woke up, finally, at around 1:45 in the afternoon the next day after about 14 hours of sleep, I felt fine, and it was obvious that it was just my body finally telling me to chill the hell out after too many nights of staying up working until 4 a.m. and then waking up early the next day to drive my machine into the red once more. This has been typical of me since I was a teenager, and I’ll usually hit that wall, take a day or two to sleep a ton and recoup, and then get back at my typical frenetic lifestyle. At any rate, I was happy that when I woke, I felt far better than I had the night before.

I texted out Happy Thanksgiving to various friends, answered texts, and had some breakfast before going out into the world to experience the day.

I’ve been determined for the last few years to never go to a store or any business on Thanksgiving. I’ve long felt that by churning money towards businesses on holidays, it just encourages the corporations that own them to see that there’s profitability in forcing their workers to show up on days when they should be respected and considered and given a day off. So, after taking a walk and doing some work around the house, I headed out for a drive, to play Pokemon Go and head to a couple of parks just to get out of the house for some fresh air.

Out of curiosity I drove by a few businesses that are typically open on the holiday, and was pleasantly surprised to see Starbucks, Target, and Kohls, were closed, along with various other locally-owned places along John Deere Road in Rock Island. I was happy to see that, knowing it meant that people who work there were able to stay home and enjoy a day off with their families.

Around 7 p.m. I found myself driving up into the parking lot of a local church, which also happens to be a Pokestop where a raid was taking place (if you play Pokemon Go, you’ll know what I’m talking about; if you don’t, essentially Pokemon Go makes the entire world a virtual gamescape with various locations acting as spots to play the games. I got into it because my son was playing it and it’s something we continue to share; it’s a fun video game and it encourages me to get my butt out of the house and take walks and drives in the winter, which is a good thing given that I work from home and during covid, that means my usual coffee shops and other remote office spots are closed, leaving me more of a hermit than usual).

There was another car there already, a beat-up pickup truck.

Now, a lot of times, there are multiple players who show up for raids, and I assumed this to be the case with the truck, although when I went into the arena to do the raid, nobody was there. So, I thought, despite the church being closed, maybe these people are somehow affiliated with the church. I didn’t give it much thought. It’s a church on a main thoroughfare; I hardly thought anything nefarious was taking place under the spotlights next to a busy street.

As the raid was getting over with, and I was getting ready to leave, they drove by me, and stopped by my car. I saw that the two people in the car were an older man, who looked to be around his fifties, and a young girl, probably no older than 10.

They rolled down the window, and called out to me, still in my car. I rolled down my window a bit to hear them, figuring a guy in his fifties with a 10-year-old wasn’t about to attempt to carjack me, not that my decade-old Nissan Versa was all that tempting of a target.

Advertisement

“Are you with the church?” the guy asked.

I figured he was. I figured he was going to ask what I was doing there. It’s happened before. So I held up my phone and showed him the screen, on which were an array of colorful creatures amidst a bright background.

“No,” I said, “I’m just here playing Pokemon Go.”

“Oh, ok,” he said, sounding downtrodden. “So there’s nobody from the church here?”

“No, not that I’m aware of, they look closed,” I said.

“Ok,” he said, putting the truck into reverse and getting ready to go. “Sorry to bother you. We’re homeless and were hoping someone was here.”

Then he rolled up his window, and took off, before I could even reply.

And as he left, I could see in the bed of his truck, a small refrigerator, and various boxes, strapped in to the back of the truck bed, so as to not fall off.

Now, 2020 has certainly not been a great year for me. Nor has it been for a great number of people whom I consider friends, and others who I don’t even know personally. I’ve lost a number of jobs this year and had my income cut by more than 60 percent due to covid and its negative impact on the arts world and the various other job fields (teaching, public relations, etc.) I occupy. Our website here has lost its advertising revenue, due to the various shutdowns, although we continue to shoulder on. Dozens of folks I know who also own local businesses have had to shut them down. Dozens of folks I know are unemployed. All of this is through no fault of our own.

But at least we’re not homeless.

At least we’re not driving around in a beat-up truck with our kids on Thanksgiving night, looking for churches or anywhere that might be open to lend a hand.

And I’m certain that’s what this guy was really doing. I’m a cynical sort, and I tend to be very dubious in regard to motives and the gaps between what people say and what they do. I’ve been hit up by various scam artists and con-men, panhandlers and swindlers over the years.

This guy didn’t ask me for anything. He just wanted to know if I was possibly affiliated with the church where he had gone with what I would assume was his daughter, to find shelter for the night.

Then they drove off.

I didn’t see them again after that.

I drove around to a few other places, a few other stops, called my son during that time, because I missed him. I called just to talk to him, and he joined in on the game remotely, so that even though we weren’t together in person, we were still able to share that time together.

Then I went home.

And as I walked in, I realized that, regardless of any misfortunes or difficulties I had, there were ways in which I was blessed, in which I had reasons to be thankful.

And maybe, in that way, this was probably the most appropriate thanksgiving I could’ve had this year after all.

 

 

Advertisement

Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.