When I was a typical angst-ridden teenager, my father, over an ordinary breakfast and out of nowhere, told me: “The secret to happiness is gratitude.”
Being young, irritable and, yeah, idiotic, I didn’t really hear him, let alone process what he’d said.
Which reminds of that Mark Twain quote, and I paraphrase: When I was 14, I thought my father knew nothing. When I was 21, I was surprised at how much he’d learned.
You’re reading this just days before Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday.
It’s about food, family, counting your blessings. To me, it’s Christmas without obligation, stress, too much marketing.
Garden Grove residents have a lot to be thankful for: an ever-improving and thriving downtown; new developments in the works on Harbor Boulevard, which means more money for city coffers; the annual Strawberry Festival (maybe the best weekend event in Orange County); a sound City Council (or at least some of them); great restaurants; proximity to Disneyland and Angel Stadium; a rich history.
But it’s tough to get my mind off my father, who will spend his Thanksgiving Day in a hospital bed, hooked up to about 37 devices, teetering between life and what’s beyond, yet grateful each time I visit (“How you doin’, kid!”), and without complaint.
Every time I say goodbye, I take a good long look at the man who taught me how to swim, how to ride a bike, how to throw a football, how to drive a stick-shift, how to tie a tie.
The man who, when I was in college, broke and in debt, drove nearly two hours in the rain while I slept, and slipped an unsigned card with $200 in it under my door.
How to measure a man? In my father’s case, I can say this: he’s lived a grateful, giving life. I think of him whenever I’m swimming at Seal Beach, or parallel parking my truck, or standing before the mirror and tying some modest tie, and I find that I don’t wallow, though he’s suffering, because he taught me better.
All told, I’m thankful.