turkey-potatoesI don’t necessarily look for a story in EVERY experience I have, but some experiences need to be written about and some people are just begging to have their stories told, whether they vocalize it or not.

This Thanksgiving, my wife, son and I met a man named Pete. We didn’t get all of Pete’s story, but what he was gracious enough to share with us is worth sharing with you.

Pete has had a storied and colorful life, and although we received an abridged version of things, it seemed quite appropriate to hear his story on a holiday dedicated to gratitude.

Originally from the Flint, Michigan area, Pete has settled in a long way from home. As a general handyman, he had been laying drywall and other construction tasks for the last forty years. Up to a certain point, all went well until, as Pete put it, “there was too much competition and not enough work”. Unfortunately, he went from owning his own business to sleeping in his car before he knew what was happening.

To add insult to injury, Pete has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. As per his doctor’s plan of attack, he has received one estrogen shot already and is preparing for a second. He chuckled as he confessed that the estrogen had made him susceptible to hot flashes. With a slight chuckle, Pete said “I’m like an elderly woman now”. Sitting directly under the spinning ceiling fan, Pete claimed that he was burning up.

Working as much as he can over the last little while, Pete has been able to scrape together enough cash to buy an old, beat up Isuzu SUV. He told us that he was planning on a drive back to Michigan as soon as he could make it happen. He wasn’t quite sure exactly what his timeline for the trip looked like yet, but he needed a couple new tires on the truck for the long drive.

During our conversation, my father called to coordinate his own visit to us here in Tucson and Pete made sure to correct me when I referred to where we were volunteering as a “halfway house”. The correct term for where Pete lives with several other people is “transitional housing”. Tenants are required to pay one third of the rent, while the other two thirds are covered by the good charity of Jim Click, a relatively large car dealership in the Tucson area. All the residents of the facility are gainfully employed or actively seeking employment. Drug use is forbidden and grounds for expulsion from the housing. As he told us, if you are suspected of any drug use, they will not give you a warning. Instead, you are scheduled for an immediate urinalysis, with minimal heads up.

Pete’s story didn’t continue for much longer, as the turkey was just about finished and the boiled potatoes had reached that perfect point where they were barely holding together, at the consistency to be mashed up.

The four of us migrated to the kitchen and the only real talking from this point on was about the food preparation. Mashing up the potatoes, opening the cans of cranberry sauce, and carving the turkey definitely made it “smell” like Thanksgiving, but listening to Pete’s life story and seeing him still relatively upbeat made it “feel” like Thanksgiving and that it really is about giving thanks.


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