I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite – only a sense of existence. —Thoreau
“Mike’s back,” my neighbor told me. “He’s been living under a tarp down in the woods at the back of the park.”
Thirty years ago Mike had run a small cobbler shop in town. Later he moved the business a few miles up the road. Eventually it went belly up; no one thought to have old shoes repaired any more.
Mike and his girlfriend bought a house in the neighborhood, an old Victorian cottage. They drank too much. Over the years the house fell into disrepair and Mike’s girlfriend succumbed to the effects of alcoholism. The house was sold, and Mike disappeared. Now after 30 years he had returned.
“My buddy bought him a tent,” my neighbor said, “and I got him some canned food. Every day he walks to the package store for cigarettes and booze, then sits in front of his tent and stares off into space. Winter’s coming — I don’t know what’s going to happen to him.”
“One of these nights he’ll freeze to death,” I said. “Maybe you should tell someone about him.”
“I’m afraid the police will just throw him out of the park, and then where would he go?”
“Maybe talk to Father Tom.”
Father Tom is the local priest. My neighbor spoke to Father Tom and in the end it was Father Tom who called the police. They came to the park to talk with Mike. They made several attempts to get him hooked up with social services. In the end Mike wouldn’t budge.
Heavy wet snow fell across the region yesterday afternoon and continued into the night; temperatures dropped below freezing.
I awoke early and looked out the back window just as the heavy snow on the uppermost branches of the distant pines caught the morning sun.
Suddenly I understood why after all these years Mike had come back, and now I knew why he would never leave.