Give thanks to experiences, people who got you through life

By Kenneth Kowald

A wise and dear friend of ours, a native of the Broadway−Flushing area, reminded me a few years ago about two things: First, we were fortunate our ancestors left Europe for the United States, and second, we were part of a lucky generation — perhaps the last lucky generation.

We lived through the Great Depression. But, at least in our families and in Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, Elaine and I never lacked for proper food, shelter and clothing.

I did my Army service between the battles in World War II and the beginning of the Korean War. The only shots I heard were on the firing range at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

I had an excellent education in city schools, especially JHS 73 in Maspeth and Newtown High School. At City College, Columbia (where I had the benefit of the GI Bill) and the Fordham University School of Law, I continued to have a fine education.

I never lacked for a job, beginning two days out of high school. Some were better than others, but I never felt I was demeaning myself or working so hard that it affected my physical or mental capacity. I retired with a decent pension and health benefits, which have enabled us to come through some difficult times.

We lived for many years in a beautiful house opposite Forest Park in Richmond Hill. We live today in a fine apartment with a spectacular view of Manhasset Bay in Port Washington, L.I.

So, this Thanksgiving, perhaps more than any other, I am thankful to my forebears and especially to the United States, which has given me and many others the chance to live a good and free life. We were told in our youth that if you worked for it, you could be properly rewarded. Most of us have led good lives.

Unfortunately, this does not hold true for many Americans today. We live in hard economic times. We can blame many people and institutions for the mess the economy is in, but it is time for all those in power to cast aside political nonsense and work to get our nation back on track. Every American should be able to achieve the promise of this land and government on all levels should help.

As readers know, my thanks this year are greater because I came through a very bad time. I was in the hospital and rehab from Christmas Eve to Valentine’s Day. The doctors, surgeon and nurses at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, L.I., saved my life. All are committed and caring professionals, who do their jobs with great professionalism, dignity and compassion. I could not have asked for better care.

As I have written before, I hope everyone in this country could have the kind of care I received. It can — must — be done.

Finally, a personal note: When the surgeon who replaced my aortic valve in January discharged me from his care a few months ago, he shook my hand, wished me well and said, “Please give my best regards to your wife. She is a very strong lady. She had to make some difficult decisions when you were not able to.”

In so many ways, this is my best Thanksgiving. And it is made all the better because of the strong, beautiful and wonderful human being who is my wife.

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