Saturday, November 17, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving to You, Happy Birthday to Me


On this coming Tuesday, I will turn 46 years old. Two days later is Thanksgiving. It is the closest that my birthday ever comes to actually falling on the holiday, which it will never exactly meet.

Thanksgiving is celebrated always on the fourth Thursday in November, and if you do the calculating you will see that the latest that my birth date, the 20th, can fall is on the third Thursday.

Still, with this being my own closest confluence of the two days, which some years is almost a full week apart, it gives me a good opportunity to reflect on what exactly it is for which I am personally thankful.

Sliding towards the back end of my 40’s, with apparently no reversal of this aging process in sight, reflection is something that I find increasingly vital in my life, and here is a sharing of those things.

I am thankful for having a good career that is affording me opportunities and experiences that I could have never imagined as a young man. To tell of all the many exciting, demanding, rewarding experiences that one gathers over almost two decades as a police officer on the streets of a big city would take up volumes. Suffice it to say that they have all contributed to my personal growth and knowledge. For this career I am very thankful.


I am thankful for the educational opportunities that I have been afforded, and for the intelligence and perseverance that it takes to pursue a college degree while also working full-time at a demanding job.

Special thanks in this area goes out to Philly police boss Keith Sadler, who encouraged me to get going on my degree pursuit over four years ago now. It goes out to the Philly PD, as well as to the Community College of Philadelphia and St. Joseph’s University, for their relationship in helping cops travel this journey. For these educational opportunities, I am very thankful.

I am thankful for my home, which feels so much now like a glove-fit, but which I could not have envisioned just a little over a decade ago. For a kid from a row house neighborhood who never had two nickels to scrape together during his 20’s, to think that I could one day own a single home in a great neighborhood with a nice front and rear yard, a garage, and a swimming pool is amazing. It isn’t a mansion, and it needs some work, but it is ours, and it is home. For this wonderful place to live out day to day life, I am very thankful.

I am thankful for the people in my life, because relationships are what this life is all about. These people include friends, co-workers, my fellow students, regular acquaintances, and most of all my family. Without the rich texture and color of their own many and varied personalities and experiences, my own life would be so much less enjoyable. For the people that bring my life to life, I am very thankful.

As a police officer, then a detective, and now as a police supervisor, I have had to deal with other cops and investigators under some tremendously pressurized situations all across the city. From South Street to Red Lion Road, from Kensington Avenue to Cobbs Creek Parkway, I have first-hand, on the street experience watching some of the most dedicated men and women in the world handle fights and fires, auto accidents and homicides.

Everything that you can think of that comes under the umbrella of the good, the bad, and the ugly, the men and women of the Philadelphia Police Department experience almost daily. For the opportunity to work alongside them, I am very thankful.

As a student, I have had the opportunity to sit in the classroom with some of the most dedicated individuals within those same police ranks. These are officers who do that same difficult job every day and night, and yet still find the time, energy, effort, perseverance, and intellect that it takes to also pursue a college education.

Like me, they do it in the hopes that they will one day improve their working situation, be it in their current career on in another chapter of their lives. And the instructors and professors who teach us are also doing double-duty. For these people, I am very thankful.

None of us go through life without making friends. Some are closer than others, some come and go in our lives, but once you make a real friend, they are usually a friend for life. I had the good fortune as a young man to play ball with some great guys on the Brewers softball team.

The Brewers won a half-dozen championships on the ball fields of Philly between 1983 and 1996, We cemented our friendship over post-game food and drinks, post-work get-togethers, and family gatherings. Now over two decades later, I can say these were the best friends of my adult life.

I ran into Dee Sweeney, one of the Brewer wives, in a local store a few years back. She commented on how during the conversation she could still feel our friendship, even though we hadn’t seen one another for a few years at that point.

Dee and her husband, George Sweeney, had a few young kids at the time, and so my response to her was that “we could not talk to one another for over a year, and you could call me up at two in the morning to come watch your kids and I would”. Those are good friends, and for them I am very, very thankful.

For anyone who has their life in order, there are no more important people than family. These are the folks for whom I am most thankful. My extended family has been great throughout my life. The richness of the experiences that my aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents have brought to me has been unforgettable.

Whether at a shore house, or in a family gathering, or on a bus trip to a ballgame, even at a funeral, these people have brought fullness to my life, and an appreciation of the extension of our lives out into the world that a good family brings. For them I have always been and will always be thankful.

There are none more important than immediate family. My wonderful wife, my incredible daughters, my inspiring parents, my brother and his own family.

My parents had many challenges in their lives, especially my mom who died far too young after far too much suffering. My dad’s life as a Marine, a dedicated law enforcement professional, and the enjoyment that he has found in retirement.

These people were my foundation, and for the example they set through all their own challenges, the opportunities they afforded me as a kid, and the love they showed me throughout their lives, I am eternally thankful.

My brother, Mike Veasey, is “the Man”. If he weren’t, I would be, but he is around so the title is his. If you don’t get that idea, don’t worry, it’s a bit of an inside thing. As a kid, he and I had the typical big brother, little brother, combative relationship. As adults, we bonded into a closeness that I will forever cherish.

Mike was my partner for a few years when we were both young cops trying to survive on the streets. While I probably would have survived without him, it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun. His family, my dedicated sister-in-law Diana and my wonderful Goddaughter Meghan, may as well be my own. For this family, I can never express my full thanks.

Then there are my kids, Christine, Kelly, and Melissa, and granddaughter Elysia Bellina. My kids have brought me so much joy and pain over the past three decades that I simply would not be the same person today without them. Only other involved parents can understand how the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the smiles and tears, the triumphs and tragedies of another person’s life can affect you so much.

To say that my three daughters have been a challenge would be appropriate. But to say that they are my pride and joy would be an understatement. That joy extends to my granddaughter, who puts a smile on my face and in my heart every time I see her. I can only pray that they all have children of their own one day, and pass along these family ties, bonds, history.

My wife, Debbie Veasey, is quite simply the best human being that I have ever personally known in my entire life. The gift that I was given when this woman came to my life, which was at an extremely difficult time in my life, is one that I did not deserve, but for which I am forever thankful. We have traveled together, grown together, and shared almost everything, almost every day.

Deb has stood by me through all of life’s difficult challenges, a couple of which were my own creation. She has loved me during every season of my life. She is truly my partner, my best friend, my love. For her, there is no level of thanks to truly express how I feel.

None of these people and experiences would have been possible without the blessing of a loving God. Saying that I am thankful to and for God Himself just doesn’t seem to say enough. The experience of His love in my life, the way that He has listened to my prayers.

The gift of his own Son, Jesus Christ, to my world. His death for my sins. His teaching that has begun to penetrate my consciousness more fully over the last year. I only pray that my own children will know this kind of personal relationship, this ultimate relationship, as they continue on the journey of their own lives. In fact, I pray for nothing more often and deeply. For the positive answer to that prayer, Lord, I would more thankful than anything.

Give thanks, all of you, for those people and things that are most important in your life. Give thanks for the joy they have brought you. Give thanks for the challenges they have brought you. Give thanks for the ability to enjoy the people and events, and the ability to battle and overcome the challenges.

And when you do give thanks, remember where that thanks should be directed. The full and final thanks goes to your God.

Happy birthday to me, and Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

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