Was there anything, really, to be thankful for this Thanksgiving? Well …

St. Michael’s Medical Center, Newark. Apple Maps

Every year around Thanksgiving, without fail, inevitably, I pause and think about the year gone by and irrationally conclude there is so little to be thankful for. And, inevitably, after thinking about it longer, I change that tune, often dramatically. But this Thanksgiving, that may be the biggest understatement I’ve ever made.

Approximately 265 days ago, as I sat in my home office, watching “Boomer & Gio” on WFAN/CBS Sports Network, at around 9 a.m., on a Monday, I suffered what is called a transient ischemic attack or a TIA. I’ve discussed this occasionally, in print, online and in live videos. 

In simpler terms, I had a minor stroke.

For about an hour, I couldn’t speak coherently. As I tried to utter the words to the song “Native New Yorker,” a tune my mom and I listen to each and every Friday at 8:30 a.m. on “Good Day New York,” what I spoke was a jumbled mess of sound. I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t. And for about an hour, as much as I tried, it was the same mess of audio. 

That day, I visited with Dr. Pratap C. Singhal, of Belleville, my regular physician, who I now consider a dear friend and lifesaver. He demanded I get to the hospital. 

Foolishly, I waited until the next day, but that morning, Mina Ekladious, the Kearny PBA president, also a very dear friend, wouldn’t take “no” for an answer when he said he was going to drive me to St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark. 

So that morning, on a slushy, cold, late-February day, off to St. Mike’s I went, inside a Kearny police interceptor, with Mina, from my apartment in Harrison. I spent about 36 hours in hospital, but was I ever glad I chose to go to St. Michael’s, based on the advice of one of my best friends in the world, Melanie Ryan. The care I got there was nothing but exceptional. I fortunately escaped death, paralysis, speech impairment and all the other delightful potential results that could follow a stroke. But I also knew I had to make massive changes immediately. 

Later that week, I had my last cigarette, lost some weight (still plenty more to go), have adjusted many other bad habits I held onto for far too long and now, I feel better than I have in the last 20+ years. I don’t cough like I used to. I don’t have that horrid tobacco smell surrounding me. My blood pressure is normal. My A1C and blood-glucose levels are now below pre-diabetic. So much has gotten so much better.

And after it all, I was “reunited,” if you will, with another dear friend who I hadn’t seen in eons, but whom I’ve known since 1986. I refrain from naming him since he doesn’t really like when I do that.

And so, as Thanksgiving 2023 arrives, yes, I had one hellish day in February, but it taught me how fortunate I am to be alive, to work at a newspaper I love, to work with people I love as if they were blood, to live and work in towns I love. 

It taught me how blessed I am to have in my life so many people who do so much for me, undeservedly. It taught me how much I love my mother and how lucky I got to be born to her. It taught me that despite many not-so-great things that have happened in life, I am one of the luckiest people on this planet. 

And now that I’ve pondered it long enough, I don’t have anything to be thankful for except for everything. And I hope and pray the same for all of you reading this. 

I thank you for being the greatest “audience” in the world.

Learn more about the writer ...

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.