Well, it's that time of year again. And I'm not talking the birthday I celebrate today. I'm talking about that OTHER birthday that is celebrated this time of the year. The one where we decorate trees, spend money we don't have and listen to music exclusive to this month....although it seems we're sometimes starting to hear it around November 15th. It's the time of the year when those that know me look to see which state of mind I'll be in as December 25th gets closer. I'm usually in between a Currier & Ives snow-covered portrait and a stupid little ditty about a kid wanting a rhinoceros for Christmas. And that's an improvement - I used to be somewhere between the rhinoceros kid and "Humbug!"
This Christmas, I have different perspective on many levels. Back in October I had a scare that provided an ambulance ride, a week in the hospital and the realization that when we reach a certain age the parts in our body do begin to wear out. By the miracles of modern medicine (both in the hospital and in the handful of pills I take daily) I should be around for a few more Yuletide celebrations. To quote that Great American Jesse that I worked with many years ago, "Damn,,,,if I'd known I was gonna' live this long I would've taken better care of myself!" (Jesse, as a POW in WWII had no reason to regret any day or way he spent living his life. Those of his ilk are the reason those of us native to these lands speak English today.)
More perspective was added by the recent loss of one of the kindest, wisest souls I've ever encountered. He sweated as many buckets over Georgia Tech football as I do and he raised a beautiful family (with his BEDROCK of a wife.) He taught me a lot about what it means to be a gentleman....all while sitting one row in front of me for many years at Bobby Dodd Stadium. He was watching the men in gold hats play ball when the season started...but cancer won the physical battle and he wasn't there for the end of the season. I wish I'd known that when Deion Hill ran across the goal line with 30-something seconds left in that Georgia Southern game it was the last opportunity I'd have to get a high-five from him. He was already too weak to stand but I felt that hand slapping my ankle and, when I turned, saw that hand in the air and the day was made. As I say, cancer may have won the physical battle, but I firmly believe that he won battles that go beyond our physical, very temporal existence. The day he died, Tech went out and THUMPED those Tigers from Clemson. Sometime in the third quarter I stood up and gave the loudest "WHAT'S THE GOOD WORD!" cheer ever heard in section 206 in his memory. Then last Saturday when a 53 yard kick BARELY made it over the crossbar at Sanford Stadium - sending a game to overtime that seemed lost - I knew who was there playing like Tree Rollins and giving that ball a tip up and into the history books. But now, he's not here to celebrate holidays with his family but I hope they know he's there, just as he was to help the boys beat Clemson and Georgia (and I hope he's ready to tip a few more balls into glory when we play FSU Saturday night.)
Back to my ambulance ride. I knew that I was in danger when the EMT's refused to go to the recommended hospital and headed to something closer. I didn't really fear DYING itself - I DID worry that I'd leave this planet and not have one more minute with the prettiest, sweetest girl I know. I feared not having the opportunity to tell her goodbye and thank her for the miracle that it was when someone like her decided to accept an offer from someone like me to live life with this goober. If you're someone that has known me over the years, you'll know that I wasn't exactly marriage material for a LONG time. There were many bartenders, music and sports venues, liquor stores and the sellers of chicken wings and pizzas that lamented my domestication. Our world is now much bigger than any of the "daily unadulterated crap" that would try to keep us down. This Christmas, more than ever, I'll cherish celebrating with her (even if it involves nothing more than our bathrobes, sleeping late and old movies.) Someday, I promise her a time when she can sit on her back porch and stare at nothing but her pool, a ton of acreage stretched out behind it, and 14 or 15 dogs chasing the same tennis ball. For now, though, I cherish our little suburban patio that stares at a privacy fence with a sweet yellow Lab lying there, sniffing the air in between naps in the sun. If that is all we ever have I'll consider it riches beyond measure. (And you're a Jimmy Buffett fan from a LONG way back if you didn't have
to confer with Google to see why I put "Daily unadulterated crap" in
Final verdict - I may be more "Feliz Navidad" than "Humbug!" this year. Alert the media...