The toll of time

Published 9:03 pm Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What a year of ups and downs!

Gas goes to $140 per barrel before dropping to a five-year low. The stock market hits an all-time high before dropping 47 percent. And finally, this week we enjoy a Saturday with the temperatures near 80 before having a high in the 40s on Monday. It is winter, after all, and is about time that we have some cold weather.

The forecast calls for the low 80s on Christmas Day. At least it will be good for all the kids with new bikes and games to try out. As for me, it will be the first Christmas Day that Mary Lou and I have spent without our children. Granted, we will all get together the day after Christmas, but it is part of the passage of time. Perhaps it will give us a bit more time to reflect on the day, all its meanings, and even to reminisce about all the Christmas Days in the past.

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Like the Christmas we spent in California eating the oranges off my aunt’s trees. Or the Christmas we spent in London where somehow Santa found his way to our hotel room and left stockings for our children. There was the beagle puppy I got as a boy, and the shotgun I got when I turned 12.

The stories my Grandfather would tell after Christmas dinner about what Christmas was like when he was a boy. My grandmother making us write down each gift and who it was from so we could do our thank-you notes.

Eating pizza on Christmas Eve with Mary Lou’s parents. Driving to the beach on Christmas Day to visit my parents and eating with our kids at Waffle House year after year on the way down. Christmas Eve communion, the most special service of the year for our family. Enjoying food and fellowship with friends and family each and every year. May the blessings of Christmas be with you and yours.

One of the changes in the way we celebrate Christmas during my lifetime has been the move from multi-colored to white lights. Our small town had large colored lights strung at angles from side of the street to the other. Since there was only one traffic light in town, the colored lights would occasionally distract a driver from the red and green on the stop light. I suspect that excuse wouldn’t get you very far in this day and time.

Our Christmas tree still has multi-colored lights, but everything else is white. Each year you see more and more of the white lights decorating homes and businesses around the community. They come in strands, ropes, nets and icicles. They blink, run and twinkle to the delight of the kid in all of us.

Now if they could just make them work from year to year.

Speaking of all the eating at this time of year, I recently heard of a chef in Hong Kong that was about to put a large turtle in the cooking pot. The turtle wrested free from the chef’s grasp and then sank its teeth into the little toe of his left foot when he tried to pick him up.

The turtle’s bite was strong enough to break the toe and the chef had to be taken to the hospital for treatment. It is fun to pull for the underdog in cases like these. Unfortunately, the meal was rescheduled and the turtle, a delicacy in China, didn’t escape the pot the second time.

Favorite people

Two of my favorite people celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary recently.

Harold and Gloria Coppinger have been married exactly twice as long as Mary Lou and I. It seems like we have been married forever, so in my eyes, that makes their accomplishment that much more meaningful.

They were two of my first supporters in Decatur County when I first got involved in politics. First in Bainbridge, and later after their retirement to Lake Seminole, our paths would cross in many different ways. They always have the same bright smiles and friendly dispositions. If ML and I can be so happy after 30 more years of marriage, then we’ll have done pretty good.

Mary Lou and I were married on my grandparent’s 50th anniversary. At our reception, we had a cake for them and secretly invited many of their friends to share the moment. For 16 more years we celebrated the day we shared together.

Harold and Gloria remind me of my grandparents. That’s about the highest compliment I can give.

Moving forward

I was interviewed by Connecticut Public Radio this week. It is amazing that eight years after giving my speech on hate crimes that people are still interested in what I might have to say about hate crimes, racism and intolerance.

I am still surprised at some of the perceptions of Southern life that our friends from the North have about us. It is only in the longer interviews like those done by Public Broadcasting that you can properly discuss such complicated subjects. It can’t be defined by a sound bite or headline.

The final question they asked was “in this election year, have we made progress in Georgia?”

I think the proper question when asked by someone from Connecticut is “have we made progress in this nation?”

The answer is yes is some places and probably no in some places. Yes in some matters and probably no in some matters.

Part of my prayer for the coming year is our differences becomes less of an issue and that collectively as a nation we move forward with solutions to the many problems that face all of us.

Finally, it has been my pleasure to share my thoughts with you over the past five months. I appreciate your many kind words of encouragement and hope that you will continue to give me the feedback that makes the column more interesting and makes me a better writer.

Starting this week, the column will also be found in The Post-Searchlight. I represented Bainbridge and Decatur County for the three terms I served in the General Assembly. I have a business there. But more importantly, they are also a community that has nurtured me and my family for many years.

Donalsonville is my home, but Bainbridge has always been there for me. The two counties share more than Lake Seminole. We share the same values. We have many of the same problems and work towards many of the same goals.

So thanks to two great newspapers, the Donalsonville News and The Post-Searchlight for the chance to say what I think.