A new tradition begins

Published 11:03 am Friday, November 27, 2009

This was a special Thanksgiving.

My great-grandson Cameron Yarbrough and I are going to begin a new family tradition this week by sharing a birthday celebration. He hit the ripe old age of 1, and I became slightly older than Kennesaw Mountain.

The joint celebration is his mother’s idea. It had been her stated intention to present the young man on my birthday but after a few jolts of labor pain that equated to holding onto a high-voltage wire, she determined that no good deed goes unpunished and he could come when he got good and ready.

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Cameron is special because he is our first great-grandchild and because he has breathed new life into our family after the loss of our beloved grandson, Zack, last year. His mother has decided that the two of us will begin this tradition and that it will last as long as I do. I am excited and now plan to live longer than Methuselah. If I am successful, I hope I am smarter than I have been up to this point.

Old age brings wisdom but not always when it should. It took tragedy to shatter my conceit and to recalibrate my value system. What once seemed very important now seems trivial. I marvel when I think back on all the things that consumed me at the time. None of them matter today. In truth, they probably didn’t matter then. I just thought they did. What is important to me now is sharing birthday cake with a 1-year old that will probably opt for baby food that looks like radioactive poop. That’s OK as long as I don’t have to eat it.

No longer do I take anything for granted. Not one hour. Not one day. I have discovered that things can change in a flash and alter your life forever. I know now that I cannot make things happen the way I want them to happen. So much of life is beyond our control. It has been a humbling but necessary experience.

It is impossible to alter the past, but you can be thankful for what you have today and if you think about it, you have a lot. You live in the freest country on earth. You have people that love you even when you aren’t very loveable. And you have friends. Thank god for friends.

For 35 years we have lived next door to Jim and Bootsie Callaham. We built homes about the same time. We built a strong friendship. We watched our children grow up together. We watched each other’s houses when one of us was out of town. We still do. We celebrated the birth of grandchildren. We grieved at each other’s loss of young men that should have outlived us all. We fret over illnesses that seem to come too often as we age.

It was Bootsie Callaham, an accomplished artist, who encouraged me to take up art. That is a debt I can never repay. Thanks to her and a gifted teacher in Marietta, Kris Meadows, I have discovered that at my advanced age, I can still learn—and do—something new.

This column gives me the opportunity to make new friends. I made a bunch a few weeks ago when I rode with the Marietta Harley-Davidson Owners Group (HOGS) on their annual USO charity tour around Cobb County. Given that I can’t ride a tricycle, let alone a Harley, I’m not sure we would ever have run across each other, but I’m glad we did. If I am ever in a foxhole, they will be my first call.

A great family, loyal friends, a strong faith, good health, the freedom to express my opinions, your freedom to agree or disagree, the privilege of living in a country where we can exercise that freedom and many more and now the opportunity to share birthday cake with a 1-year-old for what I hope will be many birthdays to come—it doesn’t get much better than this.

Count your own blessings. You will find they are many. It has taken me a long time to understand that.