When writing this week's column, I had transitioned back to the fortunate and blessed of the Lowcountry -- blessed in the nature of being in a sportsman's paradise and fortunate to have arrived safely to home shores.
Jean and I made our annual pilgrimage to Tennessee to visit our son in Knoxville. We make the trip to bind the family spirit, to give thanks for our many blessings and spend time together outdoors as much as possible.
The time was enjoyable, although I realized a bit more the physical stress of this trip due to my recent surgery. An accident resulted in the need of a replacement joint, a titanium knee. Little did I realize how much the cold would affect my posture while doing things I normally associate with these visits. And if that wasn't enough, a kidney stone had me thinking my New Year welcome would be by visitation only. But thanks to a wise country doctor -- who referred to my ailment as kidney colic -- had me on the mend and back on track in no time.
I welcomed the New Year a bit stiff-legged and a tad tender in the nether region. However, I counted my blessings a bit longer over the dinner table that evening and during my quiet time that night. While there are things we can control, there are numerous others we cannot. During my talk with the powers that be, I was simply covering all the bases and grateful to have them. My ailments are thankfully manageable and having them reminds me that I am still around to enjoy life's bounty.
Sipping egg nog, we waited for memory cards to bring tears, laughter and joy to the occasion. Memory cards are a tradition that somehow was started due to someone's failing memory and arguments of time. Whenever a pleasant time or occasion is recalled, you jot down a few words on a 3x5 card and file it away until the family is together. The cards are shared and the time is given over to the joys of the season.
It's odd how much your time means to a child, as the cards were read there was much more about the younger years than there was of later days. The fact that maturity separates many in miles should not develop into a pattern of loss. To know the importance simple gestures have on individual members of your family should kindle the very nature of your commitment to those you hold so dear.
As my son told of proper saddle cinching, wet tents and missing boat plugs, I tallied back with first hunts, ball games and driving lessons. The time was tempered with both the good and not so good, but was fair and balanced as wife and mother kept us within bounds. The telling was well seasoned as she told of gold rings, car troubles and $3 dates that were so much a part of our courtship.
My bearings were misplaced a bit when I recalled how important small things seemed to be at that moment. Letters with hand-written "Fly Me" scribbled on the envelope, sent from military obligations in Southeast Asia and other reaches. How a gesture of hope and sacrifice meant homecoming would be sooner than expected. And when the support of family was more on what was shared than what could have been.
After the cards were dated and filed, I recalled past seasons with my brothers and sisters, of constant moves associated with military duties and how each change was a learning experience. It's a shame I did not realize it at the time, as I could have made things much easier for my parents.
Both are now gone, as are two younger brothers, but I will forever cherish the moments where growth and tolerance were tendered with a passion for what is true and natural, and a forever kinship with the outdoors. A tolerance associated with field dogs that worked well with hand signals and a sharp whistle, or of retrievers that never failed to return downed game. A relationship when better days meant that hounds treed quickly and the runt of the pack showed his grit.
And so in the passing of yet another year, when the dawn brings family and friends together once again. It is time to share old recipes, great meals and far too many desserts.
When the monarch of the clan tolerates being compared to others and quietly smiles as past times become fresh memories. Among stories of long putts, well-placed shots and the perfect cast are reflections of simple pleasures far removed but so much a part of today. And at the right moment opportunity shows itself, a small refuge, an escape to lesser congested areas. The time is given to thoughts not shared but shown through commitment. Now once discovered he is cast center stage.
Seemingly among strangers he wonders, do I really know all these people? He looks around a table filled with the bounty of the season, then assumes the posture of prayer. And with words spoken and eyes open he sees only those he loves and those who love him. It's a pleasant change and one he hopes will often be repeated. He is thankful for the time, others are grateful for his presence and the time is given over to celebration.
Here's hoping you have a safe and joyful New Year, that your health remains good and your memories are many. And remember to always give to those with less, share with those in need, and be thankful you were able to help. There's an old country passage that goes: "It is easy to determine if someone is committed to a cause or just involved. Consider for a moment the case of the bacon-and-egg breakfast. While the chicken is involved, the pig is committed."