As this is my first blog post and it is being written the first day of 2017, I thought I might start out with a look back at the year that was yours' truly. I promise it is not my intention to fill this blog with everything about Alan. I realize that nobody finds me as interesting as I do, even my mother, and particularly my wife, and if this blog is to be a success, it certainly can't be just about an overweight, weak-kneed, middle aged guy that somewhat resembles Jerry Garcia of Grateful Dead fame. Forgive me for the over-use of the word "I", and it certainly is not my intention to sound like Barack Obama, but this first post is about me, and is actually rather somewhat poignant.
As I enter my 60th year on this planet, I have to say that, from my viewpoint, 2016 was one of the most profoundly significant years in my life. That is not an exaggeration, folks. Consider that...
My wife and I started out the year renting a home in Arizona. We finished the year owning a home in Arizona. Check that off the 'ol bucket-list. Now, the home only needs me in it. I love Arizona - the mountains and desert seem so peaceful, and to borrow a line from an old Eagles song, "I get a peaceful easy feeling." The dry air helps immensely with creeping arthritis and sinus issues. If you have never been to Sedona, you need to see what truly could be described as "God's country."
In March we were blessed from our #3 daughter with a new grandson, and let me tell ya folks, this one is a real keeper. We have never seen a happier, more outgoing baby. And on the subject of babies, we learned that our eldest daughter is going to have her first child in March of this year. Given that our other four grandkids are normally adjusted and healthy, to date we have been so truly blessed.
In August I smacked a golf ball with a 6 iron onto a green and into a hole 154 yards away. Or was it a nine iron? It was my second hole-in-one...twenty five years apart. If you've never had a HIO, the sight of watching the ball drop in the cup never fades. Consider that some avid golfers go their whole life without a HIO and it is truly a special moment. In my particular case, a HIO is about 10% skill and 90% flat out luck. My golfing partners would probably say I may exaggerated on the percentage that is skill. Let them mention it on their own blog.
After 108 years of futility, in which I admittedly gave up on them a few times, the Chicago Cubs finally won a World Series. That too is something I was fortunate enough to see in my life time, particularly when you consider people like Ernie Banks and Ron Santo never did. Kind of ironic when you put it in that perspective, huh?
And speaking of sports, as I write this my beloved Green Bay Packers are starting on a March towards another Super Bowl. Who knows, they may be champs by February, and I like their chances. And the Blackhawks are favorites for a Stanley Cup. Could my teams "run the table" this year?
Exactly one week after the Cubs won the World Series, Hillary Clinton did not get elected, despite her preordained coronation. Now I realize that may not be so special to some readers, and I'm not trying to make a political statement. I am just informing you of what was a special moment that made up the year of Alan that was 2016. Suffice to say, I am not a Hillary fan.
Business too has been good for our companies. We've had better years, but we have certainly have had worse. I have relegated many of my duties to my nephew and to date, he has done a superb job. After 42 years of having my nose to the grindstone, I can now say I am in the process of learning how to back off. Believe it or not, folks, that is not as easy as it sounds. I can see some benefits coming my way.
My wife, children, and grandkids, are all blessed with good health right now... knock on wood. Me, if I'd take a little better care of myself, I might become healthier too. Perhaps I should consider a resolution or two, although I promise not to bore you with those in future blogs. And we all know how those resolutions go.
So as you see, all-in-all, despite the reports by the media that 2016 was such a horrid year and wishes of good-riddance, the "year of Alan" might have been considered quite wonderful by those on the outside looking in...with one notable exception. And, in terms of my life, this lone exception was incredibly momentous, with effects that will haunt me the rest of my life.
Memorial Day, May 30th: I was standing at the foot of the bed in my parents' bedroom in the tiny town of Chebanse Illinois. They have lived in that house for nearly 55 years, it was the home I grew up in. At precisely 11:34 that morning I watched the last breath my father would ever take leave his lungs. I recall vividly at the time that it seemed he took my breath with him, but there was nothing more spiritual, if that is the right word to use. It takes my breath away just to write those words. The man who taught me everything I know today, of which allowed me to be in the position to even have the year I crowed earlier about, who was such an incredible force of nature, was suddenly gone...just like that. No spiritual rising image, last parting words, trumpets blaring, or angelic background music. The image of that last breath, to realize that he was there and then no more, haunts me and plays over in my head, with no rhyme or reason, several times a day like an unmanned movie reel.
I realize there may be people reading this that have had similar situations with their loved ones, and in that regard, my pain is no greater than theirs. We all suffer loss, and most bury their parents - it is a fact of life. And don't get me wrong, dad and I had our differences; life was not all wine and roses. Sometimes our relationship was strained in fact. But I'm starting to understand the old cliché that time heals all wounds, as the strained parts of our relationship are fading into obscurity, but not so much yet for that sense of loss. The movie reel keeps playing, and I am powerless to stop it or to be warned when it will go on again.
That sense of loss was particularly poignant this 2016 Christmas as I watched my mother cope with, first reaching their wedding anniversary by herself, followed five days later with her struggling through her first Christmas in 62 years without her husband. Given my own relationship with my wife, I cannot imagine the strength and courage it would take to sit in the middle of what is supposed to be a joyous season, and repress the urge to cower alone in a corner of a dark room with a bottle of spirits, and your thoughts. A petite woman, she looked so much smaller and frail as we watched the grandkids tear open their presents, completely and innocently oblivious of her pain.
I called her on her anniversary. She was still in Florida then. What are you supposed to say, "Happy Anniversary?" How lame would that be? What could be happy about it? On the other side of that coin, are you supposed to avoid it and not say anything, as if he, or the anniversary never existed? Obviously, there is no correct answer. She's a strong woman and in time will learn to cope, but like other widows, she will never forget.
Nor will I. The movie reel is playing again.