Before every new year, I take inventory of the old one. Looking in the rear-view mirror, 2018 was not just another trip around the sun. We all had to buckle up and try not to fall off the planet.
My greatest gift was another grandchild. Her name is Genevieve (I had to buy a few vowels) Pope Grisamore, and we call her Ginny Pope. She is a happy baby with the sweetest disposition.
Ginny Pope was born on Feb. 1. Three months later, on May 1, my mother celebrated her 90th birthday. Although she insisted on not having a lot of fanfare, reaching nonagenarian status was a milestone.
According to the Chinese calendar, it was “Year of the Dog,’’ and we somehow brought one home. She arrived a month before Christmas, so we named her Zuzu, from “It’s a Wonderful Life.’’ I’m sure someday she will be a wonderful dog, but she currently is in the annoying puppy stage of gnawing on everything. She took a bite out my debit card, leaving teeth marks across the chip reader. I now call her “Chew Chew.’’
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My year was filled with the challenges of teaching high school students, but I learned a few life lessons myself. For example, I can lower my blood pressure by refraining from talking about politics. I also learned never to wear a green shirt to Publix because people will assume you are a manager and ask which aisle for the spaghetti sauce.
I kept my pen sharpened, too. I carried along a mini-composition notebook on my daily walks. (Just call them “foot” notes.) I’m sure some of the neighbors looked out their windows and said, “There’s Gris, taking mobile notes again.’’ I wrote columns about a woodworker, an opera singer, a custodian, an old journalism professor, a horticulturist, a drummer in a band, a homeless man, a festival queen, a couple of pet groomers and a guy who refuses to cut his hair until Georgia beats Alabama in football. It was a blessing to tell their stories. I hope it was a blessing to read them.
There were times when I was the author of my own adventure. On the 19th day of summer, I roamed for 11 hours in eight Middle Georgia cities. I skipped around the countryside for 177 miles, my wheels never touching the interstate. I recorded my observations and called it “Postcards from a Summer Day.’’
It was a year of salt air. We caught the ferry to Bald Head Island, N.C., for our niece’s wedding in April. We took a stroll on Driftwood Beach at Jekyll Island in July. My wife went with a friend to the beach for five days in September. While she was enjoying an extravagant seafood dinner in Florida, I texted her a pitiful “selfie” of me next to the Captain D’s on Thomaston Road.
I discovered a few new restaurants (thank you, Eaton Wright), while remaining faithful to family favorites. I ate enough chicken wings to sprout feathers. And a DNA test would reveal I’m at least 1/1,024 ham sandwich. We supported Macon Burger Week by trying the El Gringo at the Bearfoot Tavern. (I never would have thought to put a chipotle grit cake on a hamburger, but it was yummy.) We recently had the collard green soup at The Swanson in Perry, and it is well worth the 62-mile round trip, especially traveling on nostalgic U.S. 41.
I continued my love/hate relationship with technology, which both amazes me and creeps me out. My youngest son gave me an Echo Dot for Christmas, so I’ve spent the past week trying to figure out what I should and should not ask Alexa. One thing is for sure … the age of privacy is over. I was informed I now have my own page on Spotify, which is pretty cool. I get 185 TV channels, less than a dozen of which I care to watch. In keeping with tradition, I went to see only one movie in the theater in 2018 — “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,’’ a documentary about one of my heroes, the late Fred Rogers. (Actually, I did see another of my other heroes, Gen. Robert Scott, on the big screen. In March, “God is My Co-Pilot” returned to the Grand Opera House, where it premiered in 1945.)
In 2018, I declared my ongoing war on laziness, exclamation points and fire ants. And I continue to believe if some adults don’t grow up, neither will their children. I rang the Salvation Army bell outside Kroger, an interesting two-hour study in human nature. My wife and I joyfully volunteered to teach Vacation Bible School and Sunday School. I spent time well-wasted playing word games and listening to podcasts. My self-prescribed therapy sessions consisted of stopping to smell roses and daylilies. I managed to survive another hurricane, this one named Michael, although I thought we were to be blown away by a tornado on an eerie night in November, the day after the election.
I went to a Mayhem hockey game with my three sons and had a blast. I stood in line to at Luther Williams Field to be thoroughly entertained by the Macon Bacon. I returned to the T-ball bleachers and soccer fields of my past, this time to watch our grandson. I marveled at the Christmas lights on Poplar Street. I attended graduations, weddings, a grandparents tea, a baby recognition and too many funerals. I tried to do the right thing in the right way at the right time for the right reason.
So, auld lang syne to the year that was … and to 2019, a good year to have a good year.
Ed Grisamore teaches journalism at Stratford Academy in Macon. His column appears on Sunday in The Telegraph.