THIS AND THAT: 2018 delivers several memories; 2019 looms around corner

December 29, 2018

A look at the calendar shows that there are just three days left in December and the year 2018 will be just a memory.

With 2019 looming ever so close, this is an appropriate time to look back and take stock of what has taken place over the past 12 months.

Politics in Washington, Columbia and around the world might be on some people’s look-back list. And for politicos there is much to joust about. Elections are over and the results will be with us for the next two, four and six years.

In the world of sports, if you are a Philadelphia Eagles fan you are still excited about a Super Bowl championship. Red Sox fans in Boston are reveling in a World Series win. Clemson boosters are just one win away from a national championship game. Local golfing enthusiasts are still rooting for Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown on the PGA tour.

Those interested in the natural world are talking about fierce hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and climate change.

While those have their place of importance in our lives, my memories of 2018 will be of a more personal nature, as I am sure most of yours will be.

My wife and I took trips to Valdosta, Georgia, the Windy City of Chicago and Fort Mill to visit our daughters and their families. There are few things more important than family, and those times together are memorable.

This was the year our youngest grandchild learned to walk. Those first tottering steps soon led to more confident strides and then to running at full speed. We were in Chicago in March just before she took that great leap from all fours to two feet. We left Aiken when spring was erupting and arrived to a decidedly winter chill without a hint of green near the shores of Lake Michigan.

In a matter of hours today we can travel farther than many people went in a lifetime just a couple of generations ago. Three hours of flying takes us to Chicago. Five hours of driving can have us at our daughter’s front door in Valdosta. This year we shared that joy of travel with our two oldest grandchildren. We took them to Alaska.

It was Carter and Gabi’s first time on an airplane. It was their first time in another country. It was their first time on a cruise ship. It was their first time to see humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, sea otters and bears. It was their first time to see glaciers calving. And they got to eat all the ice cream and pizza they wanted. What a week.

In 2018 people came up to me and asked jokingly for my autograph. My wife and I were featured on a TV ad, billboard and posters for the heart care I received at Aiken Regional. I’m still grateful for the treatment there and hope the attention from the ads has helped others.

This was a year of loss as my last two surviving aunts passed away in spring. We traveled to the city of my birth, Pittsburgh, for a combined burial for the two. Lots of family attended, and we got to see the old haunts of that city I remembered from visits to my grandparents’ home.

My friend and colleague Scott Hunter, retired publisher of the Aiken Standard, also passed away this year far too soon. His life is an example of how we should all live – as someone who made things better wherever he went and whatever he did.

On a much lighter note, we got to spend a day with Thomas the Engine in Union, Illinois, along with two of our grandchildren. They were mesmerized by Thomas and all the things surrounding that day.

We spent a weekend in Spartanburg for Mary Lou’s 50th high school class reunion. The city has changed since the days we regularly visited her family, and today it is a destination with a vibrant downtown.

In August, Mary Lou and I attended the wedding of a young woman we refer to as our Kenya daughter. We met Kyler in Africa on a mission trip and have kept in touch since. The weekend in Fort Worth, Texas, was fascinating as we got to sit on a longhorn steer, view dinosaur tracks in a river bed, eat Texas barbecue and even venture north to Oklahoma.

September gave me a chance to go to Atlanta and the new SunTrust Park where the Braves play. We watched them in a memorable game against the Boston Red Sox who two months later won the World Series. The Braves led 7-1 in the eighth inning but lost 9-8 after a (depending on your point of view) 1) late-inning Atlanta collapse or 2) familiar Red Sox comeback.

Later that month Mary Lou and I went to Valdosta and watched our grandson catch a pass for his Hahira Middle School team in an 18-0 victory that was called with two seconds left in the half because of lightning in the area.

Louisville, Ky., was a long weekend destination with seven USC Aiken students for the College Media Association Convention. In days of old having that many people in a van for a nine-hour trip would have provided a medium for lots of conversation. Today there was lots of activity on electronic devices. And, since they are college students in the middle of a semester, there was a lot of sleeping.

November, of course, afforded us an opportunity to give thanks with family as our Valdosta crew arrived to celebrate Thanksgiving with us.

And now with December about to end, there is Christmas and its joyous message to conclude the year and start another. We spent Christmas with family and loved having all of our daughters, their husbands and children together for a few days. There is nothing better than time with family.

I wish for you warm memories of 2018 and great anticipation for the upcoming year, 2019. Happy New Year.

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