A Pirate GETS to 40

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My First Baby Picture, I think. I was there, but I don't seem to remember.

Aaaaannnnndddd . . . BOOM!

This is set to post at 6:19 in the Eastern USA time zone. That’s Greenwich -5 for the international set out there and for my military friends, Zulu -5.

Either way, if it works like it’s supposed to, I’m now 40 years old.

How did it come to this? Well, one day at a time, I suppose. Keep getting up in the mornings and sooner or later, you get here. It’s just seriously hard to believe. I haven’t DONE enough to be forty. When Daddy turned 40, he’d already been to Vietnam, then Germany. He’d married, divorced, and remarried. I was 20 and Nick was 8. He’d been at Laurens Glass Plant for 20 years, bought 3 homes, and put in a pool.

I haven’t done anything like that.

When Mama turned 40, I was a junior at Clemson. We’d long since completed our “Years of Wandering” and were back where we started. She’d raised me and just as she was done taking care of me she had to start taking care of Papa John, who had just had his most debilitating stroke. I don’t have anywhere near that kind of courage and strength of will. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m not half the person at forty that either one of my parents were. They have me whipped in every category. They always have.

My Senior picture. Lord, if I just knew then, etc, etc. Really, I'd settle for the hair.

I suppose I have a modest list of accomplishments. I graduated close to the top of my high school class. I made it through Tiger Town in just four years. I got my Masters of Library Science degree. I taught for nearly ten wonderful years (didn’t realize it at the time) at Woodmont High School back when it was still a small country school. I sent eight classes of seniors across the stage at the Palmetto Expo Center towards a new life.

I must have made an impact of some kind on at least a few of them because I married three sets of them and several still track me down from time to time. One happens to be one of the better friends I’ve had in a long time.

I taught a year at my high school alma mater and before the year was up, I remembered vividly why I’d sworn the night I graduated that I’d never set foot in the place again.

I lived one of my greatest dreams for four magnificent years as a librarian at a middle school in a tiny Southern town.

Every place I ever went to teach or educate, I always told myself “This is where I’m going to grow old and retire. They’ll name a building after me!” Unfortunately, my mouth eventually would write a check my rear end couldn’t cash and it’d be time to move on.

Now, I’m unemployed. I’m not sure where to move on to from here.

One lucky man; one insane young woman. August 3, 1996

I gave six diamond rings to six (well, four — you other two know who you are) very nice, kind, and pretty ladies. I made a wonderful mess of five of those six relationships and the sixth one paid me back — with compound interest — on behalf of the other five. Karma really sucks sometimes.

I must have burned off all the bad relationship karma, though, because I ended up marrying WAY above myself. Tomorrow will be sixteen years since Budge and I went on a Hummer ride through the woods at Camp Awanita in northern Greenville County. By the end of that weekend, we loved each other. The rest is history. Why that girl stays with me, I’ll never know, but the Lord above knows my heart that I’m mighty glad she does stay.

I have no children . . . at least none who have come knocking on my door yet. A handful of nights in my undergraduate years are a mite hazy, but so far, so good.

Budge and I tried for awhile, were unsuccessful and eventually resigned ourselves to childlessness. I don’t really want to pass on my crazy gene to some innocent baby anyway. As long as I have my Budge, it’s enough.

I would like to state for the record that I know for certain that I didn’t get to 40 on my own. Much as I like to act the part of the rugged, needs-no-one individualist, I know I’d never made it without a lot of really special people. Budge and Mama have taken the lion’s share of my issues. I was blessed and I DO mean blessed, with four AMAZING grandparents. Three of them have gone to a well deserved reward and one doesn’t remember she’s a grandmother anymore, but I still love her. No child / teen / young man was EVER loved as much as I was. I’ve had a lot of problems, but being loved wasn’t one of them.

Of all my friends down the years, Robby T, Duane C, and Brian C got me through some of the roughest patches  They faced shotguns, knives, bottles, razor blades, drunken rages and more and managed to keep me going when I didn’t know what was wrong with me but I was lashing out at everything — including myself. I’ll write a post soon about each of them. They each deserve it.

I had more wonderful teachers and professors in my life than I could ever list. I’d leave someone out because my memory isn’t as good as it once was and I wouldn’t hurt any feelings for the world. I do know, however, that had it not been for the DIRECT intervention of Mr. Mills and Mr. Linville at LDHS 55 in 1989 during my senior year, I’d have been expelled and probably had my life ruined.

Forty years old and I can honestly say I'm twice the man I once was. Of course that's in girth, but why quibble?

If I could go back, I’m just like everyone else — I’d do a lot of things differently. I’d have been a real big brother to Nick instead of some stranger who showed up at odd times for odd lengths of stay. I think of all I missed out on when he was growing up, and I could go out and hang myself. In a similar vein, I’d have forged a better relationship with Daddy if it killed both of us (which it likely would have). I’d have tried harder in school — all my schools. I wouldn’t have bought six rings and made five messes with them. I wouldn’t have worried Mama so much. I’d have tried to get help for my Issues sooner. I’d have built bridges towards people instead of putting up walls and fake facades to keep them out. I’d have tried harder to help my beloved niece by marriage have a stable life and if it pissed people off, oh well.

Yessir, I’d have done A LOT of things differently. All the computer screens in all the world don’t have enough pixels to list all the changes I’d make.

But I can’t. We only get ONE shot at this life, Shirley Maclaine’s beliefs notwithstanding.

So if you’re reading this and you’ve been the victim of one of my rages or idiotic faux pas, please accept my apology and know that I probably beat myself up over it more than you could possibly imagine. On the other hand, if you’re one of the multitude of people who’ve given me a hand or a smile or a kind word over the years, thank you. You may not know it, but more than once a smile from a stranger or unexpected call from a friend was the only thing that kept my head on my shoulders instead of being sprayed all over a wall somewhere from a gunshot. You helped, even if you didn’t know it.

So, I’m forty. I’m going to eat chick pea chicken tonight and go out celebrating my birthday AND Budge’s Saturday birthday tomorrow night. I’m going to take it easy for a few days and see if I can make some kind of plan for the next half of my life. We’ll just have to see what happens.

Love y’all and, as always, wash those feet!

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One response »

  1. Happy Birthday!! A man who has friends, family, and a good wife has all he needs but I will still wish for you to have joy and more success in the coming year. Take care of you.

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