Tag Archives: forty

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!

A Pirate Looks at 40 – part deux

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Anyone doing any self-reflection must eventually follow Bunyan’s hearty Christian into the Slough of Despond and face his regrets in life. For my personal regrets, I am in the same class with Ol’ Blue Eyes and The King who sang, “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again too few to mention.” Well, that’s half right I suppose. I’ve got a few more than a few, but only a few are still keeping me up at night. Most are the garden variety “woulda, shoulda, couldas” that I think everyone faces at sometime or another unless he’s very lucky or just doesn’t care about his legacy at all.

 

For me, though, one of the biggest of my regrets is having never enlisted in any branch of the military. My love affair with the military began with Top Gun. Remember back in ’86? Back when Tom Cruise was normal and Val Kilmer was thin?

THIS is what happens when you leave your wingman.

I walked out of the movie theater after watching it twice back to back and walked straight to the recruitment office and told the sergeant behind the desk I wanted to enlist and fly jets. He smiled at me and said, “Just saw Top Gun, son?” I nodded vigorously. Then he pointed out I needed to finish college to be a pilot and it would be a lot easier to finish college if I started, then graduated, high school.

That was one jacked up piece of Ronnie Ray-gun era propaganda and I sopped it up with a biscuit! To this day, I maintain that men may weep at only three movie scenes: 1) when Ol’ Yeller dies in his movie, 2) when Old Dan and Little Anne die in the equally brutal tearjerker Where the Red Fern Grows, and 3) when Goose dies after the crash in Top Gun. If a man doesn’t tear up at those three scenes, he has no emotions at all and no woman should consider him as a suitable match!

Then, when I was a junior in high school, I fell in love with the US Naval Academy and I went balls to the wall trying to get in. I had the grades, and I’m pretty sure I could’ve passed the physical (that was a LONG time ago). Unfortunately, I didn’t have an appointment. For those who don’t know, unless you have a parent win the Medal of Honor, a member of your Congressional delegation has to appoint you to the Academy. Other than Strom the Undying, I didn’t even know a member of my delegation. So that was a dream that went by the wayside. Looking back, I think that huge disappointment was what set the stage for my Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Senior Year. It sure didn’t help matters any.

After the Academy fell through, I was going to enlist in the US Marine Corp and be one of “The Few and the Proud”.

I think I'd have looked devastatingly handsome in a set of dress blues.

A car wreck took care of that. I have a mushy puckered divot in the outside of my left thigh from where a Jeep bumper took out a chunk of me. When I went to Fort Jackson for my military physical, the first thing the examining doctor did was shove his fingers right into the middle of that divot. I had just enough presence of mind not to take a swing at him as I crumpled to the floor. It’s not pain so much as it’s a weird creepy reaction but I can’t deal with having it touched. I get violently nauseous. Capt. Doc dismissed me right then by saying, “Assuming you pass Basic, you won’t pass the POW training. When you get ‘captured,’ that’ll be the point they start on. Sorry, kid, I’m just saving you a lot of trouble.”

So that’s how I ended up watching some deadly fireworks through night vision on CNN from a musty old couch in my dorm room the night GW’s daddy, GHW, started bombing Saddam the first time in ’91. Something has never felt complete about me because of that. Papa Wham was a soldier in The Big Red One. The First Infantry Division. His DD-214 reads like an atlas of the European Theater of WWII: Tunisia, Anzio, Sicily, Rome, Normandy, the Rhineland. My great-grandfather was a member of the American Expeditionary Force in WWI. I had relatives on both sides of the War Between the States. The men in my family have always been soldiers.

Daddy, as I’ve said before, went to Vietnam, and that’s the main reason I wanted to be in the military, and not just to sit around. I wanted to go to a combat zone and fight hard. I guess part of me hoped I’d either get killed in some gallant action and Daddy would be insanely proud of his medal winning son, or the experience of having people try to kill you

Every one of those flags covers someone who DID SOMETHING with his or her life.

just because of your uniform would’ve put me on level footing with him. I just have a feeling he’d think I was more of a man if I’d been shot at on the battlefield like so many of my forefathers.

Even today, if I thought I could manage it, I’d take my 12 gauge Winchester pump shotgun and head for Afghanistan tohunt Bin-Laden. It might seem a little crazy, but then again, I AM a little crazy. I don’t know if I’d find the old boy, but never underestimate the ability of a crazy, wild-eyed Southern boy. Oh my, and if I did find him . . . I haven’t ever killed anyone, but they tell me there’s a first time for everything.

It sure would make hitting 40 a lot easier to take. I’d at least feel like I accomplished something with my four decades!

More on regrets tomorrow. Man, it’s getting close.

Love y’all. Keep those feet clean and take care of each other.