I was not going to write a Thanksgiving column this week for a couple of reasons. First, that is the predictable thing to do when you have to churn out a weekly column. I pride myself on being unpredictable.
Second, my friend, the late Furman Bisher, long-time, legendary sports editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution set the bar so high with his annual column on the subject that the rest of us pale by comparison. But then I realized that I have a lot for which to be thankful. So with the understanding that my Thanksgiving thoughts compared to his are like comparing Gomer Pyle to Winston Churchill, I begin.
I am thankful that I seem to have made it through another year, although there is still a month to go. It has been a challenge, the first one without the beloved Woman Who Shares My Name. I am thankful for our time together, for the memories we made and for a supportive family and more friends than I deserve.
I am thankful that God gave me the ability to paint her portrait which now hangs at her beloved beach house at St. Simons Island. I could not have done it without the help and encouragement of my instructor, Kris Meadows, to whom I am especially thankful.
I am thankful that a lot of my plans in life didn’t pan out the way I intended them to. I look back today and wonder what was I thinking? I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was. I am thankful I finally figured that out.
I am thankful that I finally got to meet Bill Gaither, who is to gospel music what Einstein is to the theory of relativity. I am thankful he was as nice in person as he appears to be on television. I am thankful to Jane and Michael Cox for making it happen.
I am thankful for the University of Georgia and what it has meant to me. I’m glad I made it out of there with diploma in hand before it got so tough to get in. I wouldn’t have a prayer these days.
I am thankful that I can still find reruns of Andy Griffith and Carol Burnett amid all the vampires and space aliens and potty mouth language that permeate what passes for entertainment these days.
I am thankful for apples from Ellijay, onions from Vidalia, pecans from Albany, shrimp from St. Simons Island, wines from Tiger Mountain and barbecue and sweet tea most everywhere else in this great state of ours. No wonder everybody wants to move here.
I am thankful for the giggle of little girls who come to my house looking for their great-grandpa to magically find cookies behind their ear. I know they are onto my schtick but they don’t want to spoil the illusion. We are all having too much fun. Besides, they get a lot of cookies that way.
I am thankful for Vince Dooley. He is not only a Hall of Fame football coach but has been a friend to me for many years. It is only fitting that the field at Sanford Stadium finally was named for him. I am thankful that Gov. Brian Kemp made it happen. It was long overdue.
I am thankful for law enforcement, fire fighters, EMTs, nurses and schoolteachers. None are paid what they are worth, compared to professional athletes who aren’t worth what they are paid.
I am thankful for Galatians 5:22-23 and the Fruits of the Spirit — nine behaviors I try to live by. I end each day checking out how well I did. Five out of nine is usually my average – on a good day. As long as patience and self-control stay on the list, don’t look for a perfect score.
I am thankful to the editors for giving me this space to speak my piece, even though there must be times when they wish I had said something other than what I said.
And that brings me to you. Many of us have been email pen pals for a long time, even though we have never met in person. You have applauded me when you agreed and rapped my knuckles when you didn’t. This year, you have helped me get through the emotional valleys and on with my life. I consider myself extremely fortunate that you are there. And that is as good a way as any to end this Thanksgiving message. Thank you.