Columnists like me salivate over chances like this that come around once every 10 years. The last column of the decade. A chance to look back at the big stuff, from the extraordinary to the mundane. Big opportunity. Better not blow it.
Y’all remember when those 33 Chileans got trapped under that mine for 69 days? Now, that was a drama worth watching. Imagine staring down death for more than three months while folks above the ground refused to give up on you. I imagine breathing fresh air for the first time. I imagine the promises those men must have made to God and to themselves about the changes they would make in their lives if they just somehow survived the ordeal. I wonder how many of those promises have been kept. If I were a big-time documentary journalist, I’d be on that like white on rice, and when the anniversary rolled around—on Oct. 11, 2024—I’d let the world in on the story. We’d all watch.
Remember the earthquake in Haiti in 2010? Devastating. That six degrees-of-separation thing was hard at work. My wife’s childhood friend lost a teenaged child in the rubble of a missionary hotel. My then-16-year-old and her friend Eric Lauritsen, just had to go help. Under the guise of being a part of the Baptist Mission Board, staging the relief effort from the Dominican Republic, they headed to the region, abandoned the mission board headquarters and hitched to ground zero of the area to give aid and assistance to the victims. I was proud of my daughter, Danger, for going and vowed to kill her if she got back alive. She did. I didn’t.
We ruined Osama bin Laden’s Sunday back in the early spring of 2011. I still hope that the last thing he saw on earth was the American flag on the sleeve of the Navy Seal that did him in.
We began the decade with a lot of dissatisfied people on the streets getting paid to protest and riot against perceived injustices in this nation. Occupy Wall Street railed against the wealthiest 1%, you recall, by standing around in the way of progress and doing absolutely nothing. Then in 2014-2015 Black Lives Matter moved to center stage and started rioting over black men being killed by police officers. Michael Johnson and the Ferguson, Mo., police were at the center of their rallying cry. That case didn’t hold water, though.
Then we had the “Antifa folks” and the “Me Too” people and, really, it became hard to tell one group of hateful, dissatisfied activists from another. The Methodist Church conferences were too spiteful for me to handle. I just watched more sports.
You had to be tough to do that, too, if you live around here. There was more heartache than joy for most of us. I saw time run out on my beloved Georgia Bulldogs at the 5-yard line at the old Georgia Dome in 2012. We were just that close to a chance to play Notre Dame for the National Championship. It ultimately cost Mark Richt his job. I was back in Atlanta to see my same Dawgs squander a two-touchdown lead against those same Red Elephants. But at least we weren’t ahead 28-3 in the Super Bowl. That was the Falcons. Nor did Georgia blow a lead in game six of the National League playoffs and give up 10 runs in the first inning of game seven. That would be the Braves.
Sports wasn’t a total loss for me this decade. My whole family and I got to travel to the Left Coast to watch Georgia beat Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, in the best college football game I’ve ever seen. And we were part of the invading army that took over Chicago and South Bend and watched Georgia beat Notre Dame in a game that said to the nation, “We’re here to stay for a while.”
And then there was Tiger following up his win at East Lake with a stunning Masters victory. That gave me about a decade worth of chill bumps on one Sunday morning.
And personally, this decade, I was blessed beyond measure. Three of my children graduated from the University of Georgia, hallowed be thy name, amassing three bachelor’s degrees, one master’s and one doctorate. That’s a good decade. To cap it off, my lovely wife, Lisa, earned a doctorate as well. I was the educational black sheep of the family in the 2010s. And all three got married this decade.
I have battled cancer to a standstill. So did my oldest child. And I started a tour company from a $300 ad in this paper — and we’ve made 81 trips so far to all 50 states (twice) and 50 foreign nations. And I finally finished my 12th book, proclaiming and proving that I’m still Southern after all these years.
And for five of the past 10 years we’ve discovered a whole ‘nother level of love, ever since my grandson, Sir Henley the Adorable, came onto the scene.
So, thanks for the memories, 2010s. You’ve been a good decade. Bring on 2020. The best is yet to come.