For most of my life I have seemed to have a nearly indelible memory -- at least in some areas. Ask me about a random conversation I had with a buddy on the playground in 1962 and I can tell you virtually everything that was said. If, on the other hand, you ask me what my lovely wife Lisa asked me to pick up at the grocery store last night ... well -- I might be a bit fuzzy on that.
I told you that to tell you this. About a quarter century ago, then-cotton farmer David Hays picked me up at my home in Conyers for a trip to the Braves game. Back then if you called to ask what time the game started they would ask you what time you could get there.
As I settled in for the ride to Atlanta, Hays looked at me and said, "When we get to the ballgame you ought to just lean over and let me kick you right in butt, and then I ought to bend over and let you kick me."
"Why in the world should we do that?" I asked.
"Because," he explained, "I know that you've been doing the same thing I've been doing all day. You've been sitting around worrying about what you think are problems, and I have too. Let me tell you who's got a problem."
And then he went on to tell me about another friend whose young daughter had been stricken with a terrible medical calamity for which there was no apparent cure and yet the little girl was able to laugh and smile and enjoy life and so forth and so on. You get the gist.
Now David Hays may or may not remember that conversation, but I stored it away in the deep recesses of my mind. Once in a great while I will dig it out and use it as an object lesson when I am feeling sorry for myself. Such an occasion occurred last Saturday, while leaving Sanford Stadium.
It had been a glorious day in Athens and the home team had devoured the cupcake that had been scheduled for week three of the season. I had tailgated with good friends and enjoyed a magnificent day. All should have been right with the world, but instead of reveling in my good fortune I was wallowing around in self-pity.
I was tired, you see. Weary might be a better word. I had spent most of the summer recovering from multiple surgeries that took place in early June, all the while worrying about the operation to remove my cancerous prostate gland in August.
That surgery went well and my doctor believes the cancer is gone and eventually I will be almost as good as new. But last Saturday I wasn't particularly enamored of the term "eventually." I wanted to be better right away. I had already missed one home game because the doctor wouldn't clear me to spend all day tailgating and walking across campus and sitting in the sun and doing all the things game day in Athens entails.
I had gotten to do all those things, but it had worn me out and my body ached and my plumbing leaked and as I walked back to my parking spot on Agriculture Drive I was having my own little pity party. Poor, poor pitiful me.
Did you read what I was doing though? I was walking across campus with an emphasis on "walking."
And then, just outside the south end of the stadium, I ran across Johnathan Taylor and three of his friends -- and they were laughing and cutting up and having a great time. They were embracing life. Like Erk Russell always said, "It's great to be a Bulldog on a Saturday night."
I felt about an inch tall.
Johnathan Taylor, you'll recall, is the UGA baseball player who had a promising career halted when he collided with another player in centerfield in March. He is now classified a tetraplegic, meaning all of his extremities have been affected by the injury. As recently as April his doctors have said that for Johnathan to ever walk again would require a miracle.
I was walking across campus with my lip out because I had been through a rough patch and Johnathan was sitting in his wheelchair, cutting up with his buddies, enjoying life. Talk about a profile in true courage!
I was smart enough to stop and ask him to do me the honor of allowing Lisa to take a picture of us. He is wearing a million dollar smile in that picture and now I have another reminder of how fortunate I am. Thank you JT. Thank you David Hays.
I'll lean over now and let the kicking begin.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com. He will be signing his new cook book, Second Helpings, at the Master Gardener Festival at the Rockdale Co. Extension office (old Maxell property) Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.