I have not checked with the Cobb County Fire Department but I suspect they have rules against putting the number of candles on a birthday cake that would be required to acknowledge my true age. It would look like a bonfire and melt the icing.
I’m not going to bore you with the specifics of how long I have been around but I am sure you are familiar with the story about how God commanded Noah to build an ark before flooding the neighborhood. What you may not know is that I was the guy with the clipboard responsible for checking the credentials of the creatures cleared to board the vessel. Somehow, I let two horseflies sneak past me. Horseflies were not a part of God’s plan. That screw-up is clearly on me.
For the most part, my life has been a great ride and there is little I would change — even if I could. I don’t pine for the good old days of my youth. For one thing, they weren’t all that good when I was wearing an ID tag with my name and blood type and going through drills at school in preparation for the possibility of the Russians dropping an atomic bomb on us and starting World War III. There is nothing good about being a frightened child.
I admit I do miss some things that came with growing up in East Point. There were no Little League baseball fields or fancy uniforms or parents screaming at the umpire and at their children. We played baseball for fun in a nearby vacant lot. Football games were played in the street. It was imperative to complete your pass before a car came over the hill. Timing was everything.
In the summertime, my friends and I enjoyed a group version of hide-and-seek called Fox-and-Hounds. Today, there is probably an app for that and a video game where the foxes can kill the hounds, or vice versa.
I grew up in the days before cellphones and instant messaging and Twitter. If somebody called our house and we weren’t home, there was no way to leave a message. They would (gasp!) call back later. It seems to have worked. Everything was not an immediate priority. I never saw my mother walking to the store with a phone in her ear. It would have taken a very long cord.
Were we more civil in those ancient times? I like to think so. There were no wingnuts on television posing as serious journalists and trying to out yell each other. Letters to the editor in the newspaper were signed, unlike the anonymous and snarky warm-spit blogs and “reader comments” we see today. At home, saying “yes, ma’am” and “yes sir” was a sign of respect for my elders and a requirement. Sassy wasn’t an option.
The miraculous part of my life is that I made it to adulthood and beyond, considering that my diet consisted of highly-seasoned fried foods — lard and salt were two of the essential food groups in my home — sweet tea, mashed potatoes with butter or gravy and topped off with artery-clogging desserts. All of this took place in a house covered with asbestos shingles. It’s a wonder my parents weren’t arrested and charged with child abuse.
If all of that wasn’t bad enough, I was forced to attend public schools where somehow I learned to read and write, add and subtract, diagram sentences and find Wyoming on a map without the benefit of No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top and without the involvement of Alice the Wal-Mart Lady or the American Legislative Exchange Council and their sycophants in the Legislature.
Teachers were respected and discipline enforced. I was involved in a few after-school fights growing up but it was no big deal. We all became friends again and nobody was carted off to jail. Zero tolerance meant having something warm to wear when the weather was below freezing.
Somehow I survived my childhood and came out on the other side with a wonderful family, a rock-solid belief in God, a career that keeps on giving and, hopefully, a few more friends than enemies.
I don’t how many days I have left on this planet but I will do my best to treasure each one as a gift and live it to the fullest. It has been a long life and a good one. I’m just sorry about the horseflies.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.