Tidbits - December 21 2017

TIDBITS by RALPH SHEALY



DECADE WITHOUT

  I don’t know the exact date, but somewhere between the December 13 and December 20 issues of this newspaper in 2007 I quit smoking.
  I have been cigarette free for ten years. I may have dreamed numerous times about smoking, but I have not fallen off the wagon once in a decade, although many times I have wanted to.
  I am terrible with dates, and the only reason I remember it’s been ten years is a sad one. My cousin Johnny Shealy’s funeral was held December 1, 2007, and I began taking Chantix that week.
  Johnny would be happy I associated with him to remember dates.
  He remembered every date, and I mean every date. There was not a birthday, death, family gathering or rock throwing that he didn’t remember the date it took place.
  Every January, he would let us know, “This year’s calender is the same as 1952 (for example).”
  Johnny quit smoking years before he died. He began by cutting back to five cigarettes a day, and he would smoke them at the exact same time each day. He even had the schedule written down, as if he needed reminding.
  I couldn’t quit that way. After 38 years of smoking, I had to have a drug to help me stop.
  Chantix is designed to be taken for three months, but I only took it for one month. I was ready to stop.
  The day I finished smoking my fourth pack, I knew I had to stop.
  Back then, I was buying a carton of cigarettes for $17.00. Today four packs would cost more than one carton ten years ago. A four pack habit today would cost nearly $140 a week!
  During the time I was quitting, the late Larry Harmon told me how much money he saved when he stopped smoking. Just my luck, I quit smoking at the same time gas went up to $4 a gallon, so I saved nothing financially, but I added to a few years to my life, I hope.
  I remember Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show” explaining how he stayed so thin.
  “I don’t live to eat,” he said. “I eat to live.”
  I was like that, too. I never thought about food.
  “Them days” ended ten years ago. Now, I think about what I am going to have for lunch or supper. I have a bowl full of different varieties of Little Debbie cakes, with some Hostess models thrown in.
  Food tastes really good now, as the 50-lbs. I’ve gained in the last ten years can attest. That’s only five pounds a year, so that’s not bad. At that rate, I’ll weigh 365 pounds if I live to be 100.
  Despite the weight gain, I’m in better shape than I was before I quit. I go to bed earlier, and I don’t smell like smoke.
  I never smelled the smoke in my clothes until I quit.
  I’m proud of myself for making it ten years, but I will admit I loved every cigarette I smoked, the over half a million or so! Wow, I never put it in those terms before.

ALMOST THERE

  There’s a beautiful song in our Christmas cantata entitled, “We’re almost there.”
  Yes, we are.
  That journey from one Christmas to the next seemed to take decades when we were children. Now, it seems like weeks.
  I love seeing all the photos of children this time of year.
  In most of the pictures involving my great-nieces and nephews with Santa, they are all crying.
  It’s funny how things stick in your brain from your youth.
  I remember sitting on Santa’s lap in Augusta. The only thing I remember about that experience is Santa had a bobby pin in his beard. I probably was less than two years old, but I can still see that bobby pin.
  I’ve written before about Uncle Ed surprising us on Christmas Eve.
  Mother and Daddy told us to look out the big picture window in the house onto the dark lawn, when who should appear but Uncle Ed dressed as Santa.
  The screams they say were deafening. The adults had to dig up out from behind chairs and the couch.
  That visit from St. Nick did not go over too well.
  A tradition back then was all family members would come by to visit to see what we got.
  Christmas afternoon every chair in our house was filled with aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins, and that was before we added the two story part.
  Christmas Eve was the gathering of the Shealys and Thompsons to shoot firecrackers, or should I say to watch Daddy and Uncle John shoot firecrackers.
  Back then you could buy cherry bombs, which were round, miniature sticks of dynamite.
  Daddy had an old milk can one year, and threw a cherry bomb inside. It almost blew the bottom out of that thick metal can.
  There is a story of some Saluda teenagers who had a box of cherry bombs in the floorboard of car. One of them was going to throw a cherry bomb out the window, but he forgot to roll down the window.
  The lit cherry bomb fell into the box of unlit cherry bombs, which soon became lit.
  They were able to bail out to safety, but the explosion blew out the floorboard of the car. Those things were dangerous, and I’m glad they got outlawed.
  Being that Daddy and Uncle John had all the fun on Christmas Eve, the youngsters didn’t get much firecracker shooting experiences.
  As we got older, we would often get a pack of firecrackers in our stockings.
  Like Ralphie and his Red Ryder, “You’ll shoot your eye out,” admonition, we were told never to hold a firecracker in our hand or we would “blow our fingers off.”
  I, like many hard heads before me, found out the hard way. The old rapid fuse firecracker trick got me.
  Unlike Ralphie who almost shot his eye out with a ricochet BB, Ralph did not make up a story to tell his mother. I didn’t tell her. Since I did not lose any digits, I suffered until the hand stopped hurting. It was a cold, cold day when I did this, so that didn’t help matters.
  It hurt just as badly the next time I did it ... and the next.
  I’m not making light of this. An NFL player did lose some fingers when fireworks exploded in his hand a few years ago.
  Music has always  been a part of my Christmas celebration.
  From the time our grandmother Eugenia Shealy “forced” her grandchildren to sing for Sunday School assembly, I have been singing at Emory Church.
  I started singing in the choir when I was 11, then took my “rebellious” teenage years off. I rejoined the choir in my early 20’s.
  When Earl Steadman retired as choir director, he handed the duty to me. No, I don’t know how long I’ve been directing. I didn’t mark that date.
  When looking through my columns to determine when I quit smoking ten years ago, I saw I mentioned the Emory and Nazareth choirs had  been performing a Christmas cantata together for 26 years.
  That means we have now been performing our cantata together for 36 years. I’ve been the director every year.
  That means I have been listening to Christmas music in July for 36 years in a row!
  For this reason, if a radio station plays Christmas music in October, I turn to another station .... because I have been listening to Christmas music since July.
  When Emory and  Nazareth began singing the cantatas together, we’d practice on Nazareth’s normal day Monday, then practice on Emory’s regular day Wednesday, too. This was when I was also announcing Jayvee games on Thursday, varsity games on Friday, then going to Carolina games on Saturday.
  I was a lot younger then, but that schedule about killed me.
  Our choir members are pros now. We only practice on Wednesdays, but we still start in September.
  I am so proud of our choir members for their hard work, and devotion to our churches. They get better and better each year.
  Last year, I finally had to retire the tape recorder I had used to record the cantata performance for 34 for those 36 years. The reason? While you can still find tapes, no one has a cassette player anymore!
  Since we have to print another paper Friday, I’ll save some Christmas memories for that issue.

IMPRESSIVE

  I stood on Main Street to watch the funeral procession for Eric Chapman last Wednesday.
  I’ve never seen anything like it, and I hope I never see anything like it again.
  As I watched all the police cars, with sirens blaring, go by, it bought tears to my eyes.
  Of course, cars from Saluda and Edgefield counties were expected, but then I saw Myrtle Beach, Tega Cay, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC, Putnam County, GA, etc. The line of cars stretched as far as the eyes could see.
  Officers from other counties answered  calls for Saluda and Edgefield County, so local officers could attend the funeral.
  The tragic death of Eric brought out the camaraderie of the “thin blue line.”