Way too many superlatives to consider using in a year with such spectacular highs, unfortunate lows and everything between.....
So, how do we go through the year? If you know me, you know that means a stream of typing consciousness.....so away we go!
1) 25 Years: In January, Bonnie and I determined we would actually celebrate our wedding anniversary this year, being that this was, according to tradition, the Silver Anniversary. So off we flew to Las Vegas for her second trip, and my first. Never figured myself to be a "Vegas" guy, and I was right, except......
...I could live in that suite a long time! Love the lights at night, and nothing about the rest of the nightlife. Menopause: The Musical? HIGHLY recommend it if you've never seen it. :)
2) The Wait Is Over: After nearly three long years of nothing but seasonal work, my awesome son, Robbie, who turned legal (21) in April, FINALLY found full-time work in late March. He enjoys his work at Southeast Frozen Foods, where he's known as "Snowball", auditing orders on the night shift, making sure YOU can find your favorite pseudo-half gallon of ice cream or frozen pizza at your local Food Lion or Dollar Tree. The pay isn't enough to allow him to break out on his own (as is the case for millions of Millennials right now), but IS enough for him to FINALLY begin the road to his dream.
He began training with GXW Wrestling in early November. He's in the ring twice a week for four hours in the afternoon before heading to work at night, learning to fall (or "bump" as is the industry jargon), how to armdrag, wrist lock, and soon, suplex and more. He's gone through a few trainers as, sadly, his first lost his Dad and had to move home in Maryland to care for his surviving mom, then, he was being schooled by the head trainer of GXW, Johnny Ringo. Johnny, VERY sadly, passed on December 19th just days before his 57th birthday. He spent his entire life wrestling, up to the very end, and was excited to start getting Robbie into the deeper things of the squared circle. But, as of today, Robbie has another wonderful trainer, and I'm sure 2014 will bring him his first match, though it may be late in the year. It takes a year (or more for some) for trainees to finally become ready. I'm looking forward to that night!
3) LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: It was another year on the stage for Miss Rachel, who turned "Sweet Sixteen" in late February, then dove straight on into "West Side Story". She was in the ensemble, but also captured the role of the "Somewhere Girl", who stood on a very high platform singing the signature song from the classic musical during a wonderfully-choreographed scene from our incredible Drama Director J. Harvey Stone. She made an impression, being named "Most Improved Actress" in June at the year-end awards for Jaguar Drama 2012-13.
Over the summer, we learned there would be TWO musicals this year, the first being "Disney's Beauty & The Beast". Rachel hoped to become Mrs. Potts, but her best friend won that part (and deservingly so! Lainie's performance brought yours truly to tears...) so my baby took on anything Mr. Stone needed her to do, and the cast put on a show for the ages. What they do in theatre at the high school level now as opposed to what we did in high school 30 years ago? NO comparison.
In between, Rachel spent her summer with friends, going to cardiac rehab with me, and spending an impressive number of evenings with me at various events doing photography as part of her two-year internship with the Hanover Herald-Progress. She also took an impromptu tour of the campus of Randolph-Macon College over the summer (and REALLY wants to go), and when she actually WAS home, she loved up on Harry J., who turned 10 back on December 12th, practiced piano (8th year with recital in June), spent a week in Virginia Beach with a friend, and starts 2014 Saturday with an audition for the Summer Governor's School for the Dramatic Arts at Radford University. If she gets it, it'll be exactly 30 years since yours truly did the same thing at then Mary Washington College.
4) ON THE GRIND: Bonnie spent the year, literally, working. Working all day, every day at Virginia Credit Union inside the DMV Building on Broad Street, which meant, yes, she had to deal with the 166,000 people who showed up across the street over the summer for Washington Redskins Training Camp! When she wasn't working, she went to lots of Tuesday night movies with her work buddy Margaret at BowTie, and read 5,643 books on her Kindle. Well, maybe I'm exaggerating just a little..... :)
5) DOWN SOUTH: We had three celebrations with our North Carolina family this year, two of which you'd expect to be called such, while one was unorthodox, but the perfect tribute to a pretty incredible guy.
A) I was deeply, deeply honored to be able to participate in the long, long overdue Ordination Service for my brother on March 3rd! He is now pastoring a wonderful church in the community of Cove City, NC, not far west from his home in New Bern.
B) We returned to Cove City as my niece got married to start our Memorial Day Weekend! It was the first time the 3 Witham kids were all together in just over 10 years, which was very cool. And, it meant time with adorable Cora Jane (who came up to see Rachel in Beauty & The Beast in December!), so that's always a plus.
C) But then, in early August, we discovered my Dad had a brain tumor, an offshoot of his brain aneurysm from 29 years earlier. He's been ready to go for years now, and the treatment options both would deeply accelerate his dementia. After watching my Mom age 15 years in 2 months thanks to chemo back in 2002, I wanted no part of that. Our family was in 100 percent agreement to let nature take its course and God would take him when He was ready.
We made four trips to N.C. in two months, the third was the final time we saw him, a few days before he passed away early on the morning of October 2nd at age 81. We returned the next weekend for the funeral, which was filled with celebration, great remembrances, a sermon (mandatory for my Dad!), and an 80 degree fall day FILLED with gnats in the Eastern Carolina air at graveside. So I now move on parentless, which is a completely new, and very weird, feeling.
So....I guess that leaves me. :)
Everything changed on April 8th at 1:50pm ET when I awoke from a nap to intense pressure in my chest, and, a few minutes later, pain radiating down both arms down to the elbow. It was, so I'm told, 70 minutes from the time I called 911 to the time they inserted the stent into the area entering the aorta, which was 100 percent blocked. By 5:30, I was woozy in my hospital room, picking on a turkey sandwich.
Poor Robbie had just started his new job, poor Bonnie had to fly out of work, then had to go to Glen Allen High and get Mr. Stone to help break the news to Rachel, 10 days out from West Side Story.
Here's how amazing medical technology has changed. In 1975, when my Dad had his first heart attack, he was in the hospital 3 1/2 weeks and was prescribed extreme amounts of rest once finally home.
I left the hospital less than 45 hours after my heart attack, stopped by the school to say hi to Rachel, give her two thumbs up, then come home. 16 days later, I began rigorous cardiac rehabilitation. 36 sessions that took me through the summer, and I enjoyed it so much, it helped so much, I returned on my own December 2nd. I need a group session. Why go to the gym when they have all the equipment I need, all the nurses know my history, they can slap a heart monitor on me whenever they want and I bring down the median age of the rehab session by 15 years? It's the least I can do....
So a BIG THANK YOU to my doctors, all the nurses at Bon Secours Memorial Regional Medical Center Cardiac Rehabilitation (Junior, Ginny, Susan, Suzi, Stephanie, Bonnie, Rita, and I know I'm missing some names!) for your help this year.
OH, and a huge goodbye to 20 pounds, and to soda. Haven't had one since April 8th. :)
Otherwise? 2013 was focusing on getting better, as my second blockage is inside the heart at 50 percent, but they didn't stent it (they used to, but realized stents inside the heart are much riskier, so now they'd rather you treat with diet, exercise and meds, so I am.) as well as improving on the diabetes and sleep issues so I can, after many years, hopefully one day in the not-too-distant future be, once again, 100 percent healthy. :)
Other highlights of 2013:
---Walking 5K at the Richmond Heartwalk September 28th through the streets and bridges of Richmond
---Raising nearly $1,000 for the American Heart Association thanks to Rachel and the team she assembled
---Not breaking the cameras at CBS6 when I was interviewed there to promote the HeartWalk
---52 weeks of articles printed in Section B of the Hanover Herald-Progress (yes, I even wrote and filed an article IN my hospital bed the day after my heart attack...)
---Over 5,000 followers on Twitter as we expanded to three feeds: @hanoversports, @henricosports, and @cfieldsports. As of tonight, 1,637 Henrico followers in under 8 months, 573 followers in just 4 months with little push down in Chesterfield.
---HCS Media Network expanding rapidly! It's officially an LLC, owned by Bonnie (she's the business brains here, not me!), with the Twitter feeds, two live and one developing web sites, a YouTube channel and a growing online radio presence of live events, and TONS of plans for 2014.
---Getting my new moniker, known as "The Hanover Sports Guy". :)
---All the student-athletes I covered this year around the #RVA.
---All the Athletic Directors from high schools and Randolph-Macon
College, the University of Richmond, VCU, etc.
---Rachel getting her learner's permit
---Robbie's 49ers almost making the comeback win in Super Bowl XLVII
---Robbie finally seeing his wrestling idol, Sting, LIVE when we went to TNA in Norfolk in August
---Being at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center for building, dedication, and finally, to cover Redskins camp
---Getting to personally thank to head of Bon Secours at an event on May 20th, just six weeks after his people saved my life.
---The super-mini thunderstorm of doom that cost us 13 hours of power on August 10th.
---The best year of high school football coverage on WHAN Radio yet, complete with a new partnership with the sports department at NBC12 (Marc and Matt rock, as does their news director, Frank Jones!)
---Seriously paring down my sports card collection to make room for other things. Funny how priorities change after a little thing like a heart attack....
---My Road Trips to see sports teams...
1) Atlee softball in state quarterfinal action in Chesapeake
2) Hanover baseball the same day in the state quarters in Norfolk
3) American Legion Post 175 in State Tournament play in Williamsburg
4) September 21st, going to see Sam Rogers' 2nd home game for Virginia Tech against Marshall, then dropping by Charlottesville that night to watch Karlie Suber play volleyball for UVA!
5) Multiple trips to the Siegel Center, none better than November 23rd as Atlee girls volleyball WON the State Title.
6) And a Sunday in Stafford to watch Rockville Softball win Babe Ruth state titles (yep, more than one!)
So, we enter 2014 with Rachel acting, Robbie working (and training for wrestling on the holiday tomorrow!), Bonnie resting, and me wishing YOU and YOURS a WONDERFUL New Year!
Enjoy every moment. You never know when everything will change. :)