Roy Exum: My Newest Warm Memories

Wednesday, January 2, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

One early afternoon this fall, as I was driving my mother home from church, we were stopped at a red light when what appeared to be a certifiably crazy man came flying down the middle of Market Street. He was furiously pedaling a bicycle, and had a very full head of solid white hair, it streaming three or four full feet behind him in the wind. As he pointed his machine straight towards our car, my 88-year-old mother tensed and loudly uttered the distinct prayer and words of warning, “Oh, Lord help us….”

Understand, in addition there was a large and equally crazed dog on the scene, barking with its every step and racing full-speed alongside this sudden maniac, and, before the light could change to green, our zombie bicyclist and his dog screeched to a skidding stop right beside my driver’s door and screamed, “Fear not, for I am an angel!”

When I could finally recognize the man’s face, it was the wonderful sculptor Cessna Decosimo wearing the most outlandish wig you’ve ever seen. He was laughing with glee, so joyful at our reaction, and after we shared in his laughter, the ever-delightful genius roared away, eager to soak up as much fun and merriment as he could on that sunny afternoon with his happy dog in hot pursuit.

My mother laughed all the way home, recounting the Decosimo family’s history, explaining why the wonderful Cessna was so named, and regaling in such hysterical giggles that I am certain that singular event added a good four years to her life and probably increased her IQ by six points.

As I sat on the porch on New Year’s Day, I thought of all the wonders I have seen in the year 2012 and the wigged Cessna on his bicycle was easily the most glorious vision. Oh, I saw a lot last year. We all did. Solemn funerals, young mothers bringing their newborns home, UTC winning football games, the Krystal restaurants sold and moving away, and new preachers in the pulpits.

By far the most exciting vision was watching Mocs golfer Steven Fox win the U.S. Amateur on television one Sunday and the worst, coming on New Year’s Eve, was the final goodbye to our beloved dog as the veterinarian confirmed there was nothing at all that could be done. Ol’ Skippy, at age 21, finally crossed over The Rainbow Bridge and thank goodness for the solid belief that every dog you ever loved will lick you right in the face at heaven’s door.

Skippy, what a dog! He was the one this summer who was sleeping right beside my bed when I got up in the middle of the night. It was pitch-black dark and the very second my bare foot touched his fur, I jumped the opposite way, lurching into the bedside table and breaking three ribs. As I dressed at 4:30 a.m. to go to the emergency room for relief, Ol’ Skippy was lying directly on his back, all four legs straight up in the air, as if to say, “Boss, that was the funniest thing I ever saw!”

It was funny alright. When I took full advantage of the doctor’s permission to groan for six weeks, Ol’ Skippy would conveniently move to another room for his night’s sojourn. And when we would venture out in the early-morning darkness, he loved to zip out and scare pre-dawn joggers to death. You talk about a sense of humor – that dog loved to laugh!

I also saw a dark shroud fall over Lookout Mountain on New Year’s Eve when word got out that Ray Murphy had died after a long and tedious battle with Parkinson’s disease. Nobody – anywhere on earth – was as fine as Ray Murphy. He was a brilliant lawyer, a gifted counselor to young married couples and a tireless volunteer for all that is right and good in our entire area.

Believe it or not, Mr. Murphy had Parkinson’s for at least a quarter-century but when he would come to church in recent years, hunched over in his wheelchair and drooling in a very unashamed way, he was unable to speak but he could hear every word. His boundless faith was a deep and full testament to us all.

We also watched as his small-groups crowd, from the time he first got sick until just last week, would very faithfully meet at Mr. Murphy’s house every week. When the day came when Ray could no longer speak, they talked for him. And at tomorrow’s funeral where those men with be honorary pallbearers, there will be once again that silent display of devout love that assures us the best is yet to come.

Funny things? Gosh, there are so many but one of the best had to be the very honest answer a Georgia Tech football player just gave one of those “arm candy” sideline announcers when she asked him how in the world the Yellow Jackets held Southern Cal to just 7 points in the 21-7 Sun Bowl victory. The poor cornerback, who had probably never been interviewed in his life, looked at the announcer and blurted, “S***, I don’t know ... ” (No, there was no seven-second delay on the microphone either.)

Wow, We’ve been showered with so many blessings. We remember every moment of the good we’ve witnessed in the past year while the bad things gather dust. And while we cherish our newest memories just as much as those others that crowd our heads, the promise of so much yet to see in 2013 assures us that this will undoubtedly the best year we’ve ever spent on earth.

I marvel at the fact that there has never been a New Year when I didn’t have more fun and receive more joy and warmth than the year before. Sure, there have been some tough times, and last year I saw some things I wish I never had, but keep your eyes peeled for the good in 2013 because, trust me, there will be gobs of it.

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