I can’t believe it’s that time again. Another year has come and gone and where did it all go?
My father once told me that time really flies as you get older and I’m starting to believe him.
But we’re back to one of my favorite holidays of the year – Thanksgiving – and I’m looking forward to spending quality time with family and friends. I’m sure that I’ll eat too much, but since I’m not big on turkey and dressing, I’ll get my fill on ham and sweet potatoes.
As has been the case in recent years, it’s time for me to share with you a few of the things I’m thankful for. My buddy Roy Exum planted the seed many years ago and it’s become my favorite thing to write on an annual basis. Perhaps the best part is the response I get from my readers, so feel free to reply when the spirit moves you on what you like – or dislike – about this column.
I AM THANKFUL I woke up one more day without a hangover. It’s been 8,742 days since that last one, but being without is again at the top of my list. I hope I never forget just how horrible and painful that last one was.
I AM THANKFUL for my dear wife Althea. It was 20 years ago this fall that we started dating and she’s been the woman of my dreams ever since. I don’t know what I’d do without her.
I AM THANKFUL for the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous and the impact it has on millions of lives, including mine.
I AM THANKFUL for my ex-wife Terry. I know that I’ve never given her enough credit, but she’s responsible for the three most important things in my life. First, she’s the one who suggested I call Roy Exum way back when and apply for a job as a sports writer. Second, she’s the mother of my son Michael and last, but certainly not least, she’s the one who initially suggested I get help with my drinking.
I AM THANKFUL for the old News-Free Press and the experiences I had there. We worked long and hard and didn’t make a whole lot of money, but we put out a quality newspaper and we had the times of our life.
I AM THANKFUL for the old Free Press folks like Mr. Roy, Julius Parker, John Vass, Buddy Houts and Allan Morris. You want to talk about a group of characters, but what a wonderful bunch to work with.
I AM THANKFUL to the old Free Press cafeteria and the great food that was served there on a daily basis. Folks like Tammy, Judy, Lena and Pat always made sure we got plenty to eat and they really took care of us when we’d order a double helping of spaghetti.
I AM THANKFUL for Ward Gossett and the time he took with me when I was a beginner in the sports writing business. He showed me the dos and don’ts and made sure that I understood just how important it was to make sure the final score was right and that individual names were spelled correctly. We were competitors in recent years after I started writing for the Chattanoogan.com, but we never failed to help each other on details when we were covering a specific event.
I AM THANKFUL that my job as a sports writer has allowed me to meet some of my heroes, cover some really wonderful events and develop relationships with athletes and coaches that mean more to me than I can express.
I AM THANKFUL I’ve been able to cover several state championships in the past 38 years. I’ve covered a bunch involving Baylor, including cross country, track, wrestling and softball, but none top the feelings I got back in October when I watched the Lady Red Raiders win their second state volleyball title under the leadership of coach Sarah Lail.
And to be able to watch the effort that senior Sarah Sumida put into her sport was simply amazing. It was only appropriate that she was voted the state tournament MVP, but what a competitor and a delightful young lady.
I AM THANKFUL that the Houston Astros won the World Series for the first time this fall. And to think it came just a year after the Cubs won. What a celebration on both counts. And I was so glad to see Sandy Koufax in attendance at the last two games. I can remember when he was the World Series MVP back in 1965.
I AM THANKFUL for coach John Starr and the job he’s doing at Howard. I read Mark Wiedmer’s column in the Wednesday Free Press about the dinner they were serving later in the day and couldn’t help but feel grateful that men like coach Starr are making a difference on a daily basis.
I AM THANKFUL that we got plenty of rain this summer and that I got to cut just as much grass as my little heart desired.
I AM THANKFUL for Chickamauga Lake and the fact there is some outstanding fishing in those waters. I bought a fishing boat last fall and have enjoyed it more than you’ll know. The highlight of the summer took place back in July when I was fishing with my buddy Phil Hyman and we were doing a little trolling to start the day. We hadn’t been in the water five minutes when I got a chance to land a 13-pound catfish.
That sucker had a mouth as big as my head and I’m sure he wasn’t real happy to be pulled into the boat, but what a thrill. No doubt the big guy was relieved a minute or so later when I let him go.
I AM THANKFUL that I get to sleep late on most days. I spent many years going to work at the Free Press at 6 a.m. in the days of the afternoon paper, but unless I’m going to church or a doctor’s appointment, I love getting up early to read the paper before going back to bed for a few hours.
I AM THANKFUL that my grandmother Essie Mae Harbin was a great cook and that she passed her talent along to my mother Frances. And now I have two sisters Emily and Nancy who can cook as well as anybody on earth.
I AM THANKFUL that I’ve developed a talent for cooking meat on the grill. I’m not much in the kitchen, but throw a little something on the grill and I can make your mouth water with the end product.
I AM THANKFUL for guys like Don Welch and the joy and happiness he brought to local television. We got to know each other back in the early 80s when we were both doing a lot of running and as you already know, he was always the life of the party.
I AM THANKFUL for the Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ at my church and the way the hair on the back of my neck stands up when it’s being played on “FULL.”
I AM THANKFUL for Jeff Parker and the members of the adult choir at my church. Sunday morning worship is a big part of my life, but those Wednesday night rehearsals are a worship experience of their own.
I AM THANKFUL that’s there’s only 24 hours in a day. I’ve wasted a lot days in my life, but I’ve come to know that if I manage my time just right, I can get quite a bit accomplished in a 24-hour period.
I AM THANKFUL for the view I get from the press box at Finley Stadium. It’s interesting to see just how many American flags you can count from there and I think the most I’ve seen at one time is eight.
I AM THANKFUL for the lump in my throat every time I hear the Star Spangled Banner played.
I AM THANKFUL for veterans like my father Bruce and my wife Althea who paid a big price for my freedom, the choices I can make and the right to live my life the way I do.
I AM THANKFUL the Chattanooga Lookouts had another outstanding season and that I was present when they scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to win 2-1 in the last game of the season.
I AM THANKFUL for coach Butch Jones and the job he did as Tennessee’s football coach. Granted, things didn’t turn out like we wanted, but give the man credit. He put his heart and soul into that program and brought it back to respect again. Now if we can only get back to winning a few more games.
I AM THANKFUL for reruns of the Andy Griffith Show. By far my favorite TV show, those are some of the best ever made and I get a big laugh just thinking about them.
I AM THANKFUL for my mother-in-law Gretta Ross. She’s been battling cancer for almost two years, but she’s one of the most Godly women I know and she’s already outlived the doctor’s predictions at the start by more than 18 months!
I AM THANKFUL that my son Michael is now married to the woman of his dreams and that Kelly is still as beautiful today as she was the first time I met her.
I AM THANKFUL for life-long friends. Mike Hartman is a successful attorney who lives just outside Indianapolis who became a really close friend back in 1973 when we were both freshmen at UT-Knoxville. We’ve stayed in touch ever since and he came down for a couple of days this summer. What fun we had remembering some of those insane things we did back then and how thankful we are to have survived.
I AM THANKFUL that I celebrated my 62nd birthday back in March and now receive a nice social security check every month.
I AM THANKFUL I got to witness the total eclipse of the sun this summer. I sort of joked about it, but Althea went out and bought those special glasses and the view I saw was something to behold.
I AM THANKFUL that I’ve witnessed a lot of miracles in my life.
I AM THANKFUL that I have the ability to feel my feelings today. For many years they were smothered by drugs and alcohol, but that’s not the case today. I’m a very emotional person and I can shed a tear at the drop of a hat, most of the time for happy occasions.
I AM THANKFUL for our pets C.J. and Sweetheart. C.J. is an old gray kitty who joined our family 20 years ago this fall after being discovered at a local car wash. And Sweetheart is a spunky beagle mix who is really sweet and snores louder than me.
I AM THANKFUL for a lady in my church named Virginia Kosanke, who taught me how to play the piano way back in the third grade and instilled a love of music at that time. Believe it or not, I can still play a little bit as long as there aren’t too many sharps and flats.
I AM THANKFUL for the impact my father Bruce had on my life. He was the ultimate gentleman who worked hard every day and taught me that anything worth having is worth working for.
I AM THANKFUL that I no longer have to study for final exams, don’t have to write any research papers and don’t have to agonize over a 15-minute presentation before my next class. I’ve been there, done that and have the piece of paper to prove it.
I AM THANKFUL for the Salvation Army and the way they help so many people. I was introduced to the idea of “Ringing the Bell” when I was at the Free Press and I still try to do it a couple of days before Christmas. I’ll be at Sam’s on Lee Highway from 11 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 22-23, so come on by to say hello and to make a contribution.
I AM THANKFUL that Chattanooga is home for me and that sunsets are as spectacular from the bridge over Chickamauga Dam as the sunrises from the brow on Signal Mountain.
I AM THANKFUL for all the years I was a dedicated runner and got to run the Boston Marathon three times. The best thing about that is that two of those three trips were made with expenses paid.
I AM THANKFUL that Jerry Hightower taught me how to snow ski back a few years ago. What an invigorating activity, kind of like a roller coaster that goes downhill the whole way.
I AM THANKFUL that I’m alive to celebrate another Thanksgiving. Like I’ve said so many times before, every day is Thanksgiving for me. So as you take a break today and push away from the table after possibly eating too much, give a little thought to all you have to be grateful for.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)