Sean of the South: New Year

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By Sean Dietrich

The New Year is only minutes away. The TV is on. My wife is snoring softly as I watch a perky, hip television host deliver a broadcast live from Times Square, speaking in a tone of voice not unlike a squirrel on amphetamines.

So I change the channel to see Miley Cyrus hosting a New Year’s special while wearing a strand of dental floss.

My phone rings. It’s an unrecognizable number. Maybe a spam call. I answer.

“Hello?”

The voice is male, with a pronounced Hindi accent. “Are you Shane Deeter?”

“Not exactly.”

“Are you sure?”

“Fairly.”

Whereupon the caller informed me that he had important information about my automotive warranty. He was very adamant about this, and assured me that he could definitely assist me more effectively if he could gain access to my AmEx number.

I reminded him that this was New Year’s Eve. He replied, “That’s why this is so important, Sam.”

What a nice guy.

He was mid-speech when I hung up. Then it suddenly occurred to me that New Year’s Eve has always made me a little sad. I don’t know why, exactly. But I always choke up when people sing “Auld Lang Syne.”

What is it about this holiday that gives me the blues?

Maybe it’s the idea that time keeps moving faster. Or maybe it’s the idea that I’m getting older. Or maybe it’s the way everyone pretends to be excited about even though January 1 is no different than, say, August 23, or May 9.

But do you want to hear something bizarre? Even though, admittedly, this upcoming year scares the stew out of me, for once in my life, the New Year worries me less than it has in the past.

Probably because I know upfront that this year will be exactly like every other year. Likely, it will bring heartache, happiness, pain, and the agony of watching your football team suck.
I know, just like you do, without doubt, that I will at some point feel like manure. And at other times I will feel halfway decent. I will win some. Lose some.

But do you know what I DON’T know about this approaching year?

I don’t know what sorts of miracles will happen to me. I have no idea which preordained beautiful souls I will meet. I don’t know what kinds of amazing people will become my new friends.

Last year, for example, I had no idea what sorts of things would be in store for me. As it happened, a lot happened.

This year I adopted an abused coonhound who changed my life. This was also the year my wife and I relocated from our Florida home to Birmingham.

This was the year I met Bobby, and his wife, Miss Lynda. Bobby and Miss Lynda are the same age as my parents. They were my instant friends.

I found myself visiting their house a lot. Namely, because Bobby is a great guy, and Miss Lynda is a jewel who keeps holiday candy in little dishes and repeatedly asks, with the utmost sincerity—often during the same sentence—whether I’m hungry.

This was also the year I met one of my late father’s distant cousins, by accident, and cried when she hugged me and told me how much I looked like him.

This was the year I wrote a column about a little boy who died of kidney failure, who told me, plainly, from his hospital bed, “I am not scared of dying, because life is really just a dress rehearsal.”

This is the year I met Becca, a beautiful blind girl who plays the piano, who once said to me, “I’m thankful for all that’s happened to me, because more people are learning about God because of me.”

This year, I sat in Mount Airy, North Carolina, with my pal Lynn, and watched “Andy Griffith” under the stars.

I could have never foreseen the great things this year would bring. Which is why I believe that this coming year, no matter how challenging, will be worth it.

No, I don’t know what will happen to me. I don’t even know whether you or I will survive this year. But I do know that you and I are going to be brave enough to face it.

And even if the next 365 days aren’t the greatest of our lives, even if we suffer more than we don’t, I can promise you this much:

We are loved. We are stronger than we think. And also, at some point, we will receive an important phone call about our automotive warranty.

Happy 2023.