Somewhere along the way, I developed the strange notion that life could become one great scavenger hunt, whereby I would compile – and then complete – a list of goals or “Things to Do.” Having just celebrated a birthday that my older brother Jack, an avid golfer, says qualifies me to be “playing the back nine of life,” I decided it was time to evaluate my efforts so far.
Early in life, I posted the typical sports goals a young man thinks about: attending a World Series game, catching a winning touchdown pass, scoring a birdie on my favorite golf hole, making a hole-in-one, coaching my son’s baseball team to a championship, living to see the Braves win a World Series and the Falcons play in (I always knew it would be asking to much that they win) the Super Bowl. I still haven’t played Augusta National Golf Club, so that remains on the list.
There were a few random achievements that still bring pleasure when I remember them: owning and renovating a 90-year-old house, being elected president of a class here or an organization there, speaking to groups and having them laugh or applaud, running a 10K, seeing a double rainbow. Still on the list: I still haven’t found a four-leaf clover, a shark’s tooth or an arrowhead.
Meeting certain people always ranked high on the list. I’ve met favorite authors, three men who later became U.S. presidents and then – just a month ago I crossed off a 20-year-item on the list. Since I graduated from college, I’ve wanted to meet a singer named Emmylou Harris. The first time I ever listened to one of her albums, I fell in love with her voice – and later her photograph. I’ve learned to instantly detect her angelic sound harmonizing in a duet or blended into a chorus. Earlier this year, I saw her in concert for the first time – at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta. But I didn’t get to meet her.
Then a couple of months ago, my friend Charles Driebe invited me to a concert in Seattle in which a band he manages – The Blind Boys of Alabama – would be opening for Emmylou (and another rock star, Dave Matthews). Despite September 11 tragedies, I immediately booked a flight to Seattle and began begging Charles to introduce me to my longtime heartthrob. The concert was on a Sunday, but on Saturday night, Charles suggested I drop by a hotel lobby to meet some people organizing the event.
As we walked to the door of the hotel, I looked through the front door and instantly saw Emmylou sitting by a fireplace. I played it cool while Charles talked with her and other musicians. Then Emmylou stood to leave. Charles stopped her and casually introduced me. I shook her hand and tried to figure out what to say. We ended up talking about the Braves. She said she was headed back to her room, noting this was the first Saturday night in years that she had nothing on her schedule. My heart pounded in my chest. “Should I? Dare I,” I asked myself. “Maybe this is why I was put on this earth – to spend Saturday night in Seattle with Emmylou!” But then she yawned and wandered out the door.
The next night, when Charles was able to sneak me backstage, I rode up an elevator with her. I don’t think she recognized me. But after the show, I was able to take two photographs of her backstage talking with Dave Matthews.
As I flew back from Seattle, I thought about more important goals I have met: being married once and being the extremely proud father of a daughter and a son; serving as publisher and owner of these newspapers for the past seven years; not embarrassing my friends or family too much – so far. And I thought of what is left on my list:
• parachuting from an airplane;
• writing and publishing books of fiction and non-fiction;
• throwing a truly memorable party before I have a funeral;
• proving next time a marriage can be blessed until death do us part;
• b eing a good grandfather and, my number one goal:
• seeing my children happy and outliving me.
With nine holes to play, I think I can make it. I’ll keep you posted.