I pray 2015 was a good year for you. It was for me and, like a fine wine, I will keep its bottle stopped for as long as possible so that somewhere down the road I may uncork it, drink of its memory and savor its flavor of family, friends and experiences.
2015 represents the sterling silver event when Kris and I became a couple. Admittedly there were times I questioned whether we would reach such longevity but without a doubt meeting her changed my life forever and I am a better man for it. My love for Kris grows every passing year and I so look forward to celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in 2016.
For the first time in too many years this past summer Kris and I visited family in Canada and spent a heart-warming weekend at my nephew’s home where we enjoyed the company of my brothers, sister and many nieces, nephews and their ever-growing families. Thanks to Wade and Marcie for hosting this gathering and keeping the thread of our family bonds tightly woven. We look forward to future visits – both there and here.
Our son Jake married this past year and our extended family grew with the addition of his wonderful wife Samantha and her daughters Jenna and Rena. Kris has easily warmed to her new role as Nanna but I’m still getting used to being Poppa Brian. I’m working on it and we just spent a lovely Christmas at their new home in Tennessee where, at least for a few days, the many miles that separate us vanished in the glow of love. I now have a photo of happy children peering out from under a pile of gift wrappings at the base of the picture window tree that will forever reflect old time Christmas nostalgia.
To conclude our visit to Tennessee Kris and I spent a few days in Gatlinburg hoping to experience the snowy winter wonderland of a mountain town. Instead, due to the unusually warm weather, we found ourselves stuck in a throng of like-minded vacationers on streets so crowded they could’ve rivaled Times Square. We did enjoy the world-class aquarium, visiting the various arts and craft villages outside of town and taking a roller coaster drive on the no-guard-rail, topsy-turvy mountain roads.
But the highlight of our visit was an unexpectedly hard 5.4 mile hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The rocky path rose almost 2,000 feet in steep elevation from the trailhead and brought us to Rainbow Falls which, with an 80 ft. continuous drop, is considered the most spectacular waterfall in all the Smokies. At times we felt like quitting because the hike was so challenging, and more than once we questioned the mileage marker, but we pushed through determined to find the falls. When we arrived I was not content to photograph from a safe distance so I decided to get closer and even briefly considered hiking right up under the cascading water like a few others (read younger) were doing. Better judgement prevailed but I did get the soles of my hiking shoes wet from the mist and as I descended to where Kris waited my feet slipped out from underneath and I took a terrific tumble on an algae-skinned rock and landed awkwardly. Embarrassed, but thankful that I didn’t crack my noggin or cripple my back, I righted myself and soon realized I’d hurt my ankle – the one full of metal plates, rods and screws as a result of an accident decades earlier. After a few minutes of rest and repair we headed back down the mountain for what was the slowest, most painful walk I’ve ever had in my life. Thank goodness we didn’t meet any foraging bears on the down hike or else Kris would’ve proven the old adage about bear attacks: you only have to be faster than your partner to survive.
I consider that hike as a metaphor for this past year. I tried something new, pushed the envelope a little too far, paid a price for my exuberance but muscled my way through and emerged alright in the end with another tale to tell.
Major accomplishment of 2015: not dying on a treacherous mountain hike in Tennessee. Lesson learned: stubbornness can lead to pain and also payoff. And as I limp into 2016 I look forward to making more memories and sharing more tales. May you be as blessed.