The Difference in a Year

“Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.” ~ Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding from Shawshank Redemption

A year does make a difference.

These are some things that are different now, than from this time a year ago.

  • Just as the calendar year rolled around, it became obvious my dad’s illness was considerably more serious than any of us knew. A few weeks later, he died in a hospice bed. I’m the only son of an only son. When your dad goes missing from  your life, things change. You inherit new responsibilities. You wrestle with your own mortality. A few days ago, I found myself in one of his favorite stores, and for a fleeting moment, thought about what I’d get him for Christmas. Then I remembered he was gone. Every so often, I cry, but mostly, I think about the pure joy he now experiences, shake my head in wonderment and smile.
expatriates in ecuador

Dana and me with our newfound friends Caesar and Maggie. Caesar is a Peruvian lawyer and French-trained chef. I’ll never forget our first visit when Caesar said, “I am a citizen of the world.”

  • I’ve gained a greater appreciation for diversity. My years as a kid were spent growing up in a small, rural-American community. We were all white, low-to-middle-income products of the Mississippi delta. In an age absent of smart phones and iTunes, I passed the time reading encyclopedias, subscribed to National Geographic for Kids and corresponded with a pen pal in Venezuela. Today, I’m amazed by our divisiveness, and I find myself purposefully reaching out across racial and cultural lines. Those times are the most rewarding of experiences.
  • My view of what it means to be a Christian has radically changed. At 19, I decided “going to church” needed to be a part of my life, that it would make me a better person, and basically, that it would be a ticket to eternity. The endless three-point sermons through which I sat spoke much more to my performance than they did to my acceptance. The result was my focus on an endless string of failures and the notion that I never quite measured up. It produced guilt, shame, and an overall sense of failure. It took getting angry with “religion” to finally understand the God in whom I believe made the ultimate sacrifice because He knew I’d never meet the standards of the law. The freedom to fail, and knowing that God won’t ask for my resume has changed all I ever believed about the church.
  • I got my best friend back. From the time we were in the seventh grade, Brady Cornish and I were best friends. Together, we rode the country roads, played a lot of golf, and got into a lot of mischief. We became as close as brothers. In
    best friends and relationships

    Brady and I posing for a quick snapshot just before a match last weekend in Mountain View, Arkansas.

    1988, I allowed my own life circumstances to get in the way of our friendship, and even though we lived only 30 miles apart we went 22 years without as much as a phone call. The loss of the relationship was my fault, not his. But a day never passed when I didn’t think of him. In January, I needed my best friend, drove to his house in shame, and did my best to ask his forgiveness. He embraced me as if a day had never passed. Today, life is fuller and days are more complete because our friendship is stronger than ever. I’m blessed beyond measure by Brady’s trusted friendship, and have no shame in acknowledging just how much I love this great man.

  • I’m playing golf again. In our early years, Brady and I played golf every weekend. When our friendship was lost, golf was lost with it. It’s a minor thing in the grand scheme, but the time we now spend together on the links are among the best of times. After so many years, the slices are more frequent and the drives aren’t as long, but we’re working on our games together and making progress. Golfing days are good days.
  • Once again, writing is a big part of my life. Producing words from a keyboard is the place where I’ve always been most myself. I was a newspaper reporter for 10 years, a press secretary to a member of Congress for four years and operated a publishing business for a time, then let it all go. It was a huge void. Now I’m blogging regularly, working on two books, and with a little luck will publish my first work on Amazon this coming Black Friday.
expatriates in ecuador

This is a photo of our home under construction in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador. From where it sits, we can see miles of beach and south Pacific sunsets every night.

  • If you’d told me this time a year ago, that I’d be building a house in South America, I’d have laughed out loud. Last April, Dana and I took a whimsical trip to Ecuador. The first night I saw the sunset on the South Pacific I thought of my dad and just how short life is. What the heck? We bought a piece of land on the beach, started construction in June and will go back to our finished la pequena casa azul en la colina on December 21. We’re excited about what it all means.
  • And so I’ve become semi-fluent in Spanish. Dana and I want to immerse ourselves in the Ecuadorian culture. Those six hours of college spanish were 25 years ago. Rosetta Stone‘s getting me there, but there’s a long way to go.
  • I feel as though I have friends around the world now. Blogging on wordpress has allowed some wonderful new friendships and really closes the distance between like-minded writers and entrepreneurs. It’s so much fun to receive a compliment from someone thousands of miles away, and to return the favor almost every day.
  • More than ever, I believe in second chances. All those guilt-ridden failures a few hundred words back still carry their consequences, but they overwhelm me no more. Everyone wants to leave a legacy. I’m thankful to be on a journey where I know mine will be found.

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10 thoughts on “The Difference in a Year

  1. Those fingers were made for the keyboard. WOW! What a difference a year makes. I’ll keep putting one foot infront of another though, and sooner or later I’ll walk right out of this dark cave!

    • When my dad died in January, I inherited just a small amount of money, nothing huge, but I wanted to do something special with it. I’d studied and read a lot about Ecuador, Peru, Uraguay and a few other places. The cost of living and construction read to be fairly low so I wanted to go check it out. Everything I’d read about was true. We were lucky on the last day of our trip to find a great lot on a highly elevated hill with a spectacular view, so I said, what the heck, and we started building a house. I like the country because traveling there is an adventure. No posh hotels or resorts – no pina coladas by the pool. It’s just natural, tranquil and beautiful.

      • When we were in Panama earlier this year, a woman told us about a great eco-hotel in Ecuador… although we are intrigued, we are a little nervous about safety and crime. Did you have any concerns? How do you find it?

      • I never felt unsafe, but I also didn’t take any chances. The village where we’re building is best found by flying into Guayaquil and renting a car for a 2-hour drive. Hey man, there’s a spectacular lot available right next to my house with a view to die for. You ought to check it out. We’re going back for a few weeks on Dec. 21. Meet us there?

      • That’s awesome! Thanks for the offer, but our next big trip is a Disney cruise for March Break… I have two little girls, you can understand. I will tell my wife about your offer. It may not be this year but Ecuador is high on the list of places I will visit. I’ll have more question for you in the future.

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