B.J. DRYE COLUMN: It’s been quite a year, Santa

Published 9:47 am Sunday, December 24, 2023

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Dear Santa,

I hope you are doing well.

B.J. Drye

That’s how most of these Santa letters begin, but I have to admit that I know you probably have a stomach ache from all those milk and cookies or a foot ache from Rudolph stepping on your foot.

I haven’t written you lately. It is hard for me to admit that.

Someone once said if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.

So if you don’t want to read a sad story about this year’s losses, stop reading now, Santa.

I don’t know if it is because I love history or if it is because I have spent way too many years typing obits, but I always enjoy the “in remembrance” segments shown on stations like TCM at this time of year. They remind me of the people who died this year and of the great work they did.

As for 2023, I would say it is one of those years where my childhood died.

Lisa Marie Presley, Suzanne Somers, Tony Bennett, Bob Barker, Jimmy Buffett, Jerry Springer, “Pee Wee” Herman — those are just a few off the people of the top of my head who died this year that have connections to my childhood or young adulthood.
From watching “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” on Saturday mornings or “The Price Is Right” when I was home sick, or catching an episode of “The Jerry Springer Show” as I walked through the lobby to the college library, they all left their mark on my life.

When Jimmy Buffett died on Sept. 1 (which is more than appropriate with it being Labor Day weekend, see “Come Monday”), I spent the majority of what little free time I have listening to his music and finding songs I had never heard before. (My new favorite is “Peanut Butter Conspiracy,” which is also the name of a rock band.)

But, Santa, these losses do not compare to the closer losses to my family.

As I write this on Tuesday afternoon, it was just hours ago I learned that my great-aunt Jean died. She was the last of my mom’s aunts.

She was also the one who I thought looked like Elizabeth Taylor, even though none of the other family members could see it. She was always dressed the part.

We also lost my unofficial uncle Cliff. He was my dad’s best friend from the Air Force for more than 50 years.

Even though I probably only spent about a month with him through the years, I still remember many of those moments.

He is the one who sent me an Arkansas Razorbacks jacket. Even though I am a diehard Duke fan, I proudly wore that coat around Stanfield Elementary School among the legions of Tarheel fans.

I’m surprised I didn’t get beat up for that, but there were many other reasons for me to get beat up.

He is the one who was a cross country truck driver. I kind of wish I had hitched a ride with him on one of his journeys.

He is the one who we traveled to see in Memphis, a 13-hour drive back in 2007. We are so glad we went back then because: 1) it remains my favorite vacation; 2) it was the last family vacation not involving the Carolinas; and 3) it is most likely the last time we are able to venture that far from home.

Santa, it is reasons like this that I wish a sleigh and eight tiny reindeer would become a legit mode of transportation for everyone.

Santa, by now you have received my wish list for this Christmas and the new year. The three items at the top would be much appreciated.

And like a birthday wish, I’m not telling anyone what they are.

That’s between Santa and me.

As to my readers, here’s wishing you a happy and healthy holiday.

B.J. Drye is general manager/editor of The Stanly News & Press. Call 704-982-2123.