As I write this, I’m glorying in a piece of toffee my friend Mike McCue sold me. He runs Stella’s Sundries, our next-door neighbor, and while y’all won’t read this until after Christmas, I’m writing it before Christmas (we give our staff the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day off so they can have a break, which means putting together two editions of the paper in one week). Mike just helped me put together a wonderful gift basket for my dad, and another one for Barry’s mom, and I was so happy I hugged him (I’m not a hugger, as those who know me can attest).
You’ll have to forgive me if this publisher’s note ventures a bit into “Hard Candy” territory (readers who found The Gabber after 2014, that’s the name of my once-upon-a-time opinion column), but this has been perhaps the worst four months of my life. The worst, yes, but also the best. Stay with me.
In September, Barry and I caught COVID-19, and, while Barry didn’t take the Paxlovid, I did — and after Hurricane Ian passed by us, a couple of things happened: My dad was rushed to the hospital (nicely put, his colon exploded), and I had COVID rebound. Then I caught strep, because, sure, why not?
Things got worse from there. At one time, we had three out of four parents not doing so hot. My dad went from the ICU to a regular room to rehab, then back to the ICU, then to a regular room, and from there, to Hospice. On Barry’s birthday last month, we rushed to the Largo hospice because the nurses there told us his death was imminent.
The next day, the doctor moved my dad to rehab. Turns out pumping an 81-year-old man full of opioids for three months isn’t a great idea (especially when that man hasn’t had anything stronger than a Tylenol in 29 years), and the doctor rounded through the Hospice as my dad was coming off a dose. He asked to go to rehab, and – good lord willing and the creek don’t rise – he’ll be home Dec. 30. I bless that doctor for showing up when he did, but curse the nurse who gave my dad the opioids over his protests, telling me, “He says he doesn’t have pain because he doesn’t like how the drugs make him feel.” (This was not our South Pinellas Empath Hospice, but Accent in Largo).
The important thing is that my dad’s not dying any faster than the rest of us, and he should be home soon. That’s why it’s one of the best years. It’s also one of the best because I turned 50 and celebrated it with three of my oldest friends. We spent the weekend on Treasure Island (shout out to Fusion for a great setup), and for a few days, I was an idiot 11-year-old watching supremely bad movies and eating hot dogs and macaroni and cheese (pro tip: Hulk Hogan’s Santa With Muscles flick is not as good as it sounds).
But back to Mike. He’s one of the first people I met in Gulfport — we were neighbors when I lived at Big Blue (2727 49th St. S.) and seeing him always makes me happy – and reminds me why I love Gulfport: Everyone’s a neighbor, and, as the mayor once told me, even if we don’t always like each other very much, we would be there when we needed each other.
So, despite whatever troubles and hardships 2022 brought me, as I look ahead to 2023, I look ahead to a year filled with friends and neighbors, and, as always, I’m thrilled to spend another year surrounded by the only home I ever want: Gulfport.
Happy 2023, y’all!