When you write a column long enough, you establish traditions. For me, I usually turn over my Christmas week column to someone else. This gives me a break, it keeps you from having to endure a rerun column, and it is always written by someone I admire.

Garry Mac is my best friend. He’s the brother I never had. We “grew up” in radio together, and while I’ve spent the rest of my career in TV, Garry has branched out into the political arena, public relations, and a few other endeavors.

A few days ago, as I was camped out in line at the post office, he called to wish me a Merry Christmas, and to review this bizarre year. While my year was relatively uneventful and blissfully boring, Garry has faced many challenges. Don’t worry, it has a happy ending, but he (and I) learned a few lessons along the way. I asked him to write about it, and he graciously consented. Garry, take it from here:

Due to the pandemic, some of us had to learn technology we thought we would never need. For example, as soon as I started working from home, I learned you can have burgers and fries delivered to your door.

I also learned what happens when a tornado hits your momma’s house on Easter Sunday. She lost everything except the baseball cards and 45 rpm records I had saved fifty years ago. I guess you could say the truly important things were spared. Plus of course, my little 93-year-old mother. Just a few weeks after she had beaten cancer, she had to lie on the floor for two hours, just praying, until help arrived. By the time I made it past the rescue trucks and downed power lines, this is what I saw: my mother, being carried out of the ruins on the back of a firefighter.

That’s when I learned there are good insurance people, and that God sends angels in your time of need. Don’t talk bad to me about church people. I saw them doing the Lord’s work. But 2020 wasn’t through with me yet.

About the time I got Momma’s life back to near-normal, I had this little heart episode. Well, okay, it was a heart attack (remember what I said about burgers and fries delivered to my front door).

The work appointments on my August and September calendar were replaced by quadruple bypass open heart surgery, and a few weeks of recuperation and rehabilitation.

I learned a lot about our health care system. Here’s a tip, should you ever end up in my hospital gown. Being a patient is a full-time job, and you have to treat it that way. Those folks have a lot going on, especially in a pandemic, so you have to be your own advocate.

Every time a doctor says “Here’s what we’re going to do,” it’s your job to ask, “Why?” This is because your doctor has probably never experienced this as a patient, and they tend to leave out certain details regarding pain, burning or a potentially embarrassing rash.

I also learned about the huge difference in the attention you get in the ICU, compared to your “regular room.” You are a VIP in the ICU. You have RN’s, techs, CNA’s and people you don’t even know, constantly pampering you. At some point they cheerily tell you that you are about to become a regular patient. No more ICU!

While that’s certainly a good thing, I would advise you to call a family member or a close friend for a favor. Ask them to smuggle in some good, brand-name toilet paper. In an effort to control health care costs, hospitals use the same “barely there” toilet paper you find in those rundown gas station restrooms on I-75.

Of course, visitors were not allowed, so my son Kellan was my “person.” He drove in from Texas when we realized I would be laid up for a while. Thanks to the technology I mentioned earlier, he was able to work remotely for about a month, usually in my hospital room. He was wonderful, and he learned to understand the doctors’ language. I think he earned a medical degree by the time I was discharged.

One other hospital note: For the sake of my health and sanity, the doctors would not let me go online, or watch any cable news during the heated election season. That may have saved my life.

So, we’ve made it to the holidays. Momma’s doing fine. I’m upright, breathing, and feeling better than I have in a long time. I feel blessed that I can enjoy this merry season. I pray we all have hope for 2021. Let joy fill your soul, and be kind.

I’m blessed to have friends like Garry, and readers like you. Merry Christmas to all!

David Carroll, a Chattanooga news anchor, is the author of “Volunteer Bama Dawg,” available on his website, ChattanoogaRadioTV.com. You may contact him at radiotv2020@yahoo.com, or 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405.

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