Last week, I reread one of my favorite Lewis Grizzard columns. Understand, that’s like saying I re-watched one of my favorite Georgia football victories over Georgia Tech or re-listened to one of my favorite Conway Twitty songs or re-hugged one of my favorite grandchildren (I only have the one). Or reprayed one of my favorite prayers.
This column started out “A friend of mine became a father for the first time last week.” That would have put this particular column around the first of June in 1988, because I know the baby boy in question and he was born in late May of that year. Ronald Reagan was president. I miss Ronald Reagan as much as I miss Lewis Grizzard.
I will take a bit of license and paraphrase some of the conversation Lewis reported with his buddy at the time. Under the circumstances, I don’t think he’d mind. He wrote that his friend reported his baby boy as having a lot more hair than the new dad — and Grizzard ragged on the new dad for his growing bald spot.
But he also praised the new dad for having been a fierce competitor on the tennis court and golf course, being the best shag dancer in the Southeast, which means the world (my words, not Lewis’s), and for having flown airplanes and been to war.
Toward the end of the piece Grizzard wrote, “Only when a man comes to peace with himself, is there the wind to move him an inch, and he knows without doubt, that in wife and child he has the only treasures that really matter anyway.”
That was the truest sentence Grizzard ever wrote, and you can take it to the bank that Dorsey Gary Hill — the close, close friend of whom the great scribe was writing — took those words of wisdom to the bank. A rich man in so very many ways already, his wife Charlotte and his son Alex have enriched his life far beyond any real estate holdings or digits to the left of the decimal on any bottom line on any deal Gary Hill has ever examined.
Sadly, Lewis never knew those riches, and he never really knew Alex, the baby of whose birth and bonding he wrote so eloquently, 31 years ago, almost to this day. I wish he had. He would have liked him a lot. He would have enjoyed watching him grow into a handsome young man whose good looks, obviously inherited from his mother’s side of the family, put his father’s to shame.
Grizzard wrote that the Hill child was “eight pounds, eleven ounces ... he’s going to be a big ’un.” He is. Well, over 6’2” and solid as a rock. Lewis would have loved the fact that Alex grew up playing tennis at Dan Magill’s tournaments, in Athens and all over the South and at the Westminster School in Atlanta.
He would have loved more that he played on two National Championship tennis teams at the University of Georgia, hallowed be thy name, and that he was the top scholar athlete for the entire University the year he graduated from the Terry College of Business. That’s high cotton. And he would have been tickled to death that his friend’s little boy grew up to be as good with money as his dad, and parlayed his Terry degree into a promising investment career.
But Lewis would have really loved getting to attend Alex’s wedding. Y’all know how much Lewis Grizzard loved a wedding. He had four of his own. Dorsey Gary Hill was in three of them.
You see, that little boy that Lewis wrote about in June of 1988 will stand on Herty Field in June of 2019 — not coincidentally, the site of Georgia’s first victory over Georgia Tech in football — and promise to love, honor and cherish Selby Merritt, who is as strong, independent and intelligent as she is beautiful. The ceremony will be charming. The sermon will be especially meaningful, and I would have said that even if I wasn’t preaching it. The party after — well, the party after is for the ages.
Lewis would love the party, as well as the ceremony — and even the sermon. I wish he could be there.
But I will tell you what I am going to cherish even more than the events of Saturday. I’m going to love watching the commitment the new bride and groom show toward one another as they continue to grow in faith and love and understanding and learn the real meaning of terms like “for better or for worse” and “for richer and for poorer” and “as long as we both shall live.”
Weddings are nice and all, but marriages — marriages are the foundation of society. Marriages, not diamonds, are forever.
May God bless that of Alex and Selby.