One on One: Don’t give, please take something

Published 9:22 am Thursday, May 14, 2020

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By D.G. Martin

What do you give an aging man on his birthday during this time of deadly pandemic?

As an important birthday milestone approaches for me, my children and grandchildren may be wondering what in the world they are going to give me.

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I want to tell them I already have more things than I need. I have a stash of precious stuff I have been collecting over all my years.

The pandemic’s certain danger has been a vivid reminder that folks my age are not going to be around much longer. Now looking around at all these wonderful things, I wonder, what will happen to my precious stuff when it is my time to depart this world?

The answer is pretty clear. When I am gone, most of these things will wind up in the thrift store or, more likely, the junk pile.

Here is the deal for my family: “For your birthday present to me, you take one of my precious things and agree to keep it a little while as a reminder of how much you mean to me.”

Here is my plan.

For my son Grier: my family’s precious Sherman’s Cup. Sherman’s troops marching through Georgia and South Carolina stopped at my great-great-grandparents’ farm and ransacked everything in the house. But this sturdy mug survived, losing only its handle. It is a sad and fading reminder of the tragedy of war.

For Grier’s wife Louise: a wood carving from Oberammergau, Germany. My mother, also named Louise, acquired this lovely figure of Mary, Joseph and the babe 60 years ago. She had led a group of college students to Europe and to Oberammergau’s Passion Play, first put on in 1634 to fulfill a promise made to God should the village be spared from the bubonic plague. On the bottom of the carved figure written in my mother’s hand is “Mrs. D. Grier Martin,” another name my mom and Louise share.

Grier’s daughter, Sara, is, like my mom, a talented actress. I want her to take a ventriloquist dummy named Jerry who has been my friend for years. Jerry aspires to a life in the theater, and I hope Sara will someday take him on stage with her.

For my daughter May: a teaspoon engraved with my birth date and hour. It was a gift to my mother almost 80 years ago. Somehow, we have kept it all these years. I hope May will store it with her regular tableware and remember how much I love her whenever she uses it.

For May’s husband Cotton: my treasured Eskimo-hunting figure, crafted by an Inuit. It is a reminder of a few winter weeks in the Army training with the Eskimo National Guard along the Kuskokwim River near Bethel, Alaska. Cotton has led his family on many great adventures in other wildernesses. I hope the little Eskimo will remind him how much I appreciate his leadership.

For my oldest grandchild, Maggie: a DG gnome. My favorite souvenir from my political campaign – a small statue of me, crafted by the famous artist Tom Clark, who was my Old Testament Bible teacher at Davidson and a great friend.

For grandson Jake: my coin collection, which I last touched when I was his age. He, like me, is a collector, but he is also an entrepreneur, and if he can turn the coins into real money, he has my blessings.

For my youngest grandchild, David, who is already a far better player than I was at Davidson: an old Davidson basketball signed by players from many generations.

If all of them agree to celebrate by taking rather than giving, it will make a very happy birthday for me.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” Sundays at 3:30 p.m. and Tuesdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. The program also airs on the North Carolina Channel Tuesdays at 8 p.m. and other times.