Dave Paxton

The question facing all newspaper columnists as one year ends and another begins, is do you look backwards and judge history as a way to learn (all who fail to understand history are destined to repeat it) or do you look ahead with New Years resolutions and all sorts of goals in store.

I suppose it’s both or neither.

I mean, as a person edging toward 65 and fortunate enough to have some money invested in the stock market for future retirement, 2018 was relatively bizarre. My wife and I have four different investment strategies, including bank savings and I must admit that my bank savings, providing sub one-percent interest, was the only one that didn’t lose money.

But we decided years ago to be in this for the long haul, so we don’t drive ourselves crazy with every twist and turn of the market. Looking back, unless you look back five or 10 years, can give either a false sense of euphoria or a unreasonable sense of futility.

On the other hand, I can say that looking back over the year gave me a great deal of pleasure. My wife and I took a rare vacation, cruising the western Alaskan coast which was certainly a highlight of the year. But the little things that happened in 2018 were just as enjoyable.

Like watching my seventh grade granddaughter race on the Blue Oval at the Drake Relays in a special middle school event and then explaining to her how track athletes around the world hope for nothing more than to compete at the Drake Relays. “Oh,” she said.

Then there was the Pioneer baseball game where my six-year-old grandson playing shortstop heard the coach yell “tag him” as a runner advanced from second to third. So he did. He knocked the kid down using a two-handed shove, a move that would have pleased any football coach. Only later did he discover the coach was directing his third base teammate who had fielded a grounder to tag the runner out (ball in glove).

A highlight of the year past was learning how to do “camo” painting from three YouTube videos and then painting my 1973 Jeep CJ5. The thumbs up I received from a 12-year-old boy far surpassed the arched eyebrow of my wife when I invited her to go for a ride. My jeep may be one of the few camo paint jobs using a primer red base coat, but the base color is the exact color of President Reagan’s jeep (a picture of which I have in my office with the Gipper driving it) and I wanted it as a reminder of the greatest President of my lifetime.

The year 2018 will also be remembered by my family as the year we sold our family farm and closed my father’s estate. A final walk on the farm last March was something I’m still trying to process. Serving as executor of the estate of my dad for my siblings was both an honor and a great learning experience. The estate was closed with $3.55 in his checking account. I took the money, went to the Hy-Vee Deli (his personal favorite place to eat) and bought a donut and a cup of coffee, toasting one of the best men God ever had the good sense to create.

It’s always a privilege to cover high school sports and the journeys offered by our wrestling and tracks teams, the state tournament softball run and last fall’s volleyball, cross country and football teams were so much fun.

Looking ahead, 2019 would appear to offer some serious challenges and a lot of exciting opportunities. As a United Methodist, Feb. 19 is circled on the calendar as a worldwide vote on whether to remain true to Wesleyan orthodoxy and Biblical truth and standards or go the way of other dead and dying mainline denominations and accept just any old social engineering. For many conservatives and evangelicals it will mean the beginning or the end of a relationship with the church.

That’s sort of dire and somewhat hopeless, but there is something good about the life, death and rebirth of church organization.

For an Iowan with an interest in politics and a newspaper publisher attempting fairness and the reporting of news, the beginning of the race to find a Democrat candidate to challenge Donald Trump will be both interesting and painful. I thought 19 Republican candidates in the last election was draining. It would appear up to and over three dozen Democrats will test the water, including the Native American wannabe Elizabeth Warren, the old white guy has beens Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders and a number of fruits and nuts in between.

I’m kind of interested in seeing if Beto O’Rourke will make an appearance in his open necked, untucked shirt and blue jeans and dashing good looks, fresh out of elementary school.

On a more important political note, I’m anxious to see how Iowa Republicans deal with repairing and improving the privitization of Medicaid, mental health reform and school funding. Iowans gave conservatives another chance at doing government right and I’m pretty sure they won’t give them another if there aren’t some marked improvements.

I’m also anxious to see the new factory arrive in Albia.

Despite the challenges, I still love the changing of the seasons (basketball and wrestling to track and soccer to baseball and softball to volleyball, cross country and football) and I look forward to grandchildren competing at their age levels while loving high school sports…and music…and drama.

In July I turn 65 and will again do a sport-a-thon, swimming, biking and running. The distances continue to decline as my times and recovery periods advance. I’m also looking forward to a reunion of our old 50s and 60s rock and roll band, Slick Valdez and the Exxons. It’s been about 10 years since we did a full blown concert and we’ve tentatively agreed to play for Albia Restoration Days whose theme this year is “Back to the 50s.”

Finally, I’m looking forward to daily walks in the woods with my yellow lab, sitting next to my wife in front of our woodburning stove reading or watching “Blue Bloods,” playing racquetball two or three times a week, knocking out the next David Baldacci series, finishing the third restoration of my 1951 Chevy pick-up in the spring and drinking coffee twice a week with a cluster of guys whose hearing is fading as rapidly as their hair.

Indeed, 2019 will be good…if we decide to make it good.

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