There is ice on the ground. I’m walking a dog on the shore of Lake Martin at three in the morning. I’m wearing pajamas, boots, and a queen-sized comforter.
A few minutes ago, Ellie Mae—coonhound and award-winning talk-show host—woke me by whimpering.
I suggested strongly that she go back to sleep.
“Go to sleep,” I strongly suggested.
So here I am. It’s thirty-two degrees, the night is purple. Ellie is sniffing the ground, making zig-zags. I let her off-leash.
“Hurry up,” I plead.
But alas, instead of making tee-tee, she walks—if you can believe this—into cold lake water, paws-deep.
There goes my night.
Anyway, New Year’s is one day away, which makes me happy and sad.
Happy—because time keeps going forward and everything changes. And sad—because time keeps going forward. And everything changes.
Still, this is my favorite time. When everything resets itself. Even people.
I got a hand-written letter from a man in county prison. Let’s call him, Dave. The letter was written on notebook paper, with hand-drawn artwork covering the envelope.
“…Do you think people get second chances?” Dave writes. “Even after we really flubbed up (not the word Dave used), can we start over again? Or is this just a lie we tell ourselves?”
I’ve been thinking about that letter. I’ve carried it in my pocket for weeks.
I carry a handful of letters with me. One is from a man who wrote me about his late wife. One is from a fifteen-year-old named Myrick. Another is from a nine-year-old, “Griffy of the South”—who shares my birthday. Another from a twelve-year-old girl whose mother died too young. I’m not sure why I’m telling you this.
Maybe it’s because I’m so cold I can’t feel my brain. Maybe it’s because my dog has lost her mind and is wading in the Arctic Ocean.
A few years ago, I brought in the New Year in the front seat of my truck. I had my wife and coonhound with me. We parked on the edge of the Choctawhatchee Bay.
They fell asleep. I stayed awake until the clock changed.
I received an unexpected text from an old friend.
My friend had an autoimmune illness that doctors said would kill him. He was given years, maybe months.
“Happy New Year,” his text read. “It’s gonna be a good one.”
I lost it. I cried like a Vidalia farmer.
Along with his text he sent a picture of his girlfriend and her two-year-old. His face was pressed against theirs.
Dying. But wishing me a happy New Year.
They got married that year, despite his diagnosis. It was a small affair. Love is a powerful tonic.
It seems like that was a long time ago, but it wasn’t. My friend is alive today, and healthier than anyone I know. Doctors can’t explain how his disease disappeared. But it’s gone. Completely.
So yes, Dave. I believe in second chances. And I believe in more. I believe in miracles. And babies. And dogs. And love. And I believe you’ll get yours. I don’t know how, or when. But I believe.
And when they find my frozen body floating on Lake Martin, you can blame this ridiculous dog for my fate.
Happy New Year. It’s going to be a good one.