My father-in-law would sometimes tell of a story of an obituary he read once.
“After it said that the guy died, and where he was born, and who he was related to, the obituary then stated he was also a member of the Columbia Record Club.”
I don’t do the anecdote justice in print. My father-in-law included more detail, and told it with much panache, highlighting the humor of putting the Columbia Record Club (of which everyone older than 40 years old was probably a member of at some time) in an obituary, the final chronicle of one’s life and accomplishments.
I had no such issue searching for items to place in my father-in-law’s obituary, which I wrote last week.
In his 69 years, Ed Lightsey was, in no particular order, a journalist, author, political consultant, auctioneer, television anchorman, soldier, real estate agent, “Big Al, the Player’s Pal,” public speaker, private ghostwriter, independent contractor, congressional aide, assistant to the Georgia Speaker of the House, disc jockey and play-by-play voice of Valdosta Wildcat football, voice of Clinch County’s “Dial-and-Discover,” professional raconteur and amateur sloth.
My wife (his daughter) jokes that I didn’t choose to marry her. I chose my father-in-law first, then convinced one of his daughters to marry me. That’s not actually the way it went down, although it’s not a bad idea for any of you younger, single guys out there.
Ed and I shared a lot of the same interests: journalism (specifically, an affinity for newspapers), political history, sports, a love for the state of Georgia and its people and places, pop culture, “The Godfather” movies and an appreciation of the absurd.
Ed was comfortable everywhere. He was just as at ease in the hallways of the Capitol in Atlanta as he was at a backwoods juke joint in Miller County. Wherever he was, that was the place to be. He rubbed elbows with congressmen and statesmen, bookies and drifters – and laughed with them all. No matter who you were, if you sat next to Ed for more than a few minutes, you were no longer a stranger.
A spouse’s announcement of a visit to the in-laws is usually greeted with wincing and chagrin. Not me. I loved going to see Ed and Marilyn. As soon as I got to Albany, Ed would load me up in his green Cherokee for a whimsical, unpredictable journey through Southwest Georgia.
Ed was also a “foodie,” and our evenings there would always include a wonderful dinner, served with stories, laughs and then more stories and laughs, his being the most distinctive. I’ve already started practicing mimicking his rich, joyful chortle/roar for the First Annual Ed Lightsey Laugh-A-Like Contest. The winner gets a lottery ticket.
Too often, we (and by we, I mean me) get too bogged down in the drudge of daily living. We view every day as just another day, same as the next one. I’m sure Ed did, too, sometimes, but I didn’t see it. No matter what you believe is in the afterlife, the fact is: We’re on this earth once. Every day we’re here is a blessing, to be seized, absorbed and enjoyed, with whomever we’re sharing it with. I saw this attitude manifest itself in the gregarious way Ed approached his daily life. And respected it.
Oh, for the record, Ed was a member of the Columbia Record Club. I should have led with that.
Len Robbins is editor and publisher of the Clinch County News in Homerville. His column appears weekly.