Now the New Year reviving old desires/ The thoughtful soul to solitude retires ..." or so said the Persian poet Omar Khayyam. However, it was easy for old Omar to retire to solitude, he didn't write a newspaper column.
My duty compels me to do the opposite and go public with a personal recollection of 2013. While on balance it was a happy year for me, life is like an elevator: It goes up and down and the person riding isn't always the one to push the buttons.
In the midst of hard economic times, I don't want this to be like one of those family Christmas letters that make the recipients feel inferior in the knowledge that their friends and relatives are having more fun.
The truth is that such fun that has been my lot in 2013 was due to other people. My purpose today is to thank them.
In the first place, my thanks go to my employer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, one of America's great newspapers -- or grating on the nerves newspapers, depending on one's point of view.
My continued employment is a source of joy to my wife -- and brings delight to my bank. Every time they hear I am still working, the manager and the tellers leave their posts and re-enact "The Sound of Music," much to the surprise of other customers.
This past year the national syndication of my column seemed in peril. Its distributor, the Scripps Howard News Service, went out of business -- I am still not sure whether this was my fault -- but its clients were picked up by McClatchy-Tribune News Service, and my column was reprieved. Thank you to the Scripps editors for their help, thank you in advance to the McClatchy team.
For the benefit of new readers out there, and indeed baffled old ones, this may be a good time to explain what this column is about. It is about many a true word spoken in jest. It is about laughing and smiling bravely through our tears as the elevator of life goes up and down, hopefully with more interesting conversation available. It assumes that you, the reader, have a sense of humor. Of course you do, but believe me, others are suspect.
The most popular columns this past year were about my granddaughter Tillie, age 2, who lives in Sydney, Australia, with my daughter, Allison, and her husband, Critter.
The high point of the year for me was when Tillie was awarded the coveted Cheeky Possum Award at her day care, although I do worry that there was some favoritism because her father is named Critter. Still, I am thinking of having a bumper sticker made for my car.
While Allison has received all the publicity, I have a son Jim who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. He and his girlfriend Katie have a dog named Winslow. He is a French pointer -- he sees a croissant, he points at it (bet your dog can't do that).
In some cultures, couples who own a dog together are considered married. It's a common law marriage or a common dog marriage -- I can't quite remember, but the point is we love Katie and Jim, too.
My year included two beautiful weddings and one heart-breaking funeral -- bless you, Marge Bennett -- two grandnieces born and a visit on Thanksgiving from my beloved cousin, Reggie.
While life is an elevator, in my case the body is a jalopy in need of skilled maintenance. Thank you to the doctors and staff who kept my health running smoothly in 2013. I so admire your professionalism. I don't know how you can avoid bursting out laughing when you see a patient like me naked.
Thank you, dear readers. Thank you, Dan, who sends me interesting typed letters, and Patrick, whose comments gleaned from various papers are funnier than anything I manage (by the way, cut that out).
Thanks to the many of you who sent me kindly emails in 2013. They served to fortify my spirits against the slings and arrows of unfortunate trolls.
Finally, thanks to Dee, who otherwise did not identify herself when she wrote in a wavering hand back in September:
Dear Mr. Henry,
Thank you so very much for the chicken story. I'm 97 years old and don't have much to laugh about, but your article was so funny I laughed all morning and it made my day ...
You made my year, Dee. Happy New Year to you and all my friends.
Reg Henry: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1668.