The Fitzgerald Christmas Letter

By Randy Fitzgerald | January 7th, 2020

With news from 2019

Randy Fitzgerald and wife Barb reflecting on their past year

Dear Maggie and Clarence,

Christmas was really busy this year, so I didn’t get a Christmas letter written (not that I’ve ever written one), but I thought I’d fill you in on Barb and me in 2019, even if it is now 2020.

First, thank you for being our “biggest fans.” Columnists are blessed to have fans who show up regularly at their speeches, send them annual Christmas cards and write letters to the editor with praise. When these things happen, those faithful people become friends. So, friends, here’s your Fitzgerald Christmas letter.

We are both well, though Barb has been having some trouble with her hearing. (She says that at least she can expect perfect vision in 2020.) On our springtime flight to California, her ears popped more than usual on the landing, and this time her hearing never fully came back. She’s adjusting and has even had some funny experiences as a result. One day she was shopping at Old Navy and the checkout clerk said to her, “Will you be using your Old Lady charge card today?” As you would imagine, Barb was stunned. She stammered out a “No, I don’t think I have one of those.” So the clerk reached over and handed her a form for an Old Navy charge card. (Daughter Sarah said the fact Barb had misheard meant the Old Lady designation had been right after all.)

That California trip was mainly good memories, though. It was the first time we flew first class – a real treat. At our age, being able to stretch out makes long flights not only pleasant but possible. Sarah drove us to Muir Woods to see the giant redwoods, and we rode the cable cars, went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, toured Sausalito and Berkeley where Ian teaches, visited a little hidden beach and enjoyed our time with the newlyweds – the highlight of spring.

The highlight of fall was a long visit from son Kyle, a Tennessean who returned home on a job assignment.

How great it was to spend time with both our children this year. Kyle and I particularly enjoyed our Putt-Putt competitions.

It was also great to see old friends at our 60th high school reunions in Charlottesville. Barb emceed the Albemarle reunion, using her script from the 50th. She said everybody was too old to remember the jokes after 10 years.

The sad story of 2019 was the loss in October of a treasured mentor and friend, Bruce Heilman, the longtime president of the University of Richmond. I worked for and with Dr. Heilman for 23 years and, like all who knew him, admired him greatly. He was the very definition of the Greatest Generation, with his unbridled optimism, kindness and indomitable spirit. A few weeks before his bone cancer diagnosis, Dr. Heilman at 93 had ridden his Harley home from Kentucky after delivering another of hundreds of speeches honoring veterans of WWII, his fellow Marines and his beloved country.

Dr. Heilman was, to steal a few song lyrics, a poet, a prophet, a pilgrim and a preacher. I could write a dozen columns about him, but then Bill Lohmann has already written a number of those so well over the years, including a last one in the Times-Dispatch on Oct. 24. In it, Dr. Heilman speaks of how we all spend much of our young lives anticipating: starting school, growing up, going to college, getting married. “When we get older,” he said, “we quit doing that. We wake up in the morning and wonder if we’re going to get through the day. We sit on the porch or sit in front of the TV. I’m not cut out that way. There needs to be something I anticipate all year. I thoroughly enjoy it, and then I spend the next year telling everybody about it.”

So, friends, I leave you with my New Year’s resolution. I’m going to be anticipating, looking forward to every day and wishing you, in the spirit of E. Bruce Heilman, many good things to anticipate all the days of 2020.

A belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Randy and Barb Fitzgerald

Randy Fitzgerald is the author of Flights of Fancy: Stories, Conversations and Life Travels with a Bemused Columnist and His Whimsical Wife, published last fall. He was a longtime public relations director at the University of Richmond and columnist for The Richmond News Leader and the Richmond Times-Dispatch and taught modern American literature at Virginia Union University. Find more of Randy’s contributions here!

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