By Joe Rector

After running my mouth hundreds of time during my life, I’m ready to accept that uttering “never means never” is just deluding myself. Over and over again, life and the situations that arise demand changes in what we do or the way we do them.

Some of the never moments involved our children. Amy and I swore that we would never tell our children to “shut up.” For the first year, keeping the vow was easy, but as soon as Lacey and Dallas began to speak, all bets were off. Sometimes their constant jabbering overwhelmed me to the point that I did tell them to stop talking. Of course, when Lacey reached her teens, I’d have given anything to hear her angelic little girl voice instead of the one that was filled with surly indifference.

I also declared that my children would never escape punishment when it was deserved. That usually meant a swat or two across the bottom. With Dallas I learned that no amount of swats would bring about the desired remorse or correction in behavior. He’d set his jaw and refuse to be contrite while I was present. Eventually, Amy and I discovered that the worst punishment for the boy was to place him in a room where he had nothing to stimulate him. Before long, Dallas was apologizing and begging for release.

Holidays also brought out the “never” part of me. Thanksgiving had never been a big deal when I was young. Daddy’s shift work might have him away or in the bed resting for the night shift. I wanted to make sure my family stayed at home and enjoyed the food and company.

At some point, we did change our plans. Amy’s extended family began meeting at her cousin’s house. We’d load up the car and travel to Cookeville for the day, and after overeating and visiting with folks, we climbed back into the car for a long drive back to Knoxville. However, it was worth the travel to spend time with her family.

This year, I’m choking on “never” again. We celebrated Thanksgiving the weekend before the official date. It was the best time for the kids to travel to Knoxville for the feast. Lacey’s family went to the other grandparents’ house on Thanksgiving, and Dallas had planned to share the day with a friend in Chattanooga. We were separated for the first time, something that surprised me, but it turned out well.

My biggest proclamations concerned Christmas. At first, I claimed that my family would always wake up Christmas morning at our house, and that’s the way it happened until grandson Madden was born. It became important to his mom that he be at home to open presents. I resisted and growled like a bear about not changing, but then Amy clarified the situation for me. She explained that she would be in Nashville at Christmas and that I was welcome to join her. If not, she said I could stay home by myself. Ouch! Since that time, we’ve spent the holiday with Lacey’s family, and Dallas makes the journey from Chattanooga. It’s a nice way to spend that special day, and being away from home isn’t bad except for the fact that I have to board our Jack Russell Snoop at Butler Animal Clinic.

I spent 30 years as a high school English teacher, and when I retired from the job, I vowed that I would “never” go back, especially as a substitute teacher. Guess what? Our situation has taken a turn to the point that I’m now looking for part time employment. No perfect job exists, and if I don’t come up with one before long, I’ll have to go back to the classroom as a sub.

I’m discovering that nothing in this life is set in stone and all things are subject to change. Accepting that fact is sometimes difficult, but it’s either a matter of rolling with the punches or being left behind. One thing is for sure: I’ll “never” again say “never!”