It isn’t about anger anymore, it’s about answers.
For several years, local individuals and families devastated by ocular melanoma diagnoses screamed for attention, shouted that something was wrong and demanded that someone, anyone, look for clues to explain why an extremely rare cancer that statistically strikes five to six people each year in the country had been found in 10 or more people with connections to southwestern Huntersville in a five-year period.
The tragedies of losing their daughters Kenan Colbert Koll, 28, and Meredith Legg Stapleton, 26, to ocular melanoma (OM) in 2014 made reluctant spokespeople out of Kenny and Sue Colbert and Basil and Robin Legg. They led the charge to expand awareness and discovered that several other OM victims had ties to Huntersville (14 cases are now included in the study) and at least one other, Summer Heath, was, like Kenan and Meredith, a former student at Hopewell High School.
The uncharacteristically warm days these past few weeks had me climbing into the attic to retrieve my summer clothes in anticipation of the spring and summer days ahead. Grabbing what I thought to be a box of summer shirts turned out instead to be old scrapbooks and albums.
Feeling nostalgic, I found myself perusing through a worn binder filled with photos from grade school and most of my early report cards. I laughed when I read the comments from my first and second grade teachers who cited “Billy is much too talkative,” and “Billy is a really busy boy,” which was polite Southern speak for “Billy simply cannot stay in his seat!”
We have covered local government proceedings enough to know that sometimes those who fought to get elected must sit back and wonder why. The seemingly simple but lingering process of considering one rezoning request is driving home that point for members of the Huntersville Town Board.
The size of the property, just over nine acres, is not monumental. And the proposed change from a rural designation to special purpose is apparently appropriate for a project expected to turn vacant land into a mini storage yard bordered by a key-man office building. But coping with the tangled web of issues affiliated with the decision, and being fully aware of the awkwardness or public outcry the consequences of a ruling — no matter how the vote goes — will trigger, has put commissioners in a position where they probably wish the matter would just go away.
Why is it that the smallest irritants in life are often the things that can tip you immediately right over the edge, with no warning to the poor souls around you who otherwise had no clue that you were just one twist shy of your panties being where you really don’t want them?
Like a rock in your shoe, it’s the small stuff that can really grate and grind on that last nerve you had left after the others were thoroughly frayed by family, friends and life in general.
If you still don’t get what I’m referring to, consider yourself fortunate. But I really don’t want to be in this state of borderline high dudgeon alone, so here’s a sample of something that regularly and absolutely pegs my irritation meter for no rational reason whatsoever.
Romantics of a certain age likely share a similar memory of what once happened in elementary schools everywhere, as the specter of an approaching Valentine’s Day hovers like chalk dust caught in afternoon sunbeams streaming through classroom windows.
Yes, classrooms used to all have windows.
It’s a memory — or a flashback, depending on the emotions elicited — that usually involved a shoebox, colored construction paper, scissors, glue and imagination, sprinkled liberally with good old childhood angst. The mission? It was two-fold. First, rack your brain to create on your own (this was in the time before the great Helicopter Parenting Disease scourge) a totally cool Valentine’s Day card “mailbox,” and then, lose sleep the night before the great card exchange in class, worrying about being that kid whose mailbox yielded a whopping two cards when it came time after recess for the big reveal — one card from your teacher and the other from the kid always chosen last for dodgeball because he was an unrepentant nose picker and his hands were otherwise occupied.
To be clear, while what they did was baffling, how they did it was worse.
The Huntersville Town Board’s “special session” on Monday, Jan. 9, which concluded with a brief open meeting to accept the requested resignation of veteran Town Manager Greg Ferguson, was announced and conducted well within the formula spelled out in state statutes.
Notice of the meeting was posted around 4:30 on Friday afternoon, 73 hours before the scheduled meeting. The statutes for such a meeting simply require 48 hours notice and don’t specify that those 48 hours should be within normal work days, or really shouldn’t be timed to coincide with the weekend — or a weekend when those most interested in such announcements, including town employees, are understandably preoccupied by other matters (in this case, the uncertainty of just how bad a well publicized wave of snow, ice and frigid temperatures might be).
For the first time in about six years, my desk was clean, most of the contents in a box on an empty desk on the other side of the newsroom while we were only a few hours from putting to bed the Lake Norman Citizen for the last time at 307 Gilead Road in Huntersville.
This week, we composed the Jan. 11 paper from a new location about a mile away. As we were applying the final touches to last week’s edition, crews were busily finishing the conversion of the former Foster’s Frames location on Old Statesville Road into our new office. Foster’s will be re-opening soon at its new location just south of us on Highway 115 next to Huntersville Town Hall. Thanks in no small part to the efforts of staffer Lori Helms who coordinated the technical details of the move — don’t blame us, she volunteered for the job — we’re now (mostly) settled in to our new home, which happens to be the childhood home of our majority owner Irv Hager, whose patience and guidance along with that of his wife, Beccy, has been crucial to the success of the Citizen.
I wish I had done more.
Driving to the office a few days after Christmas, more relaxed than normal because for that one special week deadlines didn’t exist, I fell into line in the lighter-than-usual string of southbound commuters on N.C. 115 passing through Davidson. Despite the reduced congestion, there were still a few drivers completely convinced that their very existence depended on getting wherever they were going before I did. And others who felt that the mere presence of their bumper as close as possible to mine would make the car in front of me move faster.
At the age of 6, I had pretty much mapped out my career path. I was surely destined to be a soldier or a cowboy. In 1965, Santa brought me a G.I. Joe outfit and I had a pretty nifty salute. And dare I mention my secret agent gun equipped with a walkie talkie with a range of ... well, I’m pretty sure my cousin could hear me in the next room.
That same year my dad and granddaddy purchased for me a pony that I appropriately named “Dynamite.” Daddy informed me I needed to “break the young horse,” but Dynamite never received that memo.
And just like that, she was gone.
Her sporty little SUV packed to the gills with the personal possessions that didn’t go with the moving container waiting for her in Florida; her purse as big as she is slung over her shoulder and her face fixed like stone as she cinched up her long sweater and prepared to leave.
My husband and I have had the pleasure of having the company of an adorable, funny, foul-mouthed, beautiful, strong-willed young woman as a guest in our home for the last three months or so, and although we didn’t really know what road we were heading down when we invited her to stay with us, we certainly didn’t see the trip ending this way — the three of us hugging goodbye in the kitchen on a chilly Tuesday morning well before dawn, while her car struggled to warm up in the driveway.
Only a few months ago, she was still dating my son. Only a few months ago, she was settling into her new surroundings and a new job, and had her sights set on enrolling at UNC Charlotte to study nursing. She had just wound down an enlistment in the Marine Corps a few months earlier, and my son, who is still active duty, was beginning to spin up with his unit for an upcoming deployment.
As a newly minted civilian, she was at loose ends after four years of being told what to do, and when and where to do it. As an increasingly busy and stressed infantryman whose training continues to accelerate, my son was worried about her and how he would be able to help her in that assimilation to civilian life knowing he would be increasingly absent leading up to deployment.
As we spoke with my son about how things were going in the weeks following her separation from the Marines, hearing the anxiety in his voice long distance was more than we could bear.
My husband and I swallowed hard and made the offer to have her live with us while she got her feet on the ground, and while my son’s feet were pounding the ground both here and overseas during his deployment. When he returned, the plan was, she would rejoin him at Camp Lejeune where they could make plans for the next stage of their relationship. Yes, the “M” word had even been loosely thrown around, and as young as they both are, my husband and I were ready to support them if marriage was the course they would choose.
That all changed at the end of October, when the relationship crumbled under the weight of separation, conflicting responsibilities and quite frankly, immaturity on both their parts. We suddenly had on our hands, and under our roof, a young woman my husband and I had grown very fond of and whose heart had been broken by our own son. We hurt for both of them, but it was her pain we witnessed first hand as she struggled to come to terms with what had happened, and even more difficult, just what to do next.
The last six weeks since their breakup have been an emotional roller coaster. My husband and I were in no hurry to push her out and on her way. She needed a plan, and over time, one slowly came together. She would return to Florida to stay with family while she — once again — tries to get her bearings and set her sights on the future.
The time came very early this morning for her to launch on her nine-plus-hour drive south, and even after all these weeks of tears and laughter and talk of the future, I still wasn’t ready.
Oh, I thought I was. I had beautiful words of wisdom planned for her, words my mom often consoled me with, as we moved so often when I was a child.
“You’re off to your next big adventure, it’s going to be so exciting!” I would tell her.
“Think of all the people you’ll meet and the family you’ll be able to reconnect with,” I would say. “They’ll be so excited to see you. You are so lucky to have so many people to surround you right now.”
But all I could do was choke back tears, hug her little frame (my arms could probably wrap twice around her shoulders) and tell her to drive safe and that I love her. We watched her step out the back door and into the cold darkness. She closed it gently behind her, after promising to call us when she arrived in Florida.
And just like that, she was gone.
It was still very early in the morning when she left and my husband was ready to head back to bed for a little more sleep.
“Remember to lock the back door,” he said before he shuffled back upstairs.
I said I would, but I just can’t.
Governor Pat McCrory’s decision to finally give up the ghost on his re-election effort — with Monday’s concession delivered almost one month to the day since challenger Roy Cooper declared victory — could at long last signal the end to this election cycle. But, much like the choices made about which four college football teams get a shot at this year’s national title, a final result doesn’t mean the conversations and opinion sharing will stop.