This is the thirteenth year of posting about the top ten experiences of the previous year and while it was usual that several very deserving ones were left on the chopping block, what makes 2023 special is the top five are not about some awesome concert, awesome dinner, or flying a helicopter. They are all family-related events that made the year so great. As usual, we start at number ten and work our way to the best of the best.
10. Guest Bartenders
When George’s (the owner of Jorrge’s Restaurant and Cantina) wife had shoulder surgery it left him shorthanded and Elaine and I (and several others) volunteered to take a few nights running the bar while he waited tables. That consisted mainly of pouring beers and margaritas, making an occasional Old Fashioned or frozen daiquiri, and running the cash register. When we weren't slammed with orders, we talked with the bar folks, most of whom we knew. It was great helping a friend in a pinch and giving our tips to the young kids who deliver food and clean up tables.
9. Biltmore Tour
We began our early September trip to North Carolina by taking a day to tour the mansion, gardens, and grounds at The Biltmore Estate in Asheville. The tour is self-guided and the provided headset directs you around and activates its narrative when you get to the next room. Huge dining rooms, libraries filled with thousands of books, majestic fireplaces, bedrooms so large they make their normal-sized beds look small, and huge handpainted religious rugs hanging on walls are just some of its many splendors. Below ground, the basement is filled with kitchens, pantries, and the servants' quarters, and the floor below that workout rooms, a bowling alley, and the shell of an old swimming pool. Outdoors, most of the gardens were past their prime yet still lovely, but the conservatory was overloaded with large, beautiful arrangements.
8. ain’t too proud
Our friends Ralph and Kathy treated us in June to “ain’t too proud” at the Schuster Performing Arts Center, a musical about the life and times of the Motown group The Temptations. Our seats were awesome situated in the middle of the eighth row. “The Way You Do the Things You Do”, “In the Still of the Night”, “Shout”, “My Girl”, “Ain't Too Proud to Beg”, “If You Don't Know Me by Now”, “Just My Imagination”, and “Papa Was a Rollin' Stone” were just a few of the dozens of hits performed that evening. The story of The Temptations, their successes and losses, and the number of members who came and went as the group changed over the years was all new to us. This was a Broadway-quality production and a delightful evening.
7. Dinner at Beachcomber
We spent another week in Clearwater Beach, Florida with Albert and Marilou (Elaine’s sister and brother-in-law) in late April, the third straight year we left the cold and dreariness of the Ohio winter. As is Elaine and my tradition, we had an upscale dinner on the final night, this time at Beachcomber, located on the main drag that is Mandalay Avenue. It was way more upscale than we thought it would be, a true fine dining experience. Elaine had the surf-and-turf which she recalls to this day, and although I can’t remember mine (it was probably the sea scallops) I do recall it was also delicious.
6. March Madness in Greensboro
This is the fourth trip to take in the first and second rounds of an NCAA basketball tournament and the trip to North Carolina also allowed us to see our grandson Griffin. The Friday afternoon games at Greensboro Coliseum had Xavier topping Kennesaw State by five points and Pittsburgh easily defeating Iowa State by eighteen. We opted to take in the evening games back at our hotel and we’re glad we did. Rain and fog made it difficult to navigate back in the daylight and I don’t want to think how awful that would have been near midnight. We watched the Kentucky and Kansas State from the comfort of our hotel. Fortunately, the Sunday second-round games were scheduled in the early afternoon and we saw double-digit victories by Xavier and Kansas State. Nothing gets us into the tournament more than immersing ourselves in the early rounds.
5. Pat Gets Texas A&M Job
Two years after Elaine’s son Pat took the Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends coach at Duke and moved his family from Indiana to North Carolina, Duke’s Head Coach Mike Elko returned to Texas A&M as their Head Coach and offered Pat the Special Teams Coordinator job. Getting a position like this at an SEC (Southeastern Conference) school is a huge step up and while once again the family has to move, we’re excited for them. Driving to College Station, Texas would be over 1,000 miles, double the long enough trip to NC, but flying there, or Houston or Austin and driving the rest, will result in about the same amount of travel time, still, they just seem that much further away, at least until the next promotion.
4. Josephine Rochelle Dougherty
Everyone says their newborn grandchild is the cutest thing in the world, but when our granddaughter Joey was born on August 29th, she put all others on notice. She is simply adorable with her big eyes and adorable smile. She’s one of those babies that sleep through anything including her brother’s big voice and one or more barking dogs. We made a special trip down to North Carolina to see her and capture pictures of us while she was still so tiny, just over a week after she was born. We made two more trips over the next two months to see her, marveling at how fast she was growing physically and in our hearts.
3. Brian and Deborah Get Married
After a twenty-month engagement, Elaine’s son Brian and his fiance Deborah Klopfenstein exchanged vows in March at St. Charles Church in Kettering, Ohio. We hosted the Rehearsal Dinner the evening before at a private dining room at Figlio’s where they did a splendid job serving our group of three dozen guests. The reception was held in the Eichelberger Pavilion in Carillon Historical Park, a stunning venue at easily held 160 guests. Dinner was provided by Bernstein's Catering featuring charcuterie boards and entrees of slow-roasted short ribs, ricotta agnolotti, and herb-roasted chicken. The evening concluded with speeches, toasts, and lots of dancing.
2. Mike and Leslie Get Married
My son Mike and his finance Leslie Harshman said “I do” in an outdoor ceremony in June at Hidden Valley Orchards in Lebanon, Ohio. Mike and Leslie have known each other for over ten years, dated for seven, and he finally bought her a ring in 2021. This was a small, casual but equally beautiful ceremony followed by food and drinks. All four of our children are now happily married and we couldn’t be happier or more proud of each of them.
1. 15th Wedding Anniversary
We have a wedding anniversary every year (obviously) and I don’t put it on the list, but the 15th seemed so special that I wanted to make it even more so by making it the best of this year’s list. Elaine and I had a great dinner at Jag’s in West Chester and spent the night at the nearby Marriott. We have had a great and memorable fifteen years and I love her more now than when we said “I do” at Incarnation Church on January 5, 2008. So even if our anniversary doesn’t make this list each year, our life together is always the best of the best.