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Blessed with adversity
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The events of the past 11 weeks have left me feeling like the description of Waffle House hash browns: scattered, smothered, diced and covered. Since the morning of July 26, when my mother fell and broke her back in two places, our experiences have included Dr. Dalton Hanowell's fantastic Kyphon balloon kyphoplasty surgery at Newton Medical fixing my mom's back, her three weeks of rehabilitation at the Morgan Memorial Transitional Care Unit, and 10 days at Merryvale Assisted Living Home re-learning independent living.

My mother-in-law had surgeries for lung and thyroid cancer. My wife's dog blew out her anterior cruciate ligament. Our home air-conditioning system played out during the August heat wave. Then our car blew up, leaving us stranded in downtown Atlanta on Labor Day.

Through it all, blessings have abounded. When friends asked how things were going, I'd answer that we'd been blessed with adversity. I'm a Christian and believe God can pretty much handle whatever comes along. And I know there are others experiencing circumstances which make my problems seem puny by comparison.

It took me a good many years to learn a simple trick, analogous to loading up a paper plate at a good old-fashioned dinner on the grounds at a church homecoming service. If you use the chicken legs and triangular sandwiches as a foundation around the rim, you can layer on as many delicacies as you want. But if you don't lay that good foundation, your plate will buckle and the food will hit the ground.

Similarly, when one's emotional plate seems so full that it can't hold one more thing, the trick is to remember that we're not holding the plate. Someone else is helping us through that line at the picnic.

Know what I mean?

At any rate, through the amazing events of the last 11 weeks, there've been incredible highs to accompany the heart-rending lows. You've heard of "Around the World in 80 Days?" These last 80 days have provided me with quite a ride, as well.

My mother's surgery accomplished what would once have been considered a miracle. Walking upright better than before she broke her back, Mama celebrated her 95th birthday this week and returned to volunteer work at Ficquett Elementary School.

Two weeks into Mama's recovery our second granddaughter, Nora Katherine Dorich, was born, Aug. 14 in Greensboro, N.C. My wife and I fit in a couple of visits, though I have to consult the official kitchen wall calendar to remember exactly when.

The Newton County Schools opened at the start of August. My wife, a human anatomy teacher, is our medical expert; whenever one of our mothers had an important doctor's appointment, I played substitute teacher while she handled the medical stuff.

My mother returned home, exactly five weeks from the day she broke her back. The next week my mother-in-law came through her cancer surgeries in spectacular fashion and returned home, celebrating a completely clean bill of health.

Yes, our car blew up on Labor Day in downtown Atlanta. But the good Chrysler folks stepped in, and the car's running again.

Yes, our air-conditioning system went to that great Freon Zone in the Sky. But if you break it, salesmen will come. We have a new system, just in time for perfect fall weather.

As September closed some very good friends, perhaps realizing our need for a break, invited us for an evening pontoon boat ride on Jackson Lake. For this old boy, it's hard to beat cruising on a lake smooth as glass under a full moon, wind in what's left of my hair, to rejuvenate the spirit.

Riding that wave, I accompanied the effervescent Irene Smith as she conducted a guided tour of Covington the first day of October. It behooves me to recommend to anyone desiring to learn more about this precious little corner of the world to charter a tour bus and hand the microphone to Irene. Not only will you learn more than you ever suspected, it'll take a day or two for your ribs to quit aching from the laughter Irene engenders with her down home charm.

Pascal, the great French philosopher, said a believer can see God everywhere, whereas a non-believer cannot see God anywhere. And for that reason, Pascal urged believers to use caution when testifying to others about God's blessings.

But my mom is well, as is my mother-in-law. The car is fixed. Cool weather has arrived. Friendships abide. Life proceeds apace.

Yes, I've been scattered, smothered, diced and covered for the last 80 days, and my plate has been full. But I've had a lot of help carrying that load.

Know what I mean?

Nat Harwell is a long-time resident of Newton County. His columns appear regularly on Sundays.