Gary Stallard

Gary Stallard

I’m fortunate enough to have been strolling this planet for a while now. I’m pushing upward toward my sixth decade of existence, meaning I’ve been alive through 11 presidents of the United States.

Out of those 11, I’ve met three.

And by “met,” I mean I was in the same vicinity in some capacity. I was on a high school field trip when I saw Gerald Ford inside the White House. I was on a Marine Corps base in California when Ronald Reagan made an appearance. I was on yet another base when George H.W. Bush showed up. I saw them, so surely they noticed me, right?

I doubt it. Can you believe not one of those men has ever reached out to me? Not a Christmas card. Not even a Facebook birthday wish.

I’ve also managed to meet one Texas senator: Kay Bailey Hutchinson, way back in the ’90s. She actually spoke to me and was super nice to me. But I still haven’t heard from her since. Not a single phone call.

I’ve encountered a few congressmen and representatives along the way. Other than our very own Trent Ashby, I haven’t seen them much, either. Trent talks to me any time we see each other, and we have some great conversations. The others? Not a peep. Maybe a message around election time, but that’s about it.

Man, I thought we were tight.

Through my job as a newspaper/magazine scribbler, I’ve met numerous celebrities and athletes. Those were some cool experiences for sure. I remember the people, but I bet they don’t remember me. Otherwise, they’d have called me by now, right? Not one has dedicated a song, a movie or a game to me. Not one athlete has offered to wear a “Stallard” jersey as a tribute to yours truly.

Shoot. I’ve never even been able to get one to help me move my furniture when I was relocating.

In the other, more important part of my life, I’ve got a long list of family members and friends. None of us wield much influence, and we’re not exactly famous. It’s quite the collection I have near and dear to me, from awesomely fun to downright crazy. I’m a die-hard Cowboys fan, and my brother-in-law is a Giants fan. How in the world can we be in the same room together? My late nephew was a Steelers fan. Ewww. Why would I want to have a single conversation with him?

My wife loves the Chicago Bears. She still lets me sleep in the same bed with her.

The truth? They’re my people, and my life is better with them in it.

The best thing about all of ’em? I hear from ’em just about every day. I get texts and Facebook messages not just on my birthday, but on plenty of other occasions as well. I know they’re here for me. Some of them have helped me move so many times they’ve threatened to let the air out of the tires of my truck if I even look at another house.

Weirdly enough, not every member of my beloved little clan thinks or believes the same way as I do. We’re quite possibly 180 degrees apart on just about any topic, whether it’s politics, religion or sports. They don’t always agree with me, and I don’t always agree with them. How do we manage to stick together?

Easy. We don’t let the day’s hot topics burn our relationships. When we’re around one another, we’re too busy talking about the things bonding us together to mention anything with the potential to pull us apart. Sure, they’re as passionate about their way of thinking as I am about mine, but we’ve been together long enough to have built up a big enough love pile to overcome all of it. They love me no matter how much they disagree with me.

They deserve my love and loyalty. The rich and famous I mentioned?

They don’t. Not at all.

As the world around us continues to refuse to agree to disagree, I’m seeing friendships and family relationships blown up like they’re nothing more than cheap fireworks. It’s heartbreaking.

And for whom are they ditching those lifelong relationships? Complete strangers.

Not me. Not if I can help it. I’m not about to throw away something so important to me on behalf of someone who couldn’t pick me out of a one-man lineup. If I’m gonna lose a friend, it’ll be for a real reason and not out of some sense of misguided loyalty toward a team or a political party. If our personal morals and principles are so far apart, we wouldn’t be friends in the first place, right?

We’ve got an election coming up, and it’s a big one for all involved. I happen to know from experience how my vote is but a miniscule part of the equation, but necessary nonetheless. I’ll vote based on my own life experiences, and I’ll throw in a little prayer that no matter the outcome, we can all still want to be around those important to us.

I’ll cast my vote. I’ll perform my duty as a citizen.

What I won’t do is cast aside those so meaningful to me just because we’re on opposite ends of the political spectrum.

I’m not about to throw away my loved ones over anyone who doesn’t even know my name.

And danged sure not over anyone who won’t offer to help me move this frigging couch.

Gary Stallard is a regular contributor to the Opinion page of The Lufkin Daily News. His email address is garylstallard@yahoo.com.