Itís been a busy past week in the Loftis household and things arenít likely to settle down much over the next few weeks. But Iím not complaining.
Those of you who read the most recent ramblings in this space know that I planned to marry my sweetheart, Lisa, sometime last week. We had planned a formal wedding for a week from this Saturday, but our childrenís schedules wouldnít cooperate. More on that in a minute. So, we had a more casual wedding last Tuesday at First Christian Church in Berryville. My dear friend David Bell ó the churchís associate pastor ó officiated, with his lovely wife Mary Ann Bell and family friend Loretta Tanner (along with Bailey the Pomeranian) as witnesses. We even had an official wedding photographer ó CCN reporter and page designer Robert Cox ó who was on hand to document the occasion. Robís photos turned out beautifully, mostly because Lisa is in them.
Weíll have a nice reception sometime soon when schedules calm down and hopefully plan a trip to celebrate our wedding. But we spent the last few days of last week celebrating and preparing for Thanksgiving. First, there was dinner with Lisaís family in Rogers on Wednesday, then we spent the actual day of Thanksgiving getting ready for our own family feast on Friday night. My oldest son, Ronnie, and his wife, Christi, and their boys Hayden and Liam arrived Friday afternoon and my younger son Ryan and his wife, Harlie, joined us for Thanksgiving dinner along with Robert.
Christi brought along some of her grandmotherís delicious cornbread dressing, while I cooked a 10-pound turkey breast in the slow cooker and a 10-pound half ham in the oven to go along with sweet potato casserole, peas, corn, sweet rolls and Lisaís homemade mashed potatoes. For dessert, there was a party platter of cookies from Samís Club, along with cheesecake, strawberry cobbler, pecan and pumpkin pies and no-bake cookies. I made the cobbler and the no-bakes, and they were delicious. As you can imagine, all that was way too much food, but we had just the right amount of fun.
On Saturday afternoon, Lisa and I joined Ronnie, Christi and the boys for a trip to Silver Dollar City. Lisa and I took in the sights and sounds while the younger crew enjoyed riding the roller coasters. We had an absolute blast and canít wait to do it again soon.
This Thursday, my grandson Liam will have his sixth birthday. In a very cool coincidence, that will also be Lisaís daughter Laurenís 20th birthday. Lauren is a student at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, and Lisa and I will head south this coming Saturday to take her and her boyfriend to dinner for her birthday.
The following Friday will be a very special day as Ronnie graduates from the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy in Camden. Weíll watch the graduation ceremony via Zoom but Iíll be cheering just as loudly as if I were there in person. This is Ronnieís second time attending ALETA. He first went to the academy in 2014 but made a mistake in judgment on his second weekend at home and was dismissed.
Heís spent the past seven years relentlessly chasing his dream of a career in law enforcement. Many young men would have simply given up and moved on. Not my son.
Ronnie earned two bachelorís degrees while working full time, serving in first the Marine Corps Reserve and now the Army National Guard and helping raise a family.
He applied over and over again for every law enforcement job he could find. And his hard work and perseverance paid off.
He is now a Sherwood police officer and when he graduates from ALETA on Dec. 10, he will do so as the class leader in a group of approximately 70 students.
Iíve always been tremendously proud of him, but I donít know if Iíve ever been as proud as I am now. Not because of what heís accomplishing but because of how hard he has worked for it and how he has responded to adversity. That is the true measure of a man.
The day after Ronnieís graduation, weíll celebrate Liamís birthday with an indoor pool party in North Little Rock.
I canít believe heís 6 years old. It seems like two months ago that I held him in my arms just a couple of hours after he was born. That sweet little baby is just a memory now, but the Xbox-loving, baseball-playing, roller-coaster-riding little guy that has taken his place is pretty cool, too.
Finally, on Dec. 18, weíll be back in central Arkansas to watch Christi graduate with a degree in biology from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. I love her as if she were my own daughter and many of the same things Iíve said about Ronnie apply to Christi as well. She has earned her degree while being a wonderful mom to Hayden and Liam, helping run a household, working a part-time job and somehow making it all look easy. And both Ronnie and Christi deserve some credit for each otherís success, too. Theyíve supported each other all the way and theyíve earned every bit of what theyíve achieved.
The weekend after Christiís graduation weíll celebrate Christmas, and then Lauren will visit for several days before the new year.
By the time the December whirlwind is over, Lisa and I both may be exhausted. But it will be the best kind of tired I can think of.