New T-shirt and bourbon make a happy birthday

Published 5:19 pm Saturday, May 13, 2023

By Steve Stricker

Happy Mother of God Mary’s month, all mom’s tomorrow, Ole Miss grads today, Rebels against Auburn, good luck in SEC Tournament, Indy 500 drivers, and soldiers – especially those who lost their lives in combat.

Wednesday May 10 was my birthday. I am very thankful to God for each additional day since allowing me to return from Vietnam healthy, maintained by a gaggle of wonderful medical professionals, because I love this world, this Ole Miss, this Oxford, my forever home since 1988.

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Twice during the year, Christmas and my birthday, I very slowly sip a swell bourbon while deeply reflecting on my life. It’s been a good life totally unplanned by me. Every day I pray to God for his will to be done and to use me as a tool to help others.

This birthday was one of my best. Facebook friends more than ever wished me a Happy Birthday. The icing on the cake arrived Thursday when son Steve and daughter-in-law Kristie sent a box with a T-shirt from Oberlin College in Ohio where grandson Stephen III will be attending, along with two great bourbons, Smoke Wagon 116.34 proof and Old Forrester Rye.

This past Thanksgiving my life and faith were deeply shaken, causing me to step back and question my faith. Thinking by giving my life to God daily this was his will for me, but how did I know, could it have been my free will? Usually when I try to take control stuff implodes, but with this I felt a deep peace.

Turning to Fr. Joe Tonos, pastor for 18 years at St. John’s, confessor, spiritual adviser and friend, I asked how did one know if they were doing God’s will? Expecting enlightenment, he said this was one of the most difficult things to discern. Asking faith friends, they concluded as I did that they didn’t really know but relied on a feeling of peace and trust.

Since the breakup of my engagement to my Scottish fiancée in 2011, months before moving to Scotland forever, she a professed atheist, me an extremely strong Catholic, I swore never again to be unevenly yoked. Now 12 years later, there is no relationship, not even a date since then. Upheaval in my daily routine could only conclude that God was done with me, no future. I was convinced I had a terminal illness, medical checkup said not.

After Mass last Sunday I listened to a radio broadcast minister who I really like and he talked about Moses, married at 40, kids and at 80 asked is this all God? And God said, no, and Moses led his people out of Egypt. And in faith, this was God’s answer to me – I’m putting my seatbelt on.

Thinking of our Ole Miss grads, I’ve often said that the process of getting a degree is equal to the degree itself – starting with that first major transition from high school and home, cultivating time management skills, meeting hard deadlines, handling major stress, developing new relationships ending old ones, organization membership, growth, maturity, possibly getting your heart broken (at least once), perhaps not getting into a sorority or fraternity, having a roommate raised by wolves, and yet you survived, flourished and graduated today from one of the best universities in the world, Ole Miss .

Well done, good luck!

Steve is an Army Vietnam Vet, Oxford resident, an administrator, teacher, counselor, on Campus, received his Ph.D. in Counseling from Ole Miss and can be reached at