By Will McCullough
“Will, your Dad is dead.”
It was 1983 and I was 13 years old when I first heard those words. My Dad, a seventh grade history teacher, never smoked, never drank, and was a lifelong athlete. He died of a sudden heart attack while turkey hunting one morning before school. My Dad was only 43 years old and, up until this point, my life had been one of innocent, Norman Rockwell bliss.
However, everything changed after my father died. Without going into too much detail, I will simply just say that a sad rage consistently festered inside me as I navigated through my teen years while attempting to deal with his loss. I left my hometown in Northwest Pennsylvania for the U.S. Marine Corps the day after I graduated high school and, shortly thereafter, my Mom (also a teacher) passed away from Leukemia. I was told later that my Mom’s last words were “Make it stop, make it stop. It hurts, it hurts.” Whatever barriers that remained against my constant internal fury and sorrow collapsed.
I do not share all of the above for sympathy. I fully understand and respect the fact that everyone has their own life story and that those individual stories very likely contain chapters of sadness as well. I’m not seeking attention and I certainly take no pleasure in publicly sharing private emotional matters. I share the above this week, as opposed to my normal real estate related column, because I needed to say “Thank you” to Beaufort, both the place and the people, at this specific time.
I came to Beaufort in 1993 to serve as a Drill Instructor at Parris Island. It was the first place I’d been stationed where I didn’t feel that the Marines were viewed by the local populace as fiscal cattle to be fed upon. As opposed to being treated like “walking camouflage dollar signs,” Beaufort seemed to just accept us as members of the community. To make a long story short, I personally ended up finding happiness in Beaufort and, when I received orders to leave the area, I ended up choosing to leave the USMC instead of the Lowcountry.
It’s been 20 years now but I needed to finally publicly thank you Beaufort.
I needed to thank you for blue skies and warm sunny days. I needed to thank you for strangers who wave and for the close friends we’ve come to know over the years. I needed to thank you for nights spent at the Water Festival and days spent on the river. I needed to thank you for the businesses that demonstrate that they value their patrons. I needed to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to support my family. I needed to thank you for waving me through on the street as opposed to cutting me off and for smiling as opposed to glaring. I needed to thank you for Hunting Island and, while I’m at it, for the Waterfront Park. I also really needed to thank you for oyster roasts.
I could go on but, in short, I wanted to thank you Beaufort for giving me peace. As I myself will be celebrating my 43rd birthday by the time you read this, I think it’s the best present a guy like me could have received.