The world seems smaller when I can receive an e-mail message from Hotel Russia in Moscow, send a reply, and minutes later get an answer - communicating across the planet with a fellow Columbia County boy on perhaps the greatest adventure of his life.
Barry Fleming expects to return to American soil just in time for the Jan. 15 start of the session of the Georgia Legislature that he joins as a freshman representative. Meanwhile, hes cooling his heels near Red Square waiting for the final paperwork to clear before he and his wife Paige can bring home their newly adopted son.
Hes a good baby, even though Paige is already spoiling him, Fleming admits. He has to fly to another city in Russia to personally pick up Zachs passport, take some paperwork to the U.S. Embassy and then head home - the process possibly taking as long as another week.
Meanwhile, the Flemings are staying in a 4,000-room monstrosity built by the Soviets in the 60s. And Barry muses about how weird it is to be near parade grounds where columns of nuclear-tipped missiles once motored past - especially when he realizes those missiles were aimed at his home country.
The Flemings plane will soon be aimed at Harlem, and the new family can settle in for the Christmas they missed while waiting for bureaucrats to stamp papers. Helpfully for his American constituents, Barry will have gained a new appreciation for the teeth-grinding frustration of red tape.
One part of the process will be simple, however: Under U.S. law, Zach is automatically a U.S. citizen as soon as his feet touch U.S. soil, Fleming writes. He ought to take that literally, comparing notes with Bob Knox, the mayor of Thomson. Years ago, Knox told me the story of being brought as an infant to McDuffie County from the west coast, where his father had been stationed in the military. As soon as they reached home, Knox said, his father buried the boys feet in Georgia red clay - rooting him in his native land.
When the Flemings return, theyll find plenty of dirt in Harlem, ready for growing a new Columbia County boy.
Incidentally, in the Legis-lature Barry also can compare notes with state Rep. Sue Burmeister of Augusta. She, too, is an adoptive parent of children from Russia.
Mercer at home
Recently, I asked readers to pray for the Flemings, and also for Tom Mercer, the county commissioner who recently underwent open-heart surgery. God is good all the time, the saying goes, and its demonstrated in both these cases. Zach will soon come home, and Mercer is already there - in fact, his wife Brenda says its hard keeping him at home. She brought him to Thursdays Commission meeting, where Mercer was elected vice-chairman for 2003.
Mercer will be healing for a couple of months before going back for diagnosis of the kidney trouble that originally sent him to the hospital. One hurdle leaped, another to go, and the prayers are still appreciated.
Sometimes the news isnt so good. Condolences to the Elliott family on the recent death of Virginia Elliott, the widow of former Columbia County Chief Deputy Harold N. Ace Elliott.
Ace passed away in 2001, succumbing to lung cancer. Mrs. Elliott was later diagnosed with the same smoking-related malady, and died just after Christmas.
Aces heroic military exploits took him through three wars and all over the world before he settled in Grovetown. For all that time, his high school sweetheart was by his side.
Their reunion should be a happy one.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to bpaschal@ newstimesonline.com, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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