Thursday is the big day.
That's when Judge Dudley Bowen lowers the boom on Robin Williams and his cohorts in the Community Mental Health case in Augusta.
The rest of the community is watching this case for a lot of reasons other than the usual crime-and-punishment train-wreck curiosity.
One of the big reasons is the assumption that Williams' sentence will establish the guidelines by which Charles Walker will be sentenced later. There's probably little truth to it, but the prevailing belief is that for racial considerations, Walker's sentence can be as harsh as Williams' punishment, but no tougher.
For my part, I'm watching the case with a mixture of sadness and relief: Sadness, because Williams is a childhood friend; relief, because I turned down an offer to work for his friends at Community Mental Health, and could have been dragged into all this.
Having been smart enough to say no, I now have the awkward luxury of standing back while my old friend's future is decided in a federal courtroom.
We'll then wait for the Walker shoe to drop. And anytime now we'll hit the federal trifecta when Linda Schrenko goes to trial.
Curiosity will be satisfied. And we can move on.
My dad and I were talking wistfully a couple of weeks ago when Grace Story, my late grandmother's sister, passed away. Aunt Grace, whose name my youngest daughter carries along with that of my grandmother, was the last one of her generation left.
All my grandfather's siblings are gone, and Aunt Grace was the last of my grandmother's. My dad was a little startled to realize that his generation is now our family's oldest.
That line has now dwindled by one. My uncle Ray Paschal Sr., a retired Air Force veteran, passed away this weekend at age 72.
Uncle Ray was an interesting fellow. When I was a kid he spent most of his time in service overseas. Long before I was born he married Aunt Emma in her native Puerto Rico, and brought her home to the sometimes awkward American South.
What dear, sweet folks. Especially in his younger days Uncle Ray was prone to wisecracks - calling his nephews "lazy bums" and "knotheads," all with affection. And I'll never forget a joke he once played on me.
When I was about 8 years old, Uncle Ray and Aunt Emma had taken some of us up to the Fort Gordon Recreation Area to swim. I was walking to the snack bar to get something to eat when he handed me some money and told me to bring him a Schlitz.
So, I get to the bar, and there was a woman there; I clearly remember she had a pronounced German accent. I told her I wanted a 16-ounce Schlitz, and she said, "You're not old enough to buy beer!" I was bewildered; "But it's not for me," I said innocently, "It's for my uncle!" She laughed and replied, "Sure, it's for your uncle."
I walked back, dejected, ready to tell Uncle Ray I'd failed. He was, of course, laughing his head off.
Rest in peace, Uncle Ray. May you find lots of laughter in the hereafter.
Time for prayer
In recognition of a great many people who have passed on, and in sympathy with those still surviving, Gov. Sonny Perdue has proclaimed Friday as a state day of prayer and remembrance for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Prayer will solve a lot of the problems they're having, but there's nothing like rolling up your sleeves and pitching in. It was interesting to hear the other day from the Rev. Bill Harrell at Abilene Baptist Church that the Southern Baptist Convention has one of the largest relief teams in the country. Haven't read about that, have we?
The Christian faithful are feeding the hungry and ministering to the hurting all around Katrina's path. I'm sure they'd appreciate your prayers, too.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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