Like "Dear Abby" mentioned in her Dec. 4 offering, I also had clipped the recent Harvey Schwadron cartoon in "The Wall Street Journal."

The cartoon depicted a widow bearing flowers visiting the gravesite of her dear departed husband. The tombstone read: "R.J. Harwell, Born 1914, Gave Up Smoking 1959, Gave Up Booze 1973, Gave Up Red Meat 1983, Died Anyway 1991."

Great cartoon. You gotta love it.

I've always confronted the whole idea of New Year's resolutions in much the same vein from a sense of fate, cosmic destiny, comic relief and the Biblical promise of reaping what one sews. And on the final day of 1995, in a home equipped with mirrors, old photographs and a resident cynic, I confront the whole idea of resolve for the New Year with a healthy dose of realism.

There's the whole notion that one wants to begin a program of self-improvement at the beginning of each New Year a notion that is steeped in guilt and other neuroses. We are supposed to feel bad that we are too fat, too sedentary, too enslaved to food, booze, cigarettes, golf, fishing, deer hunting, television, etc. and we are supposed to resolve to change things for the better.

Been there, done that.

My wife of almost 14 years now is a world-class, Olympic nagger having studied under the Zen Master of nagging, her mother. My mother, saint that she is, also has superior credentials in the nagging department after spending 43 years of marriage with my father.

They all gently prod me toward this thing called self-improvement. My daughter's gotten in the act of late but at ten, she's just a single-issue nagger.

Like me, my dad was a realist. He looked in the mirror each day with no small amount of resignation and accepted what he saw hair that was a mixture or gray and gone, a healthy mid-section and the lines and wrinkles of hard experience earned by a magna cum laude graduate of the School of Hard Knocks and three children.

There were always suggestions that he lose a little weight, get a little more exercise, watch his diet and do something to relieve stress. I think the only thing the man actually ever felt guilty about was the fact that he wished he'd spent more time with his family but he just couldn't convince himself that everything at the office was in good enough shape to do that when it counted.

Been there, done that, too.

in front of the mirror the day after Christmas, I saw my father looking back at me or so it seemed. My hairline is no longer receding it has retreated and surrendered. As to size, I'm still the "before" picture in all those miracle diet advertisements.

This fall, for the first time since I walked off the field at Winona on a November night in 1977 with my Philadelphia High School teammates, I covered high school football games and didn't have a burning desire to suit up and play just one more game. I looked on the field and thought of the residual aches and pains of those games 20 years ago and was glad not to be accruing any more of them.

I still eat a lot of fried chicken, country fried steak, egg custard pie and things like that. If the Lord hadn't meant for us to eat Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream, he wouldn't have put it in the grocery store in the first place. Bacon? In a word, yes.

After college, booze was never a big deal with me. But when Kate was two, I lost whatever residual taste I had for alcohol because there's no hangover like that experienced at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning when a bouncing toddler wants to watch Bugs Bunny at high volume.

Smoking? Oh, yeah. The monkey's still there.

Stress? God's gift to the working class who actually care about their families, their friends and their jobs. How can a sane person in the 1990s not be stressed?

So I've boiled the whole New Year's resolution thing down to six items:

Hair: Can't do anything about it. Rather be bald than do the spray-on hair or toupee thing and look like an even bigger goober.

Weight: No bread. No dessert. More country fried steak. Blue Bell only in days that end in "Y."

Smoking: Once more into the breech, I'll try kicking it ... friends and family, be afraid, be very afraid.

Stress: No problem. The Legislative session begins soon always a source of diversion, escape and comedy. If that doesn't work, I'm thinking of seeing if Gov. Fordice will let me tag along on his next safari...

Exercise: Without the cigarettes, that'll take care of itself bouncing off the walls, abusing the cat, etc. And then, there's always jumping to conclusions...

Kinder, gentler: I hereby resolve not to mention Supreme Court Justice C

---- Mc--- or his adventures in dr------ and driving for at least, say, a month. Or until the new DUI law revision package is introduced in the Legislature, which ever comes first.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist and editor of the Scott County Times in Forest.

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