In the very first moment of 2013 I saw myself bleary-eyed in my bathroom mirror, swallowing ibuprofen in attempt to control my fever.

Really. The clock had just ticked to 12:01 and my own hacking and wheezing had awakened me. I was so glad to know it was midnight because that meant enough time had passed I could take more doctor-ordered medicine.

On the day before the last day of 2012 I had been diagnosed with the flu. I don’t think I had ever had the flu before. I hope I never do again.

Just now, as I sat down to write this, my last column for 2013, I found a bit of appropriate advice printed on my Good Earth “Sweet and Spicy” original teabag tag.

“Don’t carry your mistakes around,” the tag said. “Instead place them under your feet to use as stepping stones.”

In a way, that nasty case of the flu was my first of the year stepping stone. In 2013, I got a flu shot.

How swiftly this year has flown by. I’ve had the chance to make a pathway of stepping stones formerly regarded as mistakes. I’m not sure where the path is leading, but most days it feels like it’s leading in the right direction.

The year past has been one of the most adventurous and unique in my life. I’ve learned things most every step of the way. I’ve enjoyed many blessings, had a chance to test my wisdom and experience in a whole new environment.

Even suffering with the flu, I realized I had the luxury of following the doctor’s orders. Without a full-time go-to/come-home job, I didn’t have to call in sick and feel guilty for being sick. I huddled in my bed and slept a deep healing sleep, dined on homemade soup and crackers, wrapped myself in quilts and – like the doctor promised – in about a week I recovered.

To that end, the flu wasn’t the worst thing to happen this year. The lessons it taught had merit.

Beyond that, 2013 had many moments to love, most of which have only required time and a bit of patience. I do this and that, but full-time grandmothering is my main joy in life. It is my purpose and blessing.

In pursuit of that, this Christmas my oldest son and his daughter and I spent Christmas with my middle son and his daughter in Corpus Christi, where we made one of our best memories of the year.

It was chilly, and kind of damp, but the desk clerk told me when we checked in at the motel, it was the right time of the year for beach combing.

“Lots of sand dollars and shells are washing up,” he said. When I shared that information with my boys, they voted to change all plans and head to the beach ASAP.

I started to argue mildly that we had other things that really needed to get done – it was Christmas Eve after all – when from somewhere in my mind the question echoed, “Wasn’t the purpose for doing all those other things to make good memories?”

The beach became our destination and oh my, what joy we found and memories we made in the moment.

I will remember for a good long time watching my 18-month-old granddaughter chase a sandpiper along the beach, or her handing me tiny shells she picked up out of the sand.

“See,” she said.

“For me?” I asked, more grateful than she can imagine for the gift.

I’ll remember the gentle warmth I felt watching the older granddaughter play chase with her dad and lifting her baby cousin off the sand just as a wave was washing in. Oh what gladness there is to be found in life’s small moments, when we just pay attention as they happen.

Finally, as the day’s light was fading, and we all had to admit we were really cold and wanted to go somewhere warm and dry. So our departure wouldn’t go unnoticed, the 12-year-old picked up a stick and wrote in the sand, “Goodbye 2013.”

Short. Simple. True. I can’t say it any better than that.

“Maybe we won’t miss you Old Year,” I thought. “But we’re glad you came to share.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Candace Cooksey Fulton is a freelance writer, formerly of Brownwood, living now in San Angelo. She can be reached at ccfulton2002@yahoo.com .