To mark the end of a remarkable, some might say infamous year, Nancy bought the kids and grandkids tree ornaments that include the year 2020.
The ornaments have figures depicting the proper number of adults, children and pets in each of our families. One of the 0s in the 2020 is a roll of toilet paper. Going into the past year, I wouldn’t have had “people hoarding toilet paper’’ on my Bingo score card, but that practice sure got a lot of attention after the pandemic struck and people were sheltering in place for some weeks.
As the pandemic dragged on, month after month, as it intensified through the fall and into the holiday season, I saw more and more references on social media about what an abominable year it had been. “I can’t wait for this year to be over,’’ was a theme of more posts than I could count. And each time a celebrity, beloved musician or well-known sports figure died, the chorus of “what an awful year’’ grew stronger.
I didn’t join the public chorus, but I shared the feelings. When a virus disrupts normal life for months and months, additional bad things that happen only make it feel like some being or force is piling it on. At some point, that starts to feel really personal, you know? “Hey, bad enough you had to take John Prine and Jerry Jeff Walker, but did you have to also take Gale Sayers and Bob Gibson?’’
It wasn’t personal, of course. Years aren’t personal. In fact, they are little more than arbitrary divisions of ongoing time. We celebrate New Year’s Day this Friday with parties (socially distanced ones?) and plans for the future and resolutions to improve ourselves in one way or another, but we could do those things today if we wished. Our friends would wonder at us for celebrating the New Year on Dec. 30, true. I’m just saying we could, and it would be as valid as doing it two days from now.
The thing is, as I look back on 2020, in spite of the suffering and sorrow, I see some good things, magical things. Like what? Well, like Nancy and I have two new great-grandchildren, wonderful little girls born a couple of weeks apart. Each child is right at five months old and starting to become aware of the people and world around them. In the past few months when I’ve felt myself letting the negative things of the world get me down, I’ve tried to look at these infants and find hope for myself because there is so much hope in each of those tiny girls.
Another bright light for Nancy and me during the past year was this: Our 12-year-old granddaughter, who has Type 1 diabetes, chose to learn from home for the first quarter of this school year. She did her homework, clocked into her Zoom classes and generally kept up with her academic studies from our place. We let her study and learn, but just having her around brightened our days, even though each of us older folks found out how much we have forgotten from our own seventh-grade studies. The young woman returned to classes at the quarter break. She’s happy being back with friends, and we’re happy for her. But it sure was nice having her around, even though the pandemic was why she was here.
While 2020 can’t go away soon enough for most of us, things won’t change overnight in 2021. The pandemic still rages in much of the country. People are still being stricken, still being hospitalized, still dying. Too many are unemployed. Too many businesses struggle, those that survived. The world remains a dangerous place.
A major piece of good news is that vaccines have been developed. The country — indeed the world — is in the process of protecting itself against a virus that all but the most stubborn of us understand really isn’t just like the flu. And so it goes.
No matter the calendar date, my wish for all of you is good health, safety and as much happiness as your hearts can hold.