I suspect a larger than normal number of people will be ringing in the new year on December 31st, hopefully not in a crowd but rather socially distanced. Saying goodbye and good riddance to a year that most of us would prefer to permanently forget may be the catharsis we need. For what in my mind started out as what could be a most memorable year quickly turned disastrous.
I can still recall early in the year hearing about the first stories of a deadly new virus outside the US and hoping it could be isolated and irradicated before showing up elsewhere, especially here in the US. But then it jumped the ocean and showed up in the US, first on the west coast and then on the east coast. I suspect early restrictive measures did little to slow the spread, largely because they were not universally accepted.
For anyone who has caught the virus or lost a loved one to it, their lives will likely never be the same. I too fall into that category having lost relatives over the year. But prior to the enormity of the deadliness of this virus, the moment I realized life as we considered it “normal” had changed dramatically came during NCAA tournament time when all college basketball tournaments were abruptly canceled. Which also meant no March Madness, my favorite time of the year.
I distinctly recall, in one of those memorable moments, where I was when I heard on the radio that the tournaments were canceled. I, by no means, mean to make light of the seriousness of the situation, but just to emphasize when for me, the end of normalcy came. It was just the beginning.
Just a week later, I was scheduled to travel to New Jersey to teach one of my regular courses. I know I debated whether or not to travel by air and in the end, did not have to decide as the course, as with all the rest of my teaching for the year, became virtual. As with everyone else, Zoom became a new way of communicating.
The pandemic ultimately resulted in the canceling of every one of my planned trips for the year, although I was able to safely take one trip with my brother to our favorite place in the world.
When a lockdown was ordered in our city, our lives were drastically altered again. No longer were we going out to eat at restaurants (we have yet to return). No longer was I able to get a haircut going a solid 12 weeks before measures were relaxed somewhat and I could return, wearing a face mask of course. No longer we were attending gatherings as most of them were canceled anyway.
I am in my sixties and this global pandemic has been the worst and longest-term catastrophe I have lived through in my entire life. It eclipses all other tragedies and disasters in my lifetime. It is as if, a silent and invisible deadly enemy secretly infiltrated our shores and with guerrilla warfare-like tactics, targeted our human population. And it is not over yet.
But in these tragic times of both mandated and self-imposed isolation, there has been at least one silver lining for me.
Since our parents died almost 20 years ago, I have been getting together every year with my brother and sisters for a vacation together, what we call our Sib-Sab for Sibling Sabbatical, when just the four of us travel together to some fun or interesting destination. Obviously, it did not happen this year. But through the use of Zoom, we have connected more throughout the year than we probably have since we were kids growing up together.
And my brother and I, who we each enjoy savoring a tasty beer, have been getting together weekly remotely via FaceTime to share a beer and lively conversation.
I would definitely say that I am in agreement with most everyone and will be glad to see the end of this momentous year on December 31st. The new year of 2021 offers hope of this pandemic coming to an end with the world-wide availability and administration of vaccines.
As I said before, our lives will never be the same nor will there be a return to normal life as we knew it back in January since so many of our loved ones are no longer with us. But 2021 at least offers the possibility of gaining some level of normalcy where we can once again safely travel, eat out, gather for events, and visit loved ones. And it is with that spirit of hope that I will be saying goodbye to 2020 and hello to a more promising 2021!
Happy New Year!