2020 was the year we will always remember but not with photos or mementos. It will be forever marked by pages left blank in photo albums and online collections which used to chronicle our most important life cycle events and the mundane ones as well. All the celebrations that never were from birthday parties, weddings, graduations to funerals and memorial gatherings. And the ordinary stuff ... that fills our days when we are with other people enjoying barbeques, sporting events and just plain hanging out. It was missing or diminished in 2020.
We won’t be able to remember what we did last summer because we did not do anything. Gone were lazy carefree days at the beach and pool. Gone were family reunions and picnics. Gone were the big trips and travel dreams writ large on bucket lists. Gone were the little getaways too. Passports stayed tucked in drawers or file cabinets and suitcases stayed in the garage or closet. Those travel adventures we longed for remained distant pipedreams to ponder over when we could not sleep at night ... and there were many nights like that.
It was the year of our undoing when worry and stress burrowed in our hearts and minds and took a room and didn’t pay rent and decided to hang around as unwanted visitors. Daily corona virus tolls and death counts were overwhelming. It became almost too much watching the rolling statistics or hearing the individual stories of the ordinary people lost to this virus, cutting across all ages, ethnic, and social lines, from a senator’s to a greeter at Walmart. The stressed medical personnel with the imprints of masks on their faces was an image I can never forget. The corona showed no mercy.
We learned to fear everyone and became experts at dodging neighbors on the street, masking up to go to Safeway, to get gas, for everything. We learned to fear an enemy we couldn’t see which stole lives and livelihoods every day. We had to surrender to this enemy following the guidelines we heard from experts who constantly changed what they told us. In an Abundance of Caution dot dot dot became our mantra.
We craved being with our families but could not do Thanksgiving, Christmas, our usual holiday celebrations so important in our lives. We missed human contact the more they told us to stay away and keep our distance. We waved at mail carriers and UPS delivery men. We got in touch with distant cousins and long lost friends. We missed hugs and touches, pats on the back and kisses on the cheek.
Going on Zoom became as ubiquitous as taking a shower, between zoom classes and zoom parties; kids on zoom for school, zoom zoom zoom. We learned to be grateful for the technology because that was sometimes all there was keeping us tethered to other people, warding off loneliness and depression. We zoomed wedding ceremonies and birthday parties. I zoomed the launch of the poetry book I wrote during the pandemic. I met regularly with a memoir group and my Friday poetry workshop. Those meetings were a lifeline for us.
It was the year we got down to basics—learning way less is more. I learned to explore my own neighborhood, walk in the redwoods, see the magnificent trees that were so close but I was too busy with I don’t know what to notice. We let our hair go natural, learned to do without mani/pedis ... all the little things we took for granted. No one cared if we wore sweats or stretchy pants every day.
We learned that the integrity of our sacrosanct election system, the very foundation of our democracy, could be questioned and maligned, which led to disastrous consequences. Truth was so beaten up so badly it had to go on life support. Racism reared its ugly head on too many occasions, and we had to take a hard look at our own attitudes and conscience. Sadly our democracy was rent and torn by divisive rhetoric.
We had to face ourselves in the mirror because there was no place to run and hide, and nowhere to go. We had to learn how to grasp time and spend it wisely because even though we had all the time in the world, it felt like time was speeding by like a runaway hourglass. We had to face reality and look our own mortality in the eye because as seniors there were no guarantees of anything.
I so look forward to putting the pandemic behind me, being with my grandchildren, not worrying about kissing them from head to toe, having normal family events and doing all the little and big things we had to postpone or cancel but hopefully will be able to do once again.
It was a year we will never forget.