Thursday, December 31, 2020

Long Overdue Update: Good Riddance to 2020

Hi, folks, you’d think I’d dropped off the face of the earth, huh? It takes a message from Blogger or Google or whatever telling me I need to show some activity on my blog, or it’ll, like, disappear or something. So, here is a post.

Really, honestly, I should have been posting every damn day this year, considering that my original intent with this blog was to cheer myself up. I certainly needed it this year—me and everyone else, except perhaps Jeff Bezos. Back in November 2019, I told my doc that I wanted to try lowering my dosage of antidepressant—a dosage I’d been on for years, with no problems. I certainly picked a hell of a year to halve it!

The most recent grief has been the death of Lorie Smith, owner of Vines on Broadway, about which I've blogged. After a nearly year of pandemic-hampered business, she had to temporarily close, since the weather got cold and her customers could no longer sit outside in the fresh air. We hesitated to go very much as the year wore on, as so many people there were maskless. And the virus numbers were going up around here. And she was having heart trouble. So Vines was closed for over a month. She died soon after undergoing a procedure intended to fix her arrhythmia; apparently, the procedure led to blood clots in her brain, at least one of which was inoperable. She was only sixty. I’m devastated by the news; I’m still in shock.

I believe that at least 75 percent of the people who stepped foot in her business wished they could be the proprietor of such a cool place. I know I was envious. One of my friends walked in there for the first time and within two minutes of meeting Lorie said to me, “I have a big girl crush on her!” I’m hoping against hope that at least one of her many, many friends or family will find a way to continue the business, and keep her dream alive. It was very successful . . .

I could go on and on and on about how much Lorie and her business made our street, our neighborhood, our town much better. She influenced and improved everything and everyone she came in contact with. So much of Vines on Broadway was her. 

I have come to associate her, and Vines, with many of the fun things in life. Things like kicking back on a nice patio with a glass of wine; fixing up a nice, inviting patio to begin with; enjoying cordial, convivial conversations; noshing on attractive, tasty snacky-snacks; warmth and coziness and candlelight in the winter; chillin’ in the misters on the patio in summer . . . even friendship itself. Her disappearance from the world makes me afraid to face these otherwise very pleasant things; I feel as if those things will all come with a pang of emptiness and grief—if we ever even have them again. (When will we ever feel comfortable sitting close again?) If Lorie had been a grouch, or snotty or snarky, maybe I wouldn’t feel this way. But she was faultlessly kind and good-natured, with an easy, ringing laugh that still echoes inside my head and heart. Even though I only knew her for a few years, I can’t imagine how there can be a world without her.

And that’s only the most recent loss. The past year has felt jinxed. Sue’s mom passed away in December of last year, and we can’t help but feel she was lucky, in a way, to have left the world before the pandemic changed everything. Living as she did in a studio apartment in an assisted-living community, she wouldn’t have had company for months; the loneliness would have been excruciating for her (and nerve-wracking for us). And the nurse assistants and other staff would have had to wear masks around her, and with her hearing loss, she wouldn’t have been able to understand much of what people were saying. And then, also, she tended to suffer badly from respiratory ailments, when she got them, so . . . it’s almost like she knew, somehow, when to go.

She always was very intuitive, with a strong faith in her ability to sense things that are not physical; maybe her departure from this plane was an example. Who knows.

And we had a rough summer, traveling three times to Ohio (despite the worry of COVID) to go through things at Sue’s mom’s house. The lifetime accumulations of two people. Furniture. The antique railroad lantern collection. The kitchen treasures. And on and on. As if all that that wasn’t going to be difficult enough, we experienced some shocking interpersonal strife with one of the family members, and because of that, our final trip there—for just a few days, solely to be there when the movers came—really felt like it could be our final trip there.

In September, we lost Patches, the original Opulent Opossum. She had lived with us for seventeen years and was probably eighteen. In recent years, we had made every accommodation for her sweet, elderly self. She had become deaf; and she put the “cat” in cataracts; she also had that old-cat kidney disease, so each morning we puréed special canned food with extra water, just for her. I burrowed my face into her neck and hummed little tunes, like the cadences of my speech, so she could feel the vibrations of my voice. She would purr in response, and burrow her head against mine. She was a good friend, for a long time, and I still miss her.

As I review this stupid year—a year when every trade group’s cheesy annual convention theme was gonna be “2020 Vision,” dontcha know, and a year about which we’ll all be seeing reviews cleverly headlined as “Hindsight 2020” in the coming weeks—I’ve actually been okay, for the most part. I recently saw a thing about how Gen X people like me are perfectly prepared for lockdowns and solitude; how we effectively trained for this from a young age, how we know how to wait and wait and wait, and how we know many ways to entertain ourselves and survive on whatever’s in the cupboards.

But I’m basically lucky in other ways. I’m lucky I don’t work in at a job that requires me to interact with people all day, or even work in an office place among other people (don’t get me wrong: I’d still love to have benefits, like group health insurance). I’m also lucky that this freelancer lifestyle is something I’d already gotten used to way before everyone else had to adjust. Lucky that my major client still wants my services. Also, lucky I’m a pretty okay cook. Apparently, the food I fix is healthier than what we get when we eat out; I’ve actually lost weight this year, without even trying. It certainly isn’t any increase in exercise.

So, this is the end of the calendar year, but it’s certainly not the end of this merry-go-round of pandemic and the political mayhem that will no doubt persist for the foreseeable future even though we will be getting a psychologically stable new president.

Tomorrow night—December 31, 2020—we’ll be eating as many good-luck foods we can find. Pickled herring, mutzens, hoppin’ John, grapes, you name it. We’ll make an outrageous amount of noise at midnight, to frighten away the evil spirits that have pursued this year. I feel like building a huge, round-eyed Jagannath icon and carting it down High Street, with fireworks going off on all sides. Take that, 2020! Good riddance!

In reality, the plan is to make our mutzens first thing in the morning; let them cool a bit for transportation, then drive them to my uncle and aunt’s house and to my parents, along with a bunch of goodies for a New Year’s Eve party: some decorations for them to hang up, some Prosecco to sip at midnight, stuff for a veggie plate, including some dips, some black and green olives, samples of nice cheeses and sausages, pickled herring, shrimp and cocktail sauce, crackers and sliced baguette, and so on. A party to-go!

Then, Sue and I will come back home and let the weather do whatever it wants to do. For a long time, it was looking like it might snow on New Year’s Eve, but that seems unlikely now. Anyway, as we did at Thanksgiving and Christmas, we’ll have our own festivities, just the two of us, and we’ll make phone calls to the people we wish we were partying with.

Should you wish to do the same, on New Year’s Eve, the appropriate way of greeting someone you’ve just called is “Hey! This is the neighbors! Keep it down over there!”

This post has already gotten too long and has said too much that I ought to keep to myself. But whatever—as long as the whole blog doesn’t disappear into nothingness.

Because that would really bum me out, too.