2020 Hindsight

“Good riddance,” I quipped when Bob replaced a 2020 calendar with a 2021 version.  Before I could shred the old one, though, I stopped to marvel at the quiet beauty of the marshlands it depicted. Stunning landscapes and exquisite characters. Sunrises, sunsets. Spoonbills, panthers, tiger swallowtails.

That’s when Nina stepped in, quite literally stopping my intentions with a gentle paw resting on a marsh scene that could easily be across the street. Was the year so bad, she seemed to ask with a drawn-out meow. Did 2020 not arrest as many moments of beauty as it did monumental crud? Despite the anxiety, isolation, and anger that tempted me and others to focus on the worst, Nina suggested it wasn’t all that bad. And she should know.

She—and we—lost our 18-year friend, Ron. But he exuded a lifetime of comfort and joy until he died painlessly in his sleep, cuddled into his favorite chair. Before that, we met an expert, compassionate vet who eased us through the farewell process and helped us find a good primary care vet for Nina. Oh, and we also found some good doctors for ourselves, too.

Yes, it was a year of change, that’s for sure. And change is good, I always say. After all—actually before all else—Bob successfully underwent a procedure that not only corrected a cardiac problem but is likely to extend his life and quality of life. I healed completely from a broken wrist. We both sighed relief when a friend recovered from COVID. And friends welcomed grandchildren.

Although we regret that we couldn’t bid a proper goodbye to our friends in Virginia, we nonetheless fulfilled the dream of building a new house and moving into a warm, active, and supportive community where we engage in driveway socials, ride around in golf carts, and try new adventures like putt-putt golf. The extremely active tropical storm season bypassed us. I took up water volleyball, discovered the magic of chalk paint, and rediscovered crochet. We zoom.

My writing has expanded and improved. After learning WordPress, I started this blog, finished a novel, had two poems published, and embarked on short fiction. I joined a new writers’ group as well as a couple of professional associations. An 80-year-old writer of historic romance lives around the corner. She reminds me that I’m still young and encourages me to keep writing. Daily.

My world’s orbit shrank—in a good way. I reunited with my two first roomies and travel mates after nearly 50 years of prowling unparallel paths thousands of miles apart. One now dwells a mere two hours north and the other retreats to a snowbird condo 40 minutes south. Then former neighbors announced that they are building a house an hour and a half from here; others settled three hours away. A high school friend also lives three hours away; a cousin, four hours; and one of Bob’s old friend, about five. Not exactly around the corner, but not that far, either, especially when the interstates act like expressways and not parking lots. I don’t feel isolated.

I recently told a niece that I couldn’t wait to wave 2020 good-bye. She suggested that a hand signal involving only one finger might be more appropriate. But this morning, Nina prompted yet another gesture—a better one—as she lifted a white paw from the calendar to her pink tongue. She eyed me slyly. Gratitude comes on little cat feet, to paraphrase Carl Sandburg. With palms together, head bowed, and fingertips to lips, I gave thanks.

Then I took a deep breath and bid good riddance to the detritus.

Published by Patti M. Walsh

A storyteller since her first fib, Patti M. Walsh is an award-winning author who writes short stories, novels, and memoirs. Her first novel, GHOST GIRL, is a middle-grade coming-of-age ghost story based on Celtic mythology. In addition to extensive experience teaching and counseling, Patti is a Hermes award-winning business and technical writer. Visit www.pattimwalsh.com.

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